In a recent discussion on the Veteran Mentor Network group on LinkedIn, someone asked “How am I supposed to get experience if no one will give me any?” There are several answers to that.
Volunteering is one. More and more companies, especially ones with a heavy philanthropic bent, want to see that you volunteer your time, in addition to your regular duties. Plus, volunteering provides an opportunity to demonstrate leadership, logistic capabilities, budget management, and other key skills employers are looking for. If you are a student veteran, you can join a club. President of your student veteran group, treasurer for student government, or webmaster for the international club’s webpage, all give you experience in employable skills.
But what if you’re a poor college student who would like to earn a little money as well as gain some experience? Or what if you just graduated, but can’t get a position? Well, then you need to check out Uncle Sam’s Pathways Programs.
The Pathways Programs are a revamp of previous programs designed to streamline the way students and recent graduates gain access to federal positions. Through three programs, which target everyone from high school students and GED candidates to post-graduate students and PhD candidates, Pathways is designed to help individuals interested in working for the federal government get their foot in the door. And the best part for veterans – your veterans preference applies! Here’s an overview of the three programs:
1) Pathways Internship Program:
– Basic Eligibility: Individuals enrolled at least ½ time in an accredited high school (home school counts) or GED, vocational, technical, undergraduate, graduate, or professional education program. (Most internships require the individual to be at least 16 years of age.)
– Internships are available with everyone from The State Department to NASA to the National Institute of Health. Example internships currently available:
- Office Clerk with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers in Washington, DC, Glynco, Georgia, Artesia, New Mexico, and Charleston, South Carolina (deadline 11 April)
- Summer Legal Intern with the Federal Trade Commission in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Dallas, and Seattle (deadline 1 April!)
- Park Ranger with the Army Corps of Engineers in Oklahoma (deadline 31 March!)
- Admin Support at the James A. Haley VA hospital in Tampa, FL (deadline 4 April or 100 applicants)
- Admin Support with the Public Buildings Service in Kansas City, MO (deadline 31 March!)
– Basic facts:
- Internships must be in your field of study or academic career goal (if you aren’t sure which federal jobs might line up with your major, Uncle Sam has put together a nice little cheatsheet for you here)
- Internships are created and managed by the individual agencies and each agency determines application procedures, required documentation, salary, number of positions, etc.
- Internships may be on a full or part-time basis
- According to the VA’s page, there are currently 317 Pathway Interns throughout the federal agencies.
- You can search for more internship opportunities here.
2) Recent Graduates Program:
– Basic Eligibility: Individuals who have completed an associates, bachelors, masters, professional, doctorate, vocational, technical degree (or qualifying certificate) within the previous two years. Military members who cannot meet this two year requirement due to a military service obligation have six years from date of degree completion to apply.
– Example Recent Graduate Jobs Available:
- Financial Management Analyst with the Department of the Army in Warren, Michigan (deadline 10 April)
- Safety and Occupational Health Specialist with the Army Corps of Engineers in St. Louis, Missouri (deadline 9 April)
- Police Officer with the Department of the Navy (Marine Corps) at Quantico (deadline 31 March!)
- Visual Information Specialist with the National Park Service in Twentynine Palms, CA (deadline 2 April!)
- Insurance Specialist/Claims Representative with the Social Security Administration in Anderson, Indiana (deadline 1 April!)
– Basic facts:
- Each Recent Graduate program position is a one-year, full-time position
- Each graduate is assigned a mentor, receives at least 40 hours of formal, interactive training and professional development, and completes an individual development plan
- You can search for more Recent Graduate openings here.
3) Presidential Management Fellows Program:
– Basic Eligibility: Individuals who have completed a qualifying advanced degree (masters or professional) within the previous two years or will complete an advanced degree by 31 August of the application year.
– Applications for this program:
- Occur once and year and will be open this year from 1-15 October.
- Includes an online assessment. High scorers on this assessment will become semi-finalists and be invited to participate in an in-person assessment (at the participant’s expense). Finalists will then be selected to attend a job fair the following spring to link up with the agency they wish to work in.
- Applicants will need to provide transcripts and resume. NO letters of recommendation, cover letters, or supplemental writing samples will be accepted; any of these items sent will be destroyed.
– Basic Facts:
- A leadership program for entry-level individuals in possession of an advanced degree
- Two-year program, with salary and benefits (at the GS-9, GS-11, or GS-12 level). If participant earns the Executive Review Board certification at the end of the program, you can convert to a permanent or term position without competition.
- Each fellow will participate in an orientation program, receive 80+ hours per year of classroom training on management, policy, and other professional development topics, complete an individual development plan (including work assignments), are assigned a mentor, and have at least one rotational or developmental assignment (4-6 months).
- There is a new fellows program specifically for individuals in the STEM fields.
- There is a significant emphasis on attention to detail for this program and you can find tips and other very specific details about the program, application, and assessment process here.
Not all programs can be parlayed into a permanent position, but many can. And, as we all know, once you are in the federal system, it is so much easier to stay there, if that’s where you want to be. Even if the federal government isn’t your ultimate goal, the programs can give you excellent insight into the area of the work force you want to be in and winning anything, including an internship, looks good on a resume.
You can find more details on federal jobs, federal resume writing, and more details on all three Pathway Programs here.
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