The Job: Finding Your Placement

We want to be upfront with you. Here’s the reality of the placement phase, as indicated by Dave Uejio, PMF Class of 2008 and now in senior leadership at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:

Uejio - PicThis was the hardest part of the whole process. It took me five or six months to secure a position. I was named a finalist in March and then it was August before I accepted my position. I went to graduate school right out of undergrad so I was lacking full time work experience, which made me very anxious.  I was having phone interviews and either wasn’t liking the positions I was offered or wasn’t getting the positions that I did like, so it was very anxiety provoking. There was a sense amongst my friends and I that once we became finalists, the hard work is over, and that is definitely not the case. I would say that the hard work is just beginning.”

Nikki Boudreaux, PMF Class of 2013, agreed:

Boudreaux - Pic“Becoming a Finalist is half the battle. The real work begins when it’s time to secure a position!” She offered even more great advice for this stage of the game:

1. Apply, Apply, Apply!  If you become a Finalist, the more resumes you send out, the better. Constantly check the list of job vacancies and be active during the job fair. Don’t sit around and wait for that one perfect position at that one agency. Be open to several agencies and positions and get your resume out there.

2. Get familiar with performance based interview questions!  Every interview I had used PBI questions.  You can look up examples and prepare ahead of time.  Have examples of various scenarios in which you did xyz on hand.  After several interviews I started anticipating the types of questions agencies would ask so I prepared a “cheat sheet” of sorts to have on hand.

3. Don’t let one bad interview get you down.  Most of us probably bombed an interview (or two).  Just prepare harder for the next one and practice.”

Continue being diligent as long as necessary. Follow up after the career fair with all the agencies that impressed you. If you are not called back for any interviews after applying, get on the phone or computer and be in touch with all the agencies that are still posting positions for which you are qualified.

How long does it take to find a placement?

Anywhere from a few days after an interview, right up to the one year mark, with a majority of offers coming two to three months after an interview.

What advice do you have for those who are having trouble finding a placement?

When it comes to the placement process, it can take awhile. We heard two pieces of advice from our interviews.

1. Be patient. Consider the advice of Kaleigh Emerson, PMF Class of 2010 and now at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, who waited many months before she was hired:

Kaleigh Emerson1You have to be really patient and not start stressing until December. It’s hard to not have a job for that long but federal government hiring managers are working on a different timeline than the job seeker. So try to find some part-time work between grad school and a PMF position. I know several people who were offered positions in early summer, but I was volunteering and asked ‘can I start in November?’ Be patient. Positions will open up!”

Another candidate, Jessica Cagley, PMF Class of 2010 and now at USAID, told us, “I was not placed for 10 months, although I did turn down 3 jobs before taking my final (dream!) job. Stay positive and remember that the right job is worth the wait!”

2. Be persistent. Bev Godwin, PMF Class of 1982 and now a senior executive at the General Services Administration, said:

bev goodwin small1“My advice to new and future PMFs is: if you have a place or an issue area you know you want to work on, and they don’t have an advertised opening, it may be because they don’t know about the program. In addition to what vacancies people put in there, it doesn’t hurt to also research and explore and interview at other positions and then tell them about the PMF program.

Pat Hodgens, PMF Class of 2013, reinforced this message:

Hodgens - PicIf you are a finalist, it is your responsibility to find a job, not OPM’s or the PMF program’s. Yes, you will be part of a smaller hiring pool, but you are not guaranteed a job, particularly in this fiscal climate. Reach out to everyone in your network and people who do the type of work you want to do early and often.”

How do I determine what location is right for me?

This question is important if your default is not Washington, DC. Robert Weisberg, PMF Class of 2001 and now at Housing and Urban Development, summed up the difference between DC and the field in this way:

“The only aspect that people have to appreciate is that in government the headquarters and the field are two different atmospheres and they have to appreciate that if they are not at headquarters, they are in a different realm. Sometimes at headquarters, they have higher pay or higher grade levels than in the field. Ultimately, if you really want to work with people, being in the field is more rewarding than just being in the office and talking about policy.

For others, it’s more cut and dry, with DC being your only option. Kaleigh Emerson, PMF Class 2010, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, stated:

After having been through my PMF experience, I would recommend that people try to be in DC. That’s where the most networking opportunities are, where the training and all the mentoring takes place. If you want to go to a regional office after your two years in PMF, you can do it, but I would recommend spending those two years in DC or at least at a headquarters office. For instance, CDC is in Atlanta…so DC or headquarters.”

Another anonymous advocate of the DC option from the PMF Class of 2008 suggested that you can start in Washington, but you don’t have to stay there:

For those who do not particularly want to live in DC, I still highly recommend spending the 2 years of the PMF in Washington.  In agencies with numerous PMFs, the rotation process, promotion process, and networking go more smoothly.  Also, the PMF community is much more active in DC. These benefits are invaluable, and can help you transition out of DC into a job/location you are interested in long-term. Rotations out of DC can also help with that transition.”

Of course, flexibility might just be your best policy. That’s the approach Sarah Young, PMF Class of 2011 and now at Housing and Urban Development, recommended:

young - pic“I hoped to be in DC, but I was willing to take almost any agency. It is better to get in as a PMF and learn from your initial position even if it is not a perfect fit. You can often transfer either within your agency or even to another agency as a PMF.”

In the end, the right answer here (as with most decisions) is, “It depends.” Focus on your preference, but be agile enough to follow the opportunities that present themselves.

After You’ve Nailed Down Your Appointment

Once you have received your appointment, the PMF Coordinator for your agency will update your status online and provide a start date for your Fellowship. You will still need to clear a background check and complete your graduate studies to begin your position as a PMF Fellow.


Want more tips about the entire PMF Process? Download the full version of the guide here!

The guide shares advice with applicants based on interviews with current and past PMFs, career advisors, and federal agency program coordinators.

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