Score a Career with the US Government, Part 3

By: Kirsi

If you haven’t yet, read part 1 and part 2 of this series.

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Recording an Extravehicular Activity, photo by NASA

With the knowledge to use usajobs.gov as a job search engine and build a resume, you may wonder what US Government opportunities are available for college students? Agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, NASA, Department Of Commerce, and many more offer positions called a “Pathways Internship“. A Pathways Internship is one of the US Government’s pipelines to hire full-time civil servants (employees). Despite having the word “Internship” in the name a Pathways Internship is like a Cooperative Opportunity (Co-Op). A Co-Op is a long-term commitment to a student over many semesters whereas an Internship is a work agreement for only a semester and would have to be renewed. Often students use Pathways Internship and Co-Op interchangeably. Students who successfully complete a Pathways Internship have a chance of a full-time position with the agency. Many Pathways Interns think of their opportunity as a multiple semester-long interview learning as much as they can about the agency, their major, and working as hard as they can. I am currently a Pathways Intern at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. I will flip flop between semesters studying at UMD and Pathways Interning at NASA.

Who Offers Pathways Internships?

By searching “Pathways Internships” in the “Keyword” search box on USAJobs’ main page you will receive pages upon pages of opportunities for college students. Make sure you identify a position that matches your major, if it doesn’t and you apply, you will be rejected. Don’t be discouraged if your desired government agency does not have positions currently posted. Some agencies go through hiring cycles which often occur once a semester. To keep track of when agencies are posting Pathways positions I suggest setting up an email alert as described in the first post of this series. Keep a draft of a resume ready in case the application submission window is short.
astronaut_talk
Astronaut Michael Fossum Lecture
Pathways Internship Benefits
Once you are accepted into a Pathways Internship you would be sworn in as a civil servant with the US Government. A Pathways Intern receives retirement, travel time, relocation reimbursement, and insurance benefits similar to a full-time employee. Your pay is determined by the number of college credits you have completed and explained in the position posting. As a Pathways Intern you complete meaningful work that advances the mission of the agency and advances you in your major’s studies. This past fall I developed astronaut training that was used on board the International Space Station and sat in Mission Control. You will NOT be fetching coffee at a Pathways Internship!
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NASA’s Modular Robotic Vehicle
As a Pathways Intern you will be working among some of the brightest minds in your field, growing your network, and growing as a person. Pathways Interns have opportunities to get to know the agency, meet agency leaders, and contribute to projects that effect the whole United States. At NASA Johnson I visited labs, met astronauts, rode in a lunar rover, attended lectures by Mission Control specialists, and chatted with other NASA centers.
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Pathways Interns in Historic Mission Control, photo by NASA
Is a Pathways Internship a Good Fit?
Completing a Pathways Internship requires flip-flopping between college and the government agency. Each semester, Fall, Spring, or Summer, at a government agency is called a tour. At NASA I must complete three tours in order to complete the program. The position post goes into more detail about tour requirements. Ultimately this means your graduation can extend beyond four years. While a delayed graduation sounds concerning, the experience gained from a Pathways Internship is extraordinary! Personally switching between college and Pathways helps me stay focused and pay for the semesters I am studying. UMD is accommodating to logistics related to participating in a Pathways Internship. Talk through your thoughts about a Pathways Internship with a University Career Counselor.
With a position found and resume built you are ready to score a career with the US Government!
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Score a Career with the US Government, Part 2

By: Kirsi

Part Two: Resume Builder (Read Part 1 Here)

Gov Resume Builder Header

Photo Source 1, Source 2, Source 3

After becoming knowledgeable with using the usajobs.gov website as a search engine and finding an appealing position in the first post of this series, it is time to create a strong resume with the Resume Builder. The resume you submit using USAJobs is your sales pitch to sell why you are the most qualified candidate for the position. Every job post will list the max number of characters you can use to communicate your worthiness. Some job applications allow up to 35,000 characters which equates to 250 Tweets! I will talk about ways to highlight your skills in each section of the resume.

Build a Resume

To create a resume on USAJobs sign into your account. On you “My Account” page click on the “Resumes” button on the left hand side. On the “Resumes” page click the “Build New Resume” and name it.

USAJob_Create_Resume1

After naming your resume you will see that there are four sections in the resume; Experience, Education, References, and Other.

