« February 2007 | Main | April 2007 »

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 on March 28, 2007 at 11:50 AM | Comments (1)


These days it seems like "everybody" is getting interviews and job offers. I keep trying to remind myself of the ketchup philosophy, but it is difficult. Most of the people with offers have been offered jobs I have no interest in, or are in locations I have ruled out. So why is my refrigerator mood magnet stuck on jealous? The best answer I can come up with is just human nature. I remember going through the exact same thing when I graduated from Colgate. At the last minute I was offered a great internship for the summer with the Nantucket Historical Association. A week after I left the internship, I was offered my job at The Hartford. So, as I hope for another quick turn-around, I think I will have a hot dog and write some more cover letters.

Posted by jsharp on March 25, 2007 at 01:39 PM | Comments (0)

The Greatest Job Search Tool - that Doesn't List Jobs!

One of my absolute favorite job search tools is Hoover's. Hoover's is actually a business information tool: "Hoover's, Inc., delivers comprehensive company, industry, and market intelligence that drives business growth." It does not have any job listings. What it does have is information on companies -- and their locations, size, products -- and my favorite -- industry competitors.

You can build a list in Hoover's which lets you narrow the number of organizations registered with them (last time I checked it was 18,070,352 which is 2 million more than last year when I started using it frequently) based on Company Location, Size, Industry, Type, People, Financial Data, and Specialty Criteria. You can work with this criteria in order to create an ideally sized list that works for your job search.

This is helpful because it can provide with a set list of organizations to do you job or internship search within. For example, last week I had a MSI student ask me about HCI opportunities in Europe. We don't really have any companies that are specifically from Europe that recruit with us, so I referred her to Hoover's.

In our search, we entered in Europe as a location (1,319,067 organizations) and then Business Intelligence Software in the Industry Category. That took us down to a list of 31 organizations, which is a realistic number of organization to work with for a job search.

After clicking "View Results", we were shown the names, locations, sales, size, and phone number of the 31 companies. We then clicked on a company that was in an ideal location and we were shown specific information about the company. It also showed us what other industries that this organization falls into and the list of industry competitors. With another student, we found IDEO's top 15 competitors, which opened up his options to whole other set of organizations, most of which he had never heard of.

You can access Hoover's by linking to the SI Career Services Site, clicking on Job Search Tools from the dropdown and then scrolling down to the bottom of the site to Online Career Resources (we are going to move this soon, I swear!) and then scrolling down to the Career, Job Search, and Salary Information Sites section where you will find Hoover's as the second listing.

If you want a demonstration, let me know! I love to show this tool off to anyone interested. I recommend you check it out. Kelly

Posted by kkowatch on March 22, 2007 at 10:40 AM | Comments (0)

Job hunting and health perils

Greetings! Kelly has asked me (and some other people, I believe) to post about my experiences job hunting. I have been keeping an eye on the library/archives (I'm ARM) job market since I started at SI, and sent out my first resume last summer. Since January I have been sending out my resume at least once a week. I have had one interview, which was followed by a quasi-job offer ("Congratulations! We would like to offer you a job, but we can't make any offers right now. Wait a few weeks"). Many of the postings have deadlines a month or two in advance, so several of my resumes are probably still sitting on a desk somewhere waiting to be read. In a week or two I shall be discovered! Or at least that is what I am telling myself to keep my spirits up!!

Last weekend I identified what has become my current "job of a lifetime". The application process for said job involves creating a profile and uploading a few documents.

I took my time, followed all the instructions, and submitted my application. I continued on to apply to a few other "less worthy" positions. While drafting a cover letter for one of the "less worthy" jobs, I happened to open up the cover letter for the "job of a lifetime". Turns out I had submitted a draft version of the cover letter, not the real thing.

Instant panic.

Once you have submitted, you can't make any changes. The only option is to withdraw your application. If you withdraw, you can not re-apply. Not good.

Putting my liberal arts, think-outside-the-box, skills to work, I decided I could trick the system by creating another profile. There were some minor glitches in the system, but I finally managed to get that to work. I went through the motions, and finally submitted the application with all the right documents.

