Barack Obama was elected just a few weeks ago, and he does not take office until late January. But everyone is so excited! He got his transition website up and running right away, and everyone in America immediately clicked on the "jobs" tab, because everyone in America needs a job. Sorry, guys—they've already received 200,000 applications. Which is unprecedented for an incoming administration. We did the research! In December of 2000, right after it finally became clear that George W. Bush would be our next president and the world was therefore doomed, the New York Times reported that there was a surge of applications for jobs in his administration too. That surge was totally pathetic, though, in retrospect:
As of Tuesday night, before it was even certain that Mr. Bush would become president, his skeletal transition operation here had received 20,177 job applications. Most came through the operation's Web site, with a growing number arriving by mail and fax. All are being sorted by a staff of 16 personnel assistants.
In an even more amusing Washington Post story from early December of 1992, Al Kamen reported that the Clinton transition team was using computers to "scan" resumes!
Thus far, the transition office has received 10,200 resume's — one-tenth of the 100,000 applications it expects at a rate of 1,500 a day.
People really needed jobs back then, too. And here is some wonderful advice that makes absolutely no sense from the Washington Post in December of 1980, explaining how to get a job with the incoming Reagan administration:
Waelde recently listed for seminar participants (most of whom had worked for the government for more than five years and held positions at GS-11 and above) what he calls the "three basic career constraints to advancement in the government:" Professional constraints: "While it may be obvious, we often don't want to face the fact that it's not possible to get an endless series of promotions from the same position. As a secretary, or accountant or whatever, you can only go so high." "The federal workforce is diamond-shaped. There are just a handful of GS-1 jobs, more and more GS-3, -4, -5, -7 positions, on up to Gs-11 — after which it tightens up again. So the competition gets tougher in the higher levels. "You need to stop and think what additional skills you'll need to get the promotion you want. Check the position classification standards of the job you want and see what the typical duties are. Figure out how you can get that experience. It may mean going back to school, or it may mean asking for different responsibilities on your present job that will broaden your skills." Organizational constraints: "Many people don't know that agencies often have staffing patterns allowing only a certain number of authorized positions at each grade level. "So for you to be promoted, there must be a vacancy ahead of you. You could be the best in the world, but if everything's clogged up ahead of you, you may not be promoted. An agency change may be the only way to get out of that hole." Personal constraints: "If you don't get along well with your supervisor, it's probably going to hurt your promotion possibilities." But the single biggest pitfall to getting a federal job and advancing, says Waelde, "is poor SF 171 preparation. You've got to look at it as a work sample. They may get 200 applications for a GS-15 position, and only six or so will be referred to the selection office. You've got to make yourself stand out." Among his advice for "top-notch 171 preparation": Don't attach a resume. "It means the selection panel has to flip back and forth and makes a more cumbersome package." Type it. Make concrete and specific statements. "Don't say 'I identified and analyzed major problems in federal aid programs.' Give examples of problems encountered, your analysis technique and several of the aid programs." Customize formats. "You're not going to be able to describe your experience in eight lines, so cut and paste, then Xerox, to add space — as long as it's neatly done. Paricularly for positions at GS-13 and above, you've got to tailor your 171 to the specific job."
Good advice for the million people who'll apply to work for President Obama. Work on that SF 171 application!