1. Are you interested in working for a government organization or political organization?
2. What skills are necessary when working for the Government?
3. What is a KSA?
4. What programs are available for interns and new graduates?
5. What Government resources are available?
6. What student loan repayment resources are available?
Often the terms “government” and “politics” are used interchangeably; however, when it comes to a successful job or internship search, having a clear understanding of whether or not you are interested in a government or a political organization is key.
If interested in a “government” job or internship, you are most likely saying that you would like to work for an agency or department within the local, state, or federal government. The Center for Disease Control of the Department of Homeland Security are examples of government organizations. Most often, you will want to refer to www.usajobs.gov or go directly to the agency or department website to look for the most up-to-date job and internship offerings.
“Political jobs or internships typically refer to working on Capitol Hill (federal) in Washington, D.C. or within your home state for a particular political party. A political organization could working for your state legislator’s congressional office, volunteering for a political campaign, interning for a Senatorial committee, working for a public policy or lobbying organization, a politically-affiliated nonprofit, or a specific issue-based think tank organization. Rather than pursing opportunities via USA jobs, you will want to refer to websites such as www.hillzoo.com, www.politemps.com, and other resources listed on the page below.
By having a specific focus on the type of organization in which you are seeking, you can be more strategic and directed as you search, apply, and network for opportunities in this particular field.
Employers hiring for government positions are seeking individuals who possess the following skills: communication, analytical, dedication, interpersonal skills, leadership, flexibility, teamwork, ability to handle sensitive or confidential information, and understanding of the legislative process.
In most cases, college students should apply for government positions using a resume. You may encounter KSA (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities) questions when responding to specific government vacancy announcements. Placed at the end of some announcements, these questions address specific knowledge and skills required for the position. Answer KSAs on a separate sheet(s) of paper and attach them to your resume.
Knowledge: Mastery of facts; range of information in subject matter area.
Skills: Proficiency, expertise, or competence in given area; e.g., science, art, crafts.
Abilities: Demonstrated performance to use knowledge and skills when needed.
A resume is an important component of the job application process, but addressing the KSAs listed in a federal job opening gives you an extra chance to draw attention to your strengths and expand upon the specific factors the agency is looking for. Don’t exclude anything from your KSA responses just because it is on your resume. Here are a few tips for writing your KSA:
- Read the job announcement carefully, highlighting key words or phrases describing the position responsibilities so you remember to address those points in your KSA responses.
- Go back to your resume and outline a list of experiences you’ve had that address each KSA. Review each list and select the items that best illustrate a link between your experience and each KSA as you compose your responses.
- Add information relevant to each KSA that may not be included in your resume—such as specialized training, publications, leadership roles, student activities, or awards. Make sure you take credit for your entire range of experiences including volunteer work, internships, school projects, and extracurricular activities.
- Link all these different examples explicitly to the KSA questions. Whether you’ve worked as a waitress or cashier, served as a student club officer, or volunteered at a nursing home, the key is to tie these experiences back to the KSAs in a way that demonstrates that you are the best candidate for the job.
- Write your KSAs in the first person.
- Use a variety of concrete examples to illustrate your skills. Be sure to include examples that demonstrate your ability to take initiative.
- Focus on outcomes to which you directly contributed, citing quantitative data where possible. For example, how much money or time you generated or saved, how many people attended, or how many units you produced.
- Make sure your answers reflect your level of responsibility. Similarly, clearly identify who you interacted with and how (like providing key information to a manager, working with a group of peers, or supervising a team).
- Each KSA answer should be between a half a page and a page in length.
- Review your answers to ensure they are succinct and easy to read.
- Don’t use acronyms. Spell out everything.
- Focus on content, and don’t forget to proofread.
When searching agency websites for opportunities, look for the following program titles:
Federal Internship Programs
Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP)
Paid positions ranging from a summer job to a position that lasts as long as the student is in school.
Student Career Experience Program (SCEP)
Work must relate to student’s area of study and requires the agency to have a formal commitment with the student’s school. After completing 640 hours of work, the student can be appointed to a permanent position without going through the traditional hiring process.
Opportunities with the Federal Government for New Grads
Recent Graduates Program
This one-year developmental program is designed for individuals who have received undergraduate or graduate degrees from qualifying educational institutions or programs. Candidates must apply to the Recent Graduates Program within two years of degree or certificate completion. Participants will receive a minimum of 40 hours of training and professional development, complete an individual development plan and be assigned a mentor.
Presidential Management Fellows Program
The Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program has been and will continue to be a government-wide leadership development program for graduate and professional degree candidates. PMFs will participate in an orientation program, receive 80 hours of training and professional development, complete an individual development plan, be assigned a mentor, and have at least one rotational or developmental assignment.
Federal Government Job Search Sites
USA Jobs – The #1 source for federal government jobs
Student Government Jobs – Full-time positions, summer employment, and internships for students and recent grads
Go Government – Student-centered website with a wealth of info about federal jobs and internships
Select Agency and Department Sites
Department of State – Seek Foreign Service Officers in various specialties: Administrative, Consular, Economic, Political, or Public Diplomacy. Also have internships. Exam is required. Go here for test dates and to register.
Department of Transportation – Seek budget analysts as well as other positions
Department of Interior – Seek people in a variety of career fields from archaeology to biology to history to run the National Park Service
Environmental Protection Agency – Seek scientists as well as other positions
Internal Revenue Service – Seek accountants and revenue specialists as well as other positions
National Institutes of Health – Jobs and internships in medical research
Department of the Treasury
United States Department of Agriculture – Seek budget analysts, scientists, and other positions
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation – Seek math majors for actuarial work and other positions
Department of the Navy Civilian Human Resources – This huge employer would rank #8 on the Fortune 500 list. Seeks project managers, budget analysts, and other positions.
The Library of Congress
Hill Zoo – Job bank with postings listed by political party as well as non-party affiliated
General listings for various DC job openings
Legislative, government, and political staffing service for the DC area
Washington Network Group of over 2,300 professionals in DC in business, finance, and government
North Carolina Government Sites
For a timeline of the job and internship search process and government recruiting, click here.
6. What student loan repayment resources are available?
Another important factor to consider when making your decision is student loan repayment. Be knowledgeable and understand your options. Click here to learn more about repaying student loans after graduation and starting your career.