Jobs Search Process Frustrates Many Young Recruits

By Stephen Barr
Thursday, October 5, 2006

To learn what is right and wrong about federal recruiting, listen to young people.

James Hedrick , in the government for two months, came to the Housing and Urban Development Department because it strives to improve the nation's communities.

April Torikai , hired by the State Department seven months ago, saw long-term opportunities to grow professionally in jobs that support U.S. diplomacy overseas.

Sonya Phillips moved 18 months ago from Tennessee to join the Government Accountability Office here because its work meshed with her education and experience in state government.

Katie Santo , a graduate student at George Washington University, hopes to find a job in government where she "can make a difference."

In all their cases, job decisions were not based on salary but on a sense of public service and other factors, such as training and opportunities for professional development offered by their agencies, they said.

Some of the perks of federal employment -- Hedrick's gym membership for $20 a month or time out of the office to help Hurricane Katrina victims -- also make the government a worthy employer, in their view.

The four offered their perspectives on federal recruitment practices at a summit yesterday sponsored by the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit group working with the Office of Personnel Management to promote government service to college students.

But they also recounted some frustrations with their job searches.

Hedrick, a presidential management fellow at HUD, found it difficult to follow up with agencies after a job fair. "The problem was finding someone to talk to," he said. Many college graduates, facing deadlines to start repaying student loans, want to know when they will start work and what kind of training they will receive, he said.

Torikai's first encounter with the government came after she was accepted as an intern and then waited five months for a security clearance. While waiting, she said, some one-on-one contact with a program official "would have calmed my nerves" about the internship.

In contrast, Phillips said, the GAO "did a good job of staying in contact" while she was being hired and showed an interest in her as a professional to keep for the long term.

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