Image Courtesy of Flickr. Creative Commons
June 23, 2008
Launching a career in government work can be a difficult thing, for many reasons. Many applicants are never contacted for a follow-up. It’s difficult to contact federal agencies, often due to security concerns. There are so many career choices that it can be difficult to choose.
In my opinion, government internships are the cure to all of these paralyzing thoughts, and a perfect way for you to network, boost your resume, educate yourself, and determine which government career would suit you best.
Convinced yet? After reading our 5 step guide to getting a federal internship, you will be. Check it out:
Step 1: The Basics of Government Internships
Step 2: Determine Your Area of Interest
Step 3: Find the Right Agencies
Step 4: Polish Your Resume
Step 5: Nail Your Application
The Basics of Government Internships
An internship will provide you with a supervised work experience where you complete intentional learning goals and actively reflect on what you are learning throughout your internship. Learning goals can include: academic learning, career development, skill development, and personal development. Most government internships take place during the summer.
Read the official objectives of US government internship programs:
The Objectives of Internship Programs
● To encourage students to consider careers in government work
● To provide students with valuable work experience in government career fields
● To aid the Us Government in achieving its mission.
Determine Your Area of Interest
It’s simple logic, but it’s accurate: you won’t get an internship before you know which one you want.
In some ways, hunting for internships can be trickier than hunting for jobs. Internships are “excepted”, not “competitive” positions. What does this mean? Unlike a job search which allows you to search all agencies at once, you’ll need to search specific Government Agencies individually to look for internship opportunities.
Starting Your Hunt:
Here’s a quick list of activities you can do to reveal more about your areas of interest and start making choices:
● Make a list of agencies that are of interest to you.
● Go to each agency’s home page.
● Look for a link for employment, careers, students or interns.
● If you can’t find any of the above, use the search field to look for “student internships.”
● Read through descriptions of internship programs.
● Once you find a program you like, try putting the name of the program in the search field to find more information.
● Look for actual program announcements with dates, pay and instructions for how to apply.
● Bookmark these pages and write information down or print it out.
● Write a federal-style resume that covers the skills in the announcement.
The Bottom Line:
Yes, finding the good federal internship listings and descriptions with each agency can be time-consuming, but the time you spend is very worthwhile. Federal internships can pay well and include advancement and benefits.
Find the Right Agencies
Now that you’ve determined your interests and scoped out a few agencies, spend a few minutes making sure you didn’t miss any major internship programs which match your interests well. You can also use these articles to ensure that you are getting information from the official government websites, and not fake versions designed to trick you into entering your personal information onto the web.
Taken from GovCentral’s Ultimate Internship Index, here’s a comprehensive list of internships.
● General Internship Articles
● Legislative Branch
● Judicial Branch
● Executive Branch
● Other Government Internships
● Special Federal Student Internship Programs
<a name=“legislative”Legislative Branch
● The Library of Congress
● Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute
● Congressional Research Service
● Native American Congressional Internships
● Senators Offices I
● Senators Offices II
● Senators Offices III
<a name=“judicial”Judicial Branch
● The Supreme Court
● The White House Internship Program
● Department of Commerce
● Department of Education
● Department of Energy – Office of Science
● Department of Housing & Urban Development
● Department of the Interior
● Department of Justice
● Department of Labor
● Department of the Treasury
Other Government Internships
● Environmental Protection Agency
● Federal Communications Commission
● National Security Agency
● Secret Service
● Securities and Exchange Commission
● U.S. Agency for International Development
Polish Your Resume
It’s time to start gearing up to contact the Internship programs you’ve found; you’ll want to start working on the most important aspect of your application: your resume.
Before creating the world’s greatest resume, you’ll want to make sure you meet the basic application requirements. If an internship you apply to requires you to have earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree, you should either have it or be within 6 months of receiving it. Second, citizenship is usually mandatory (naturalized citizenship is fine, too). Occasional posts accept applicants with working visas.
Eight Traits that Say ‘Choose Me’
First, you need to make a great first impression with your resume and cover letter. In doing so, you’ll want to disregard the private-sector notion that a single-page resume for entry-level workers is the way to go. Typical federal resumes for students run much longer, usually two to three pages. Put that extended length to use by hitting these eight key points recruiters look for:
Strong Communication Skills
Federal employees communicate constantly in their jobs through in-person contacts, the phone, writing on paper and the Internet. The better you communicate your communication skills in your resume, the more internship decision makers will like you. Mention any of your writing projects that got attention or made a difference, participation in presentations (debate team, theater, etc.) and involvement in Web site development.
Ability to Work on a Team
With the wide use of teams in college coursework today, you may be able to quickly identify great examples of teamwork from your school experiences. Look for relevant class projects that you developed as part of a team, and note if you took a lead role such as writing the summary report or presenting the PowerPoint lecture. Out-of-classroom examples could come from volunteer work, participation in a theater or film production and so on.
Leadership is about leading people and influencing their behavior and decisions. In school, you may have been a group’s officer or had another opportunity to lead. Search your experience base for situations in which you settled conflicts, set standards and encouraged others to work well together. Did you ever bring a diverse group to a consensus?
Creativity and Resourcefulness
The government wants to bring in people with fresh ideas and the ability to develop new approaches, so scan your past for examples of times when you took the initiative. Did you revamp a student publication with a better look? Establish a new student organization? Find original ways to raise money? When did you think outside the box?
Additional Language Skills
If you speak a foreign language, the odds of your being selected go up. Spanish is much in demand, as are Middle Eastern languages such as Arabic and Farsi.