I withdrew the old one, went back in to look at the new one, and for a split second I thought the system had caught on to me and had withdrawn the new one too.

Instant heart attack.

Once the blood was back to flowing at its normal rate, I decided it was time to eat dinner. At some point while I was cooking I managed to spill something on the floor that caused me to slip whenever I ran my foot over it. You would think that after slipping once I would have done something to alleviate the situation. No. I left whatever it was on the floor so that I could continue to slip. I'm blaming this on the uneven flow of blood to my head experienced earlier in the evening. If everything had been functioning as it should have, I would have immediately taken care of the slippery stuff so I wouldn't risk breaking my neck. Breaking my neck, of course, would severely limit my ability to perform the "job of a lifetime".

Moral of the story: job hunting is hazardous to your health.

Posted by jsharp on March 17, 2007 at 09:49 PM | Comments (0)

Job Search Tips from SI ASB 2007 - Part 1

While on SI ASB, I met with many people who have gained great experience in getting jobs at some really awesome organization (and also hired many great people). Below is the first set of tips that I want to pass on to you that come from these meetings. These tips come directly from the Senior Librarian at National Public Radio. If you want to know more about what she said about careers at NPR or news media libraries, please contact me! Kelly

1. Students need to know what they want to do, whether it be the function, the type of library, or a specific industry. With that in mind, find the right fit – don’t just take whatever comes along. Your job search will be so much more enjoyable if you target a specific area that you are truly interested in (and it’s a lot easier to write cover letters for jobs that you are passionate about!)

2. Make lots of connections. Utilize listservs, speak up! Don’t just subscribe to listservs, but be active (kk: I know that many of the archives listservs chat all the time!). Use networking tools like LinkedIn or blog about yourself. Let people know that you exist so that when you apply for a position, people recognize your name and know that you are inquisitive, want to learn, and are passionate and educated about the field. Librarians are very generous and will help you if ask for guidance. They will share industry tips, jobs, put you in contact with the right people. Take advantage of this generosity!

3. Never accept a job offer in the same day as it is offered. Ask for a 10 percent increase in salary and a week more vacation that what they originally offer you. Accepting an underpaid job hurts the entire profession because it brings the average salary down and decreases the perceived value of librarians to the organization.

4. During an interview, ask the following questions: "Where is this position in the organizational hierarchy? Who will supervise me? What type of supervisor are they?" Don’t try to match yourself to the supervisor – make a smart choice and make sure that you are going to be working for someone that you can get along with and work well with. If you are very different from your supervisor, then you are going to have a hard time working for them and both of you will be miserable.

5. Make sure that you have a hobby or a life outside your job. Librarians can end up devoting their entire lives to their job and then they retire and find that they are not indispensable and that they have nothing else to do. Also, library work never ends and your efforts are not noticed unless you don’t do your work which can make it a very thankless career overall. Family, friends, hobbies, and personal interests are all very important, so make sure to also focus on those aspects of your life.

6. Follow a job, not a geographic area. The good jobs with good pay are sometimes in the middle of nowhere or where it’s cold or super hot. Great experience is great experience no matter where it’s located.

Posted by kkowatch on March 16, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Comments (0)

SI ASB 2007 Site Visits

From what I've heard, most everyone had an awesome ASB experience this year. We sent 57 students to New York City, Chicago, and Washington D.C. where they did a variety of service projects and shadowing at 18 different organizations! SI has a great program and we are one of the only ones (maybe the only one?) that does this -- the sites all just having you come work for them and many of them want you for more than a week. I know of a couple students who wanted to stay longer!

I also had a great time while I was on ASB. Although I was not doing service projects for all of our sites, I was doing my job: creating and nurturing recruitment relationships for the students and alumni of SI. I met with so many great people and gathered a ton of information to pass on to you. I am going to be posting this information over the next week or so. If you are interested in learning more about the sites and what they are looking for in candidates, application processes, etc.. contact me (kkowatch@umich.edu) and we can chat. Enjoy the warm weather!

Posted by kkowatch on March 13, 2007 at 04:43 PM | Comments (0)