Having received complaints from students concerning the murky process of applying to government jobs — with their long applications and security clearances — the Office of Career Strategy is expanding its resources in this area.
Government is one of the most popular career sectors for students after graduation, OCS Director Jeanine Dames said, with nearly 12 percent of the class of 2014 employed at government agencies and public institutions. Dames said navigating the government job search can be difficult due to the vast number of opportunities available and the demanding expectations of certain application processes. Jobs at certain agencies require lengthy security clearances, she said, and the larger federal agencies have longer applications and interview processes beginning in the fall.
Joshua Altman ’17 echoed this statement, noting that all of the public sector positions to which he applied had multiple-stage hiring processes that spanned the course of a few months.
“The main difficulties in pursuing a career in government are a lack of information and the length of the process,” Altman said. “Since the recruiting process is external to Yale, OCS naturally has less information on the distinct recruiting process, which, in my experience, is a lot more bureaucratic than many positions in the private sector. Without on-campus recruiting, the public sector recruiting process is less familiar to Yale students.”
He added that often the incentive to go through these cumbersome processes is that government agencies offer an exceptionally wide range of opportunities to students. For instance, Altman said, the State Department offers positions around the globe.
Many students also choose to enter government at the state and local levels.
“It all depends on the impact the student wants to have,” Dames said. “A lot of students think of government [careers] as working at federal government agencies, but it’s also important for students to think about state and local government. Sometimes more of an impact can be made at the local level.”
Assistant Director of OCS Stephanie Waite said students have pursued careers with the CIA and FBI, while others look toward technical organizations such as the Missile Defense Agency. OCS hosted an event last week with the MDA, in which engineering students were able to learn about some of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics-oriented roles available at government agencies, Waite said.
OCS hosted the first government networking event for this academic year last September, Waite said, in which students were able to speak with representatives from several different government agencies and organizations. Fifteen different organizations were present, including the State Department, Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy’s office, the IRS and the Peace Corps, Waite said.
Waite said OCS is holding a U.S. Foreign Service Information Session next month with Ana Escrogima, Foreign Service Officer and diplomat-in-residence. OCS had already received several RSVPs for the event, Waite said, which is relatively uncommon for an event that is more than a week away.
Despite the expansion of resources in this area, students interviewed said the government job search remains challenging, especially when seeking summer internships.
“As an economics and political science double major, I am interested in both finance and government internships,” Siddhi Surana ’17 said. “However, finance- and business-related internships are much more accessible and recognizable to students through [OCS] than ones related to the government or [the] State Department.”
Surana added that OCS should offer a more comprehensive database for internships in this sector.
Altman said the internship and job positions on OCS are disproportionately grouped in the private sector, resulting in a dearth of openings in the public sector. This may be due to government agencies and politicians hiring through their own channels, he said, but OCS could help connect interested students with alumni currently working in government.
“Unlike other industries, which have specific hiring timelines and can anticipate their hiring needs well in advance, a lot of the government positions are coming up on an as-needed basis,” Waite said. “A lot of the work we do is connecting students interested in entering the federal government with specific contacts, and giving students a heads up about the long process ahead.”
She added that OCS has established many online resources over the past year for students interested in government and public service, such as the “Explore Careers” pages, which provide information for students looking at government fellowships, opportunities in Foreign Service, positions at think tanks and congressional internships. Further, seniors can sign up for the OCS public service panlist, in which opportunities are emailed out to students, Waite said.
In addition to the info session that will be held in March, OCS has other events planned for this spring, such as a CIA information session, and smaller discussion groups for seniors interested in government and public service careers, Waite said.
“This is part of a larger effort to make sure students know about the careers available in the area that we define very broadly as public service,” Dames said. “What’s really important is that students are educated early on about the variety of opportunities that exist in these areas, which might be challenging to navigate because they’re not organizations that have the resources or the bandwidth to place themselves right in front of students.”