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Experience

In the first section “Experience” you click the “Add Work Experience” button to describe previous jobs you have had or applicable positions you have held in the US Armed Forces. The best place to communicate your role during an experience is in the “Duties, Accomplishments, and Related Skills” section. You have 5000 characters (about 35 tweets) which you can use to tell a story about how you contributed to a project, demonstrated leadership in the workplace, or solved a challenging problem. I suggest first writing four sentences summarizing your work so a hiring manager can understand your duties in a quick glance. Below those four sentences I suggest diving into a narrative illustrating your work that a hiring manager may read if they want to see more detail in your position. Paint a picture so the reader can imagine things like-  “What your work environment was like?”, “What sort of team of people were you collaborating with?”, “How did you go about problem solving?”, “How is your work significant and who was effected?” Don’t worry about using all 5000 characters, just know that you have plenty of space to strut your stuff.

USAJob_Create_Resume3

Education

In the “Education”section you click the “Add Education” button to add where you attended High School and share accredited Post Secondary Education. To check if your education is accredited click here. The “Relevant Coursework, Licensures, and Certifications” section is a great place to expand on what courses you have taken for your major, projects you have worked on in class you feel is relevant to your prospective job, or a senior design project. Share why your education is unique and why it makes you such a good candidate.

References

When you list a reference be sure that you are on good terms and have permission from the individual you list as a reference. This is a good opportunity to reconnect with folks from your previous experience and catch up. It would be kinda scary to get a call out of the blue from the government and be asked about a past co-worker. Click the “Add Reference” button to enter information about a reference.

USAJob_Create_Resume4

Other

The other section is the most powerful section where you can talk about any missing details from the previous sections. The “Additional Information” section is especially important because you can answer questions like, “I want to work for ____ agency because….”, “I am the most qualified candidate because…” or share a personal story that reflects your qualifications but didn’t fit in previous sections.

Throughout the resume you should include the desired qualifications listed in the posted position if they pertain to you. Some agencies use keyword search to select the first batch of candidates.

You may notice that instead of using the resume builder that on the Resume page you have an option of attaching a resume you made. Some agencies let you do that while others want you to use the Resume Builder so read through the position posting carefully.

When using the Resume Builder highlight your qualifications in the Experience, Education, and Other sections. Be sure to take advantage of the ample word count the Resume Builder and the positions allow. In the next post I will share what government opportunities are available to college students.

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Score a Career with the US Government, Part 1

By: Kirsi

Part One: USAJobs Search

Government_Employees

From the Forest Service to the FBI and from NSA to NASA all prospective government employees use the same common application on the USAJobs.gov website. USAJobs is the one stop shop to view all career openings in every agency in the US Government. Being the top employer of US Citizens, the US Government is a perfect place to jump-start your career in any discipline. Psychiatrist as a Foreign Services Specialist, Senior Technical Advisor for the Department of Energy and Credit Union Examiner are among positions found on USAJobs. College undergraduate positions as a Pathways Intern (Co-Op Co-operative Education) are available at various agencies leading up to positions requiring previous employment and leadership experience. Once you find your dream job, prospective employees are recommended to use the Resume Builder on USAJobs to apply for the positions posted. In this three part blog post series I first will share how to use USAJobs as a job search website, second divulge on how to make a stellar resume using the Resume Builder and last expand on unique opportunities college students have with the US Government.

Using USAJobs for Job Search

The home page of USAJobs provides a simple job search offering to sort open positions by keyword and location. If you do not yet have a position or agency in mind and you would like to browse based on your interests you can use the Advanced Search. By clicking under the “Search Jobs” tab in the top right corner you will find the “Advanced Search“. The advanced search allows you to narrow down positions based on your major, previous experience, and work environment preferences.

USAJobs_Advanced_Search

If you are set on working in a particular city or country USAJobs is testing a job search you can perform by clicking a location on a world map. By clicking under the “Search Jobs” tab in the top right corner of the home page you will find the “Map Search”.

USAJobs_Map_Search

Once you find a job of interest scan through its requirements to make sure that you qualify. Do not weed yourself out. If you believe you meet most of the preferred qualifications apply anyway and give the hiring manager the final say. Another important component of the USA Job posting is the application deadline. Often positions on USAJobs are only open for one week due to high visibility and popularity of positions. Since the job opening window is so short it is wise to have a resume ready on hand at all times. That way when the small application window opens only small tweaks would be made to cater your resume to the position. Resume creation will be expanded on in part two, however, we will step through how to make a Profile on USAJobs.

USAJob_Position_Of_Interest

Job Position Alert Emails

By making a profile on USAJobs you can save a position of interest and get updates via email when positions you are interested in are open. To make a profile click “Create an Account” in the top right corner of the home page.

