washingtonpost.com
Make a Start in Public Service

By Derrick T. Dortch
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, April 19, 2007 10:59 AM

Finally, after a long four years, you are graduating from college. If you want your first job to be in public service, you probably have two questions. Does the federal government hire college graduates? If so, how do you land a federal job right out of school?

The answer to the first question is a resounding "Yes." According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), there have been more new hires in the age range of 20 to 29 than in any other bracket since 2004. In 2006 the federal government hired 24,406 in this age bracket, more than 30 percent of all new hires.

"Young men and women looking to move from the campus into their first post-college jobs will definitely want to give the federal government serious consideration," says Robert F. Danbeck, associate director of human resources products and services at OPM. "Agencies are in a serious hiring mode as they look to groom talented young people to replace baby boomers who are expected to retire in waves over the next several years."

So if the government is hiring, how do you land the job? According to federal job experts and officials at OPM and the non-profit Partnership for Public Service, these tips can help:

Above all, however, experts agree that patience and perseverance are virtues in federal job searching. The federal hiring process is a long one. Agencies can take more than a month -- or several months -- to contact you about a position. Even after you interview, win a job and are given a conditional offer you may have to wait several more months to obtain security clearances.

Most college graduates cannot afford to sit and wait without work, so it is wise to pursue several federal jobs simultaneously -- as well as work in the private or non-profit sectors while you wait for the government to call. Meantime, continue to look for jobs, network with federal officials and go to jobs fairs where government agencies will be in attendance. You must remain dedicated to the government job search in order to succeed.

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