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By Maureen Clark, MPH, Public Health Analyst, National Cancer Institute, PMF Class of 2015

This is the time of year that I recall with chagrin how I got my start in the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) program. The applications were due, and I applied at the last minute, the day of the deadline. While I do not recommend that strategy, I do, without reservation, recommend the PMF program.

The application period for this prestigious, competitive program for recent graduates of post-graduate programs is open now through October 13, 2015. If you’re just learning about the program or are on the fence about whether to apply, let me tell you more about my experience.

After being selected as a PMF-STEM finalist -- a track focused on science, technology, engineering, and math -- I was selected by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NCI has been a perfect fit because of my educational background in public health, English, and pre-medical studies, as well as my passion for NCI’s mission: to conduct and support research, training, and programs aimed at reducing the cancer rate.

The PMF program looks a little bit different at each agency. At NCI, PMFs typically complete four to six rotations across the organization. My first rotation was in one of NCI’s program offices, where I worked on strategic planning and the identification of scientific trends related to health communications research. And right now I am in NCI’s Office of Government and Congressional Relations, which serves as the liaison between Congress and NCI’s scientific staff. Each experience presents unique challenges, but all of the offices have treated me as a vital member of the team.

PMFs are also required to complete 80 training hours per year over the course of the two-year program. I have participated in training specific to my current work, as well as a special session on leadership in the style of George Washington at his historic estate in Mount Vernon. I also had the chance to attend sessions on innovation, held at the White House, and on Congress, held on Capitol Hill. There are also extremely helpful informational interviews. During a typical session, I sit down with a colleague at NIH and ask as many questions as I can to learn about his or her career.

The fellowship has provided me with an insider’s view of how the Federal Government operates. I’ve watched the budgeting process and have come to understand the priorities that shape NIH’s mission. And my external rotation -- one of the key features of the PMF program -- in the Office of Personnel Management’s Office of Communications gave me a broad perspective on opportunities across government agencies.

I still have another year left in the fellowship, but because of the experiences I’ve had, I have some ideas about what’s next for me. I’d like to continue to address health disparities, particularly as they relate to health literacy and health care access. I am going to use the health communications skills I have been able to develop. And I do hope that my next job will be in the Federal Government.

I’m very glad that I made that last-minute decision to apply to the PMF program nearly two years ago. And I’m grateful for the training, networking, and career opportunities that I’ve had since then. I am most thankful for the chance to have a positive impact on the lives of people across the country.

Visit for more information about the PMF program.

One of the Office of Personnel Management’s key missions is helping agencies untie the “knots” in the hiring process, and our recent partnership with the National Park Service offers a good case study of how we do that.

Each year, all across the nation, the National Park Service hires seasonal employees to support the large number people who visit our national treasures. After a careful review of the service’s seasonal hiring process, the OPM-NPS partnership recently developed a pilot for announcing vacancies that will eliminate the redundancy and inefficiency of multiple job announcements by testing one announcement with multiple locations.

OPM also helped NPS craft more user-friendly job announcements that provide more specific information about individual parks where applicants can envision themselves working.

Just this week, the service celebrated 99 years of caring for our nation’s parks. I’m proud that by fulfilling our mission at OPM, we were able to help the NPS better achieve its mission of preserving our nation’s natural and cultural resources.

This is just one example of the important work that our team at OPM is doing to support hiring excellence across government. I look forward to sharing more examples as additional partnerships mature, and I hope that agencies will continue to take advantage of the comprehensive resources that OPM has available as we deliver on the promise of the President’s Management Agenda for the Federal Government.

Note to readers: Currently, applicants interested in seasonal positions at national parks in the southeast region of the United States can apply here and here.

National Park Service park ranger leads discussion with park visitors.

Photo Credit: National Park Service

The Office of Personnel Management is proud to be part of the President’s effort to get long-term unemployed Americans back to work. As a part of his call to action, OPM this week issued guidance to Federal agencies that explains how we will be working with them to reduce barriers to employment, encourage recruitment and focus on hiring the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have the skills, experience and desire to serve the American people.

Americans who have been unemployed for a long time often have trouble finding a new job. We want to make sure that when they apply for Federal jobs, they are not passed over because of gaps in employment or because of financial circumstances beyond their control, like getting behind in mortgage payments during protracted periods of unemployment. We are also providing agencies with training and updated guidance on complying with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The Act is used when applicants’ credit histories are reviewed as a part of determining whether they are suitable for employment. Also, to clarify Federal hiring policies, we've created a "myth buster" fact sheet that is available on OPM's new Recruitment Policy Studio.

It is crucial that we ensure that everyone has a fair shot at Federal jobs. As the chief HR officer for the Federal government, I take our responsibility to be a model employer very seriously. We will do everything we can to ensure that Americans who have the talent, the experience, and the desire to serve have an equal opportunity to do so.

image of graph of unemployment rate from 2010 to 2014 showing its decrease

As I’ve begun to look at the results of the 2014 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, I’m happy to report that there are more than 336,000 people under the age of 33 in our workforce and most of them say they are satisfied with their jobs. They also strongly believe that the work they do is important and that they have real opportunities to improve their skills.

I am not surprised. I have traveled around the country meeting with young Federal workers, veterans and college students. They all have something in common: They are looking for work that is purpose-driven and where they feel they can make a difference. And the new FEVS survey results show many millennials are finding just that in Federal service.

The results have encouraged me to make sure that we at OPM redouble our efforts to attract, develop and retain these talented young people. We are doing that in several ways: OPM is working hard on a new initiative called REDI to Connect. REDI stands for recruitment, engagement, diversity and inclusion.

A key feature of this initiative includes OPM’s work to enhance our Pathways programs, which provide internships to students in school and to recent college graduates. Both the Pathways program and our Presidential Management Fellows program are great ways for millennials to try out Federal service to see if it’s a good fit for them.

As part of REDI, OPM is also expanding the use of social media so that we can reach millennials via the platforms that they use in their job searches. And we’re reaching out to the young users of our main job portal – USAJOBS – to see how we can make is more user-friendly.

I am so gratified to see that our Federal millennials have opportunity with us in government. And I am taking seriously the areas where the data shows we can do better.

Thank you to all in our Federal family who responded to this important survey. Stay tuned for more results in the coming weeks.

Image of thought bubble with cartoon people. Next to it are the words Millennials Finding Opportunity in Federal Service

One request I get each time I talk with students, teachers, Federal employees and community leaders is: Please make USAJOBS easier to use.

I’ve heard you. OPM wants to make USAJOBS the best possible tool for people searching for a job in the Federal government. And to do that we need your help.

I’m happy to announce that our USAJOBS team is beginning a program to ask people who use USAJOBS to help us identify the issues they encounter when they access the site. Our team is looking for volunteers, and we need your feedback.

We would need about two hours of your time. Here are some of the things we may ask you to do as part of our research:

  • Participate in an interview about your experiences with the site (1 hour).
  • Test out the current site or potential changes to the site (30-60 minutes).
  • Participate in a focus group discussion (2 hours).
  • Join a brainstorming session on how to improve the site (2 hours).

Getting help from those who use USAJOBS is crucial to our effort to improve it. We want USAJOBS to be easy to navigate. We want it to be the best it can be for you, the job seeker.

Interested in helping? Email with your name, state of residence, and preferred email address.

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