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Once you are done creating your profile your “My Account” page will look similar to this…

USAJob_Create_Account2

To get email alerts when intriguing positions are posted click the “Saved Searches” button on the right hand side of your “My Account” page. Click “Create a new saved search” in the middle of the “My Account” page. You will be prompted to answer questions about the opportunity you would like to be alerted about. You can choose the frequency that you are alerted via email.

These are the basic search fuctions USAJobs provides to find your dream Government career. In the next two posts I will expand on how make an eye catching resume using the Resume Builder and talk about unique opportunities college students have with the US Government.

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My Potential Plans After Graduation: AmeriCorps

By: David

As some or none of you may know, I will be graduating from college in about three semesters. As a current senior, I have yet to make future plans as to what opportunities and steps to take for life after graduation. Some days it scares me, other days it excites me, and some other days where I’m very, “Graduation? Meh.” Lately, I have been having instances of  zoning out about my plans for the future. Coming into the semester, I had a clear cut plan for post-graduation, but throughout the semester my life experiences has open my perspective to other possibilities and doors. To keep it brief, one opportunity that I have always considered is volunteering as an AmeriCorps member. After doing some research, I was able to uncover some interesting facts about AmeriCorps.

Branches of AmeriCorps

Within the AmeriCorps program, there are various branches that AmeriCorps breaks up into, but for the purpose of this blog post I will be mentioning three main branches: AmeriCorps NCCC, AmeriCorps VISTA, and AmeriCorps State & National.

AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC)
To start off, the AmeriCorps NCCC branch focuses more so on strengthening communities through community service. Certain projects could range to helping local and national parks with conservation of wildlife to infrastructure improvement. Within this branch, there are two possible paths for members, the Traditional and FEMA Corps. The Traditional Corps would focus more so on hands-on projects in certain field settings to accomplish the NCCC’s mission which is to help better communities. On the other hand, the FEMA Corps focuses more so on responding to disasters. To better understand this, the acronyms FEMA stands for, Federal Emergency Management Agency. Members in this branch would travel to strengthen communities across the nation.

AmeriCorps Volunteers In Service To America  (VISTA)
To shift gears, the AmeriCorps VISTA’s goal is to “fight poverty in America” according to the website. Members of this branch typically live and serve in low-income areas of the nation, and many of the projects are designed to bring individuals and communities out of poverty. Some of examples may range from organizing shelter and job opportunities to assisting victims of disaster to recruiting mentors for children with an absence of support.  

AmeriCorps State & National (SN)
Lastly, the AmeriCorps State & National is by far the broadest branch because it offers a wide-range of opportunities to engage in critical community needs such as education, public safety, health, and environmental. Projects within this range may vastly range from community outreach and financial education to collaborating with Girl/Boy Scouts.

Areas

In the program, there are multiple areas and fields that members can dive into. Depending on what your interests are, they can filter out specific programs for you for the AmeriCorps VISTA and AmeriCorps SN. Due to the breadth of content, feel free to explore the website some more to better grasp an understanding of the various areas that they offer, “AmeriCorps Focus Areas.”  

AmeriCorps VISTA

AmeriCorps VISTA

AmeriCorps SN

AmeriCorps SN

Benefits

Though the wage may not be the most captivating, there are definitely benefits to being an AmeriCorps member. For college graduates, the most appealing benefit would be the Segal Education Award. In a nutshell, the education award allows you to pay off any previous student loans, current or future educational expenses in higher education or training programs, or can be transferred to any child or grandchild under certain circumstances. Here is a chart indicating the various sum amount of the award:

Segal Education Award

In addition to the education award, other benefits as an AmeriCorps member may include training, limited health care, relocation expenses, student-loan forbearance or deferment, and non-competitive eligibility for a federal government position.

To conclude, I want to personally emphasize on a key component. Though the wage may be discouraging but the benefits appealing, it seems that the main purpose of the AmeriCorps program is to assist and help other individuals and communities to flourish to success. I understand that it is very cliche to say that the best benefit to the experience is making the world a better place, but in reality it actually is. Throughout the years, I have seen myself and others stray away from the concept of collectivism and towards individualism. Not to say that one is better than the other, but sometimes in order for us, as individuals to become better than yesterday we have to help ourselves and also those around us to efficiently flourish as one.  For some like myself, the end goal is not money, but happiness within yourself and others. I’d like to leave off with a quote I came across earlier this week that has inspired me to continue helping others, “Money is nothing but numbers, and numbers never end. If money is what it takes for someone to be happy, then the search for happiness will never end.” Enjoy the holidays, stay safe, warm, and as always, stay gold!

