WASHINGTON – How to get a job?
It's the question many college students are facing as graduation season approaches.
Even though career prospects have seemed thin lately due to the drooping economy and the hyper-competitive job atmosphere,Generation Y is starting to see a change in fortune thanks to one group: their baby boomer parents.
Nearly half of government employees will be eligible for retirement within the next five years,according to the government's Office of Personnel Management. On an average day,about 21,000 job openings are posted on the office's database and Web site.
“We need to take steps now to expand employment opportunities for the next generation of public servants,” Office of Personnel Management Director Linda Springer said in a statement. “Because of expected retirements,we are looking at a very different,very new set of people who will be here eight,nine,10 years from now.”
To curb the effects of the “retirement tsunami,” the Call to Serve campaign recruits college grads into the federal workforce. As one of the participating schools,George Washington University recently hosted a panel of seven young alumni who work for a range of government agencies,including the Department of State's Foreign Service,the Department of Energy and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The panelists discussed their careers and answered questions about how to maintain an edge in the job market. Some of the benefits of a government job can include international travel,flexible hours and early advancement opportunities.
Darrin Kayser,a 2000 graduate and a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security,helped coordinate the evacuation of ill and wounded Hurricane Katrina victims from New Orleans. He said there is never a dull moment at his job.
John Regan,a political desk officer with the State Department,is with the Office of Cuban Affairs. Even though there's been an embargo on travel to Cuba for 47 years,he'll soon be traveling there for his job.
“We are the face of America abroad – for better or for worse,” Regan joked. “It's a very noble profession.”
But each agency is different,the panelists said,so it's important for new graduates to match positions with their lifestyles.
Like most jobs,internships and extracurricular activities help boost a resume,they said. Networking with colleagues and superiors usually proves beneficial when searching for a permanent position.
“I don't know a lot of people who have got a job without some kind of a network,” said Maureen Benitz,a 2002 graduate and senior campaign finance analyst with the Federal Election Commission. “Don't be afraid to ask about new openings.”
Several panelists used the graduate students' Presidential Management Fellows program to jumpstart their government careers. Instead of winding their way through the bureaucracy of applications and standardized tests,the fellows have an automatic in and can rotate among government agencies.
“You come in a little higher and are promoted a little faster,” said Sarah Ladislaw,a 2003 graduate and international affairs specialist with the Department of Energy.
Claire Gibbons,program manager for the government's job Web site,said there is a job for virtually anyone in the government. Positions can range from park ranger to NASA scientist to dietician.
Even though entry-level salaries start at about $30,000,within two or three years,an employee could be making twice as much or more,Gibbons said. About 4,000 jobs are currently available for recent graduates with nothing more than a bachelor's degree,she said.
Students can qualify for administrative jobs with a degree in any college major,but the Web site also lists jobs that are usually filled by people with certain majors. For example,an English major might want to become an editorial assistant or program analyst.
“There are well over 100 federal departments,independent agencies and bureaus,” Gibbons said. They range from half a million employees in the Department of the Navy to a handful at the American Battle Monuments Commission.
She recommended that anyone interested in a government position browse the Web site,which has all the information needed to apply.
“People that enter now have great possibilities for promotion and growth,” Gibbons said. “The opportunities are great.”
For information about federal jobs,including the Presidential Management Fellows,visit OPM's http://www.USAJobs.gov
The list of jobs by academic majors is at http://www.usajobs.opm.gov/EI23.asp