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Federal Jobs for SI Students

How many of the MSI students here at SI know that an Office of E-Government exists in Washington D.C.? It's a sub-office of the Office of Management and Budget which was an ASB site this year!

They have some cool things going on there -- Federal Enterprise Architecture, Information Policy, a CIO Council. Great stuff -- with some interesting associated jobs. In fact, there are a ton of information-related jobs on the USAJOBs site:
Visual Information Specialist - Library Of Congress
Information Technology Specialist - Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)/ Agriculture and Forest Service / (Policy/Planning) - Treasury/Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

In fact, there are IT Specialists jobs in just about every department imaginable with the government. Looks like their responsibilities include, "The incumbent plans, develops, implements, and maintains IT security compliance and inspection programs, policies, and procedures to protect the integrity and confidentiality of systems, networks, and data Department-wide."

I have been reviewing my notes again from my interviews with the Coordinators of the Alternative Spring Break projects and I've found some more great tips that I want to share with you. The organizations that this information comes from include NARA, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Electric Privacy Information Center EPIC), EDUCAUSE, Federal Trade Commission, the Library of Congress, The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and the Office of Management and Budget.

If you are interested in speaking with the employees of these organizations for networking purposes, don't hesitate to contact me. Almost everyone expressed a strong desire to help students who were in the search for an internship or job.

Continue reading to gain some insight on the perceptions of working for the federal government and a list of tips and characteristics sought for employment…

Below is a long list of key skills and tips that are being sought by these employers. I tried to organize them by different categories, but I always recommend that you read them all because many soft skills and strengths transcend a variety of job functions.

General Skills:
Good writing and communication skills
The ability to be articulate
Organized, responsible, and self-motivated
The ability to see issues and take it on with little supervision (it's less likely in the policy world to have a structured supervisor)
Technology skills – good web skills and many ideas on how to apply technology
Able to present information creatively – i.e. diagrams, graphs, etc
People who have a demonstrated interest in the issues of the organization – they have read the materials and are familiar with the organization.
A display of enthusiasm and a strong background/ experiences
Maturity, previous job experience, unique and relevant experiences, a go-getter, good grades, strong recommendations, and the ability to get up early and be to work on time.
Articulation of self in writing, speaking, and comprehending dense language. The ability to analyze and synthesize is key.
"Dissemination" is a key word to have on your resume
Diverse experiences
People skills
Ability to respond to questions well
No b/s - but can state their logic of reasoning.
Willingness to be in an unstructured environment with a high demand (many government positions have limited supervison)

Archives and Library Services:
A strong knowledge of archival traditions (records cycles, processing, etc) but can also apply new and creative ways to make holdings accessible and meaningful to the public
Have to enjoy doing the core archival tasks – holding maintenance, descriptions, and a combination of the two.
Stay open and flexible – be open to geographic locations. There are great places to be an archivist beyond the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian. State archives are great as are privately funded places such as the Newberry Library in Chicago.
Think about how to have fun, work where the records are in their active place. Much of the work being done is in records, not in research
Think about how to make information accessible, reliable, efficiently and useful to the research depositories
For reference positions, you need to have experience and specific skills. If you can code, it’s a bonus. You definitely need to have the digital experience to be competitive.

DC Internships:
It can help you to gain a great internship if you can secure your own funding through either grants or fellowships, etc.
Go to law school because the information and knowledge gained is very relevant
If you want to work in DC, intern in DC. Spend your summers working in DC to show that you want to be there. The experience needed there is so specific, so government based, that you really can’t gain it anywhere else. By moving there, even for the summer, you demonstrate dedication to the industry, cause, location. (George Washington U rents out dorms for those seeking housing)
Take advantage of the “Washington Semester? hosted by American University – pretty much guarantees admission to grad school a American U.

Tips for career success!
Stay connected to former supervisors.
Don’t be afraid of taking a project job (one that has a start and end date). These jobs give you experience to talk about and enhance your ability to sell yourself – and you are getting paid for it. You will gain a variety of skills and maybe get to see a variety of places also!
Stay open and flexible – be open to geographic locations.
Call conferences to volunteer at them to make connections – National and Regional conferences.
Apply to positions even if you meet just some of the requirements. Employers will list absolutely everything they can think for requirements in a job description just to see what's out there and what they can get.
Consider contract or employee positions
Stating your specific interests in an introduction letter/proposal can be a double –edged sword: you can either limit yourself or hit the nail right on the head in terms of what the organization needs for their current projects. A good suggestion is to list a group of interests, but also state that you are open to anything.
Read the website (or other posted information) before you make a phone call or send your application materials. If you don't follow the directions or waste the application reviewer's time, you aren't making a positive impression from day one. However, smart, thought-out questions and statements can make you much more attractive as a candidate.
Applicants should convey that they want to be there – and also why they want the position—and why this area, and why the organization. Be able to finish “I want this because…" before you apply.
Have good grades and good references. Not friends, roommates, etc. You references should preferably be from a professor in the discipline. Even a high school teacher is a better reference than a friend or a “character reference?. A good reference is from someone who knows the applicant; a reference that is clearly familiar with the applicant and not in the field is better than one that is in the field but doesn’t know you.

The Perception of Working for the Federal Government:
Many of the federal employees that I met with expressed concern about the perceived image of working for the federal government.

These people know that the government is seen as a bloated bureaucracy, as a place to pasture. Everyone said that these ideas were not true and wanted me to be sure to come back and share with you all the great benefits and realities of working for the government.

There are unlimited opportunities to have more responsibility because of the lack of resources and people. Any sort of initiative is greatly appreciated and compensated. Employees have a great lifestyle; the work life balance is good because of restrictions on overtime.

It is an interesting time now to join the government because of the way that business is done; information is changing and the methods are changing with it. Critical mass is building, thus old ways will soon be let go because they have to be. They want to hire people during this paradigm shift so that they are part of the new evolving culture.

Bonus tip: Employees need to hang on to their government sector job for three years – that’s when all the benefits start kicking in. Working there for a year and half to two years won't get you anything.

The employees at the Federal Trade Commission expressed the occurrence of brain drain – but not in the sense commonly known in Michigan (where in-state college students graduate and leave the state, taking the entry-level professional workforce with them). They were referring to the great occurrence of people retiring and taking with them technical knowledge and the relevant skills without the organization having the proper recruitment in place or funding to replace them. Also, competition from the private sector is a source of brain drain. People at FTC are eager and willing to replace skills with new techniques and ideas.

I also worked for a state government soon after I graduated from my undergraduate institution. I found that although I didn't get any vacation for a year, everything else was pretty great about working there. The people around me were smart and ambitious, I had great benefits, and I had excellent work-life balance with competitive pay. I would recommend it to anyone -- the experience I gained because I was in a position that I probably wasn't really qualified for gave me great insight for what I wanted to do with my life and also helped me hone some skills I would not have had the chance to do elsewhere. Also, the benefit of working in the government is that you naturally learn a lot about what is going on at the state and federal level without having to sit down and watch or read the news every day.

Posted by kkowatch at March 28, 2007 11:50 AM


Not to be overly cynical, but one thing you can say for working for the government: They aren't likely to offshore your job.

Seriously though, there are a lot of good resources above that I never heard of before. Thanks.

Posted by: anneemer2@aol.com at April 3, 2007 09:48 AM

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