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Putting the Assessments All Together

By: Logan

The career assessments offered at the Career and Internship Services Office are very beneficial in many ways. These assessments can help you target your strengths, where your interests lie, or find out more about your personality. Some people just take one or two of these assessments and learn from the individual results, but by taking all three and comparing results you can learn a lot more about yourself. You can observe where similarities may lie, or where there may be some differences. In my experience, comparing all three assessments helped me realize more about myself, and it helped me realize how I can incorporate these results into my everyday life.

My favorite assessment by far was StrengthsQuest. I really enjoyed seeing where my strengths lie and which strengths were the most prominent in my life. My top five strengths are consistency, harmony, positivity, includer, and futuristic. I found it helpful to learn this information because I can see where I excel, and I can also see where I may need improvement. After receiving my results, it made me more aware of these strengths I possess, and I felt more inclined to use them in my professional and everyday life. An example would be the fact that I have consistency as a top strength. I use this in my job by providing the same customer service experience to everyone who walks in the door. I treat everyone the same and do not give special treatment to some. I think consistency is a very important skill in my line of work. So just realizing what your skills are can benefit you in many different ways.

It is important to look at similarities between the different assessment results. By doing this you will make sure you get the most out of the assessments. I began to look more into my results to see if there were any similarities I could find. One theme I found throughout all of the assessments was communication and being social. On the Myers-Briggs I showed preference as an extrovert, and on my Strong Interest Inventory my highest theme was Social. I thought this was very accurate and I was not surprised this theme came up in each assessment. I like to work with people and I like to communicate with others, so I think it is accurate to have social themes on each of my assessments.

Another theme I noticed multiple times was being futuristic. As I said before, Futuristic is one of my top strengths on StrengthsQuest, but I saw evidence of this in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as well. I showed a preference for Intution, which means I will probably prefer an occupation that permits me to focus on the future, envisioning the possibilities of a person or a situation. I find this to be true. I consider myself a rather futuristic person. I am constantly thinking about the future and how my actions now may affect me down the road, so I was not surprised when I saw futuristic as a common theme on these assessments.

Another similarity I noticed in my results was feeling and people skills. The Myers-Briggs told me I was more on the feeling side, which means I would prefer an occupation where I would focus on people and process issues rather than the technical problems. It also means I would try to understand the particular needs or contributions of the individuals with those I work with. I think this relates to my results from the Strong Interest Inventory where Social was my top theme. This shows I prefer to work with people and be social with them, as opposed to working alone and focusing on technical details.

I think I learned a lot more from comparing my results from all three assessments. If I had not compared my results I may not have believed them as much, but after I saw physical evidence of these skills in multiple assessments, it made me very confident in the assessments’ accuracy at describing me. I believe everyone should review their results from all three of the assessments we offer, because you can learn a lot more about yourself than you would if you only looked at your results individually.

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Bringing the Magic to Life: What Harry Potter Taught Me About Success

By: Katie

In previous posts, I wrote about what Harry Potter taught me about myself and about others. For my last post in this series, I’m going to write about what Harry Potter taught me about success.

Success isn’t simple.
I’m a firm believer that success in one area of your life isn’t worth it if it comes at the cost of another.  It’s easy to develop tunnel vision when it comes to striving to achieve your goals, but it’s important to remember that achieving your goals alone won’t necessarily mean success. Voldemort had power, intimidation, and at face value was very successful in achieving his goal of being in extreme power. However, he was alone. He didn’t have friends, and the only people who stuck close to him did so more out of fear or obsession than anything positive. Voldemort was so committed to becoming all-powerful that he focused on only that, leading a lonely life because of it. Sacrificing meaningful relationships, happiness, health, or your sanity to maintain your 4.0 just isn’t worth it.

HP Success

You’ll fail along the way.
If anyone exemplifies this idea, it is the Harry Potter characters. How many times did the “good guys” try to get rid of Voldemort? How many times did Voldemort try to get rid of them? Countless, practically. However, both sides continued to fight for what mattered to them. One side fought for cruelty while the other fought for peace, but still, they didn’t let failure after failure stop them, and their string of failures eventually led to a final success (well, for one side, anyway).  Failure is an unavoidable byproduct of working toward something important or doing something you care about. Whether it be to defeat an evil lord or get a job you love, you’re not going to get the “happy ending” you want without some unhappy circumstances beforehand.

