Nonprofit and Government Careers – Why Now is a Perfect Time to Explore!

Are you curious about a career in the nonprofit or government sector, but don’t know how to get started?

Then be sure to check out the Careers in the Nonprofit and Government Sectors panel and networking event (Thursday, October 28th from 3 – 5pm) MLK 225/229.  This is a unique opportunity to meet with local and national nonprofit and government professionals and will feature a panel Q & A discussion and networking session. For a complete list of participating employers visit the Career Center’s website.

The perfect time to consider a career in the public sector is NOW!

  • There are over 1.8 million nonprofit organizations nation-wide, representing approx. 9% of the US workforce.
  • The federal government is the nation’s largest employer with 1.9 million civilian employees.
  • Baby boomers will be retiring in waves and with these retirements come job openings – the nonprofit sector alone anticipates needing to attract and develop up to 640,000 new senior managers starting now until 2016.
  • Some local city/county government offices report having over 50% of their workforce eligible for retirement.
  • Federal agencies will be hiring more than 270,000 mission critical jobs by 2012.

As a glimpse into to next week’s event, Ayesha Edwards, one of our distinguished speakers for the upcoming panel representing the government sector, offers her personal career testimony along with her experience working in federal service.

Please describe your career path into federal service.  

After graduating with a degree in English, I was hired as a summer intern for Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), a nonprofit children’s literacy organization. Although, I know most college graduates search for a full-time job after graduation – and I’m included in that “most” – I wasn’t really sure of what I wanted to do so the internship gave me time to think and money to pay my expenses. I was still deciding what to do with my English degree.

By the end of the summer, I was hired as a full-time program specialist (hooray for benefits!) to work with the inexpensive book distribution programs in Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. This was a great first job for me because I was able to visit several RIF programs in other states. I learned a lot about grants management and government relations. It was during this time that I developed an interest in the federal government, in particular the U.S. Department of Education.

Despite having this exciting opportunity, I wanted to go back to school and get my master’s degree. I enrolled in a Higher Education Administration master’s degree program at the University of Maryland College Park. During much of my tenure at Maryland, I worked as a graduate assistant in the Career Center. While working in the career center I happened to come across a Federal Career Intern Program (FCIP) position for the U.S. Department of Education. I excitedly solicited the assistance of one of my career center colleagues to help me with my resume and soon thereafter sent it in. Approximately three months after applying for the position, I interviewed and was hired for the position!

What is your current role now?

I currently work in the Executive Office of the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII). In this position I get a macro view of all of the programs in our office because I oversee and participate in a variety of programmatic and administrative projects such as monitoring OII’s evaluation contract, managing the clearance process for documents sent to OII for Department Clearance, overseeing OII’s audit process, and assisting with acquisition planning. 

What is the coolest part about your job?

Until recently, I would have to say that the coolest part of my job was going to site visits, briefings and other meetings to talk about the new television shows being funded by Ready to Learn. There are some amazingly talented people who are providing children with a fun way of learning and I enjoyed seeing their visions turn into a product. Now, I would have to say that the coolest part of my job is being able to work with people across various offices.  

Why should a student who is approaching graduation consider a career in the federal government?  

 I think students should consider a career in the federal government because it offers a diverse array of opportunities ranging in fields from education, health, energy, labor, etc. while providing service to your country. The government also offers several benefits, but I think for many young professionals the highlight of the benefits package is the student loan repayment program, telework, flexible schedules, and annual and sick leave.  

Given the current economic climate, what do you recommend for students who want to get their foot in the door, what can they do now to be competitive for employment upon graduation?

I think students who are considering federal service should try to get their foot in the door early through externship programs, job shadowing, internship programs, the Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP), and/or the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP). These are all excellent ways of becoming familiar with some of the work of the federal government and ways of creating a network. I came in through the Federal Career Intern Program, which is for recently grads (both undergraduate and graduate students). I think the earlier you start exploring federal careers than the earlier you can start to build your network which should include some hiring managers if you have the opportunity to work with them.


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