Make it clear in your resume if you’re willing to move. Some internship programs require that you relocate to one spot. Others may feature rotation, where you’re transferred to different areas. Two examples of rotational programs are the Federal Highway Administration’s Career Intern Program and the Army’s Fellows Program (involving movement of supplies for defense and homeland security. The Army’s deal includes paid graduate education.
Today, the government expects applicants to be computer savvy. In your resume, note if you’ve used computers for word processing, Internet research, or creating Excel charts and PowerPoint presentations.
Ability to Work Well Under Pressure and Through Change
The nature of the government is to be in flux, always changing. That’s because it needs to respond to current events, new leadership, recent legislation and evolving regulations. To demonstrate your adaptability, recall times when you were a high performer during stressful periods or responded with flexibility.
If you can cover these points in your resume and cover letter, as well as your education and work experience, you will stand out amidst your competitors. But don’t just limit yourself to the above; include everything that will show you’re an outstanding candidate.
Nail Your Application
You’ve already been given links to different internship websites. You can also search USAJOBS’s listings.
Here’s a few more insider tips to follow as you begin to apply for internships.
Follow Every Instruction Carefully: If you ignore any instructions on an internship application page, you’re application will quickly be disregarded. Follow all directions carefully!
Consider an Advisor: If you are a student, ask a counselor at your career center if they have relationships with any federal agencies.
The Presidential Management Fellows Program: This is an option when you are in your last year of your graduate program. You should talk to your graduate career center about this program now — so you will know how to apply for it. You must apply through your university career center.
Your Federal Resume</span
Remember, federal resumes are longer than business resumes. In fact, your federal resume can be two to three pages. Be sure to use the space to add details. The graduate student federal resume should include a list of your relevant courses, a few sentences describing your significant papers or projects and a list of your activities. Federal HR specialists want to read as much as possible about your experiences and skills. Your federal resume should also:
Be in Two Formats: You may need a paper format for submitting by fax or mail for some agencies and an electronic format for submitting to the various resume builders and databases. Each agency has its own application system and instructions, so be ready to copy and paste.
Be Considered Your Application: It may also serve as your examination for the job and sometimes the interview (or certainly a preinterview), so more information is better.
Include Competencies or Soft Skills: If you are particularly analytical, detail-oriented, a natural leader, enthusiastic, energetic or resourceful, mention these qualities on your resume.
Highlight Academic Achievement: If If you have a 3.45 GPA or higher, write “Outstanding Scholar, 3.45/4.0” on your resume. If you have a 3.0 or higher, you can write “Superior Academic Achievement, 3.0/4.0.” These GPA-based programs can help you get hired faster. The government can offer Direct Hire opportunities to students with GPA of 3.0 and higher. And a 3.45 GPA can even earn you more money!
● Education and Federal Jobs: What You Need to Compete
● Top Ten Federal Internships
● The Ultimate Government Internship Index
How to Write a Cover Letter for a Government Internship
A Cover Letter is More Than a Summary of Your Resume
A cover letter is frequently required, and recommended, along with your job application. It expresses your interest in the role, sums up your qualifications, and attempts to show how you are different than the other candidates.
What Makes a Good Cover Letter?
A good cover letter doesn't tell an employer what you want from a job; it tells them how you will help them. It demonstrates the strengths and benefits you will bring to the position and how your past experience will make it a quick transition.
Each cover letter you submit should be customized for the particular job description. Particularly when applying for a job in government, an individualized cover letter is essential. Government human resources departments frequently use computer programs to scan cover letters, and using keywords from the specific job description can help your application be recognized.
What Should a Cover Letter Look Like?
While cover letters used to be mailed or faxed, they are now almost exclusively emailed along with your resume. A cover letter for a government position would look like the below sample:
Dear Mr. Norton:
I would like to express my enthusiasm in applying for the position as a legislative intern at the New York Civil Liberties Union recently posted in The New York Times. As a prospective May 20XX graduate from Boston College with considerable writing and administrative experience, and a strong interest in law, public policy, and immigrant rights, I believe I am a strong candidate for the legislative intern position.
The job description states that you are looking for a candidate with a commitment to civil liberties, who has strong communication and interpersonal skills, excellent writing skills, organizational skills, and someone who is very detail oriented. As a government major currently involved in writing a thesis on immigration law and as someone who contributes regularly to several blogs focused on government and immigration issues, I have become a proficient and skilled writer. As an intern for Mayor Jones at the New Brunswick City Court House, I have developed strong interpersonal skills, acquired a basic knowledge of public affairs, and have polished my organizational and administrative skills. As a current intern and assistant to Tom Jones, Legislative Assistant for Attorney Bill Phillips, in New Brunswick, NY, I have further enhanced my quantitative and qualitative research, editing, writing, and administrative skills.
As a government major, I have spent the past four years of my academic career focusing on U.S. immigration politics and immigrant rights. I have taken courses in American Politics, Immigration Law I and II, Dissident Political Thought, Politics of Congress in addition to conducting several research projects in collaboration with Professor Jack Barnes at Boston College. My case research explored the civil rights of minorities who were recently denied jobs for which it appeared that they were fully qualified. While working on my thesis, I learned a great deal about the process of conducting legal research and in writing about civil rights litigation.
I have excelled in my academics and previous internships and jobs and feel that I would be an asset if I were selected to intern for the New York Civil Liberties Union.
I will call within a week to discuss my candidacy and see if we might arrange for mutually convenient time in which we can speak.
Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing back from you soon.