Sometimes you need to break the rules.
Sometimes authority just needs to be challenged. Sometimes the status quo should be thrown out. And sometimes, the way to succeed is to forget the rules and follow your own. When Harry, Ron, and Hermione broke into Bellatrix’s vault at Gringotts to search for a horcrux, Harry used the imperius curse on a goblin so they could get inside. The imperius curse is one of the unforgivable curses, so named because it is considered so awful that its use is an unforgivable offense and will land you a lifelong prison sentence. However, they may not have gotten to the vault without its use. While this act wasn’t necessarily ethical or moral, arguably, Harry had no choice. Sometimes you can’t get where you want to be from inside the confines of what’s expected, what’s always been done, or what is deemed correct. While I don’t condone breaking laws that exist to protect others, there are times when established systems might not allow for the success you seek. When that happens, consider developing your own system instead.

We have about 1 million words detailing the experience of the Harry Potter characters (I got that number from Yahoo Answers, so it must be right). In those words, we find countless lessons that can guide our decisions, actions, and feelings toward others, ourselves, and success. The situations in your life may not involve defeating a dark lord or manipulating the world with magic, but the story of Harry Potter can still provide with wisdom you can apply to your own muggle life.

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Photo Source: imdb.com

APIA Leadership: Beyond the Boat

By: David

The notion of leadership is one that is highly valued among many individuals. In addition, race and diversity is a topic that is consistently prevalent in our society. When blending the two, the two elements complement one another quite well. Recently in life, there has been many events relating to  the two topics. Within this past month, I have had to plan for Asian Pacific American Association’s (APAA) Annual Culture Show, partake in various student of color panels, and discuss about cross-cultural communication. In addition, the recent events at the University of Missouri and Paris has definitely impacted me as an individual by urging me to reevaluate myself as an Asian Pacific American leader.  Today’s blog post zooms in on the two notions of leadership and culture, Asian Pacific Islander Leadership: Beyond the Boat.

Bamboo Ceiling

Before starting, I want to take some time to talk about the “bamboo ceiling” phenomenon. The term “bamboo ceiling” derives from Jane Hyun’s book Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling: Career Strategies for Asians. To sum it up, the term refers to the barriers and limitations to Asian Pacific Americans to rise to leadership roles it. In regards to the historical context, before the modern days in Asia many people would built their homes out of straws, mud, and bamboo. Figuratively speaking, the “bamboo ceiling” is what limits Asian Pacific Americans in career success. Once the rooftop is sealed, an individual can only achieve so much, and therefore it often restricts one’s ability to reach their full potential.  

Beyond the Boat

As part of the title, I decided to include the phrase “Beyond the Boat.” Though there are numerous interpretations to this phrase, this is one concrete way of defining it:
“The concept of ‘Beyond the Boat’ was taken from the phrase, ‘Fresh off the Boat.’  The term ‘FOB’ often limits immigrants and Asian Americans, a way of making generalizations.  ‘Beyond the Boat’ was used to seek out the ways APIs were complex and rich in history, especially through activism, solidarity, and social change.” – Verna Wong

The term “fresh off the boat” is an older term for immigrants who are new to the United States who are freshly arriving off the boat (this was before air travel was a possibility). Altogether, we have the phrase, “fresh off the boat.” One thing to be aware of is that with race and culture there also comes many generalizations and stereotyping. The phrase “Beyond the Boat” is a way for individuals or a culture group to break these stereotypes and generalizations to overcome such judgements and expectations.

Relating back to the topic of leadership, the image of Asian Pacific Americans in leadership roles is one that is barely visible. According to LEAP (Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics), “less than 3% of the leadership of the nation’s top for-profit and non-profit groups are Asian Pacific Americans.”  With such a low percentage of role models, it’s difficult as an Asian Pacific American student to see a future past the “bamboo ceiling.” As an Asian American in today’s society, there is a lot of  concern as to what leadership opportunities are available for myself and others in the future. To go “beyond the boat” requires me to constantly step outside my comfort zone and always having to put in the extra effort to be acknowledged. Furthermore, this phrase inspires me to break the stereotypes and generalizations revolving around Asian Pacific Americans and also to increase the 3% of APIAs in leadership roles.

Conclusion

To conclude, the duty of being a leader is never an easy task to do. From any standpoint, there will always be some form of systematic oppression despite circumstances. As a student leader for APAA, I find it most difficult promoting such events and activities relating to the Asian Pacific culture and showing the common interest for those who may not identify with the culture itself. Furthermore, I find it difficult to motivate my fellow peers to embrace the trait of being a leader to increase the 3% due to the lack of APIA role models in society. As many millennials begin to enter leadership roles after college, it will be interesting to see how the percentage of leaders with a different ethnic background evolve throughout the years.

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