careers advice




Work in this sector encompasses a large range of professions. Possible work areas include:

  • Programs and service delivery
  • Event and program coordination
  • Communications assistance
  • Finance and operations management
  • Community and social work
  • Educational counselling
  • Volunteer recruitment and training
  • Information systems management
  • Grant writing and fundraising
  • International development

Typical Employers

Typical employers can be categorized into the following areas:

  • Arts, Culture, and Humanities
  • Education & Health
  • Environment and Animals
  • Social & Human Services
  • International and Foreign Affairs
  • Public and Social Benefit
  • Religion-Related
  • Social Enterprises

Government Outsourcing
In recent years, "reinventing government" has been a catchphrase among policymakers. On the ground, this means that governments are increasingly outsourcing functions and services that were traditionally handled by government agencies to the private sector. For example, municipal governments traditionally provided garbage-removal services in many cities; these days, however, private trash companies often provide these services. The thinking is that the profit motive drives private enterprises to be more efficient than government entities, thus driving down the total cost of outsourced services to society. The reality is less clear, however. The cost of services to society can remain the same (or even increase) even when private enterprises are more efficient than the government service providers they replace, since private enterprises need to charge more for their services than they actually cost to make a profit.

More than 25 types of nonprofit organizations are recognized by the IRS, from the sacred (religious groups) to the obscure (black lung trusts). There are a number of ways to break down the nonprofit sector. For instance, nonprofits can be divided into those that focus on lobbying government on behalf of a cause (interest groups such as the National Rifle Association) and those that focus on providing services to society (e.g., museums or homes for pregnant teens).

Alongside the large national and international nonprofits are myriad locally based, smaller nonprofits. Like their bigger cousins, these break down by mission and include everything from community theater troupes to women′s shelters to convalescent homes.

In addition, the nonprofit arena includes nonprofit charitable/philanthropic funds and foundations. These organizations have an endowment and/or solicit donations, which they use to fund grants to nonprofit organizations. There are several types of foundations. Community foundations raise funds from a variety of donors in community or region. Corporate foundations are established as separate entities by corporations to make charitable grants. Independent foundations usually consist of an endowment made by a single individual or family. Operating foundations focus on funding their own nonprofit programs.

The executive branch agencies comprise the largest group of federal government jobs, including the Social Security Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. There are also jobs available in agencies under the aegis of the judicial and legislative branches, such as in the Library of Congress or the Congressional Budget Office. There are two basic types of positions in the various government agencies: civil service positions and political appointments (also called Schedule C appointments).

Not all people with federal agency jobs are based in Washington, D.C. Think of all those postal employees out on the streets of America, braving rain, sleet, and snow; or the diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Cairo; or the park ranger in Yellowstone National Park. Think of the bureaucrats in federal office buildings in every major U.S. city, the Bureau of Indian Affairs agent on some isolated reservation in New Mexico, the civilian technician maintaining communications gear in the tropical heat of Guam, or the medical researcher culturing bacteria at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Congressional jobs, on the other hand, are more concentrated geographically. Most people who work for the legislative branch of the federal government are based in Washington, D.C. They are on the staffs of legislators or legislative agencies, such as the aforementioned Library of Congress. Representatives and senators also maintain staffs in their home districts and states. Every senator and representative hires a staff to assist with his or her job, and this is where many opportunities exist in Washington for young people, provided they have good educations and, usually, good connections.

Nongovernment Political Jobs
In addition to the job opportunities that exist within government, there are plenty of political opportunities that technically are not within government. For example, many people work at lobbying firms (including Patton Boggs and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld), nonprofit interest groups (e.g., the American Medical Association or the Teamsters Union), and think tanks (e.g., the Brookings Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute). Most of these organizations are located in Washington, D.C., and in various state capitals. Both the Democratic and the Republican parties have national committees as well as state and local offices where job seekers interested in working for a political party may find opportunities.

It can be hard getting a job in nonprofit or government. The hiring process is often lengthy, and the competition can be fierce. For example, one foundation executive director in California recently received 400 applications for a program manager position. Persistence pays off, though. If you′re committed to a particular issue, don′t hide it. Volunteering and interning are two very good ways to get in the door at a nonprofit. If you want a government internship, however, you′ll most likely have to be a student. That said, a number of government agencies are increasing their hiring numbers, especially in the areas of security and foreign affairs, whereas nonprofits for the most part aren′t. So you may find it less of an uphill battle to land a paying government job than even a nonpaying internship at a nonprofit.

Most government agencies have dedicated recruiters who attend college career fairs, industry conferences, and other job placement events. Recruiters tend to be regionally located and look for candidates who have the particular set of skills their area needs. One intelligence agency recruiter says that while many people like giving a resume to someone face to face, resumes submitted online or by mail go through the same process as those given to recruiters directly. So try your luck on agency websites. Government agencies will have recruiting "blitzes" too. Security agencies are recruiting year-round right now, while other agencies such as the GAO accept applications only at certain times of the year. Also, because a huge number of government employees will be retiring in the next 10 to 15 years, there′s a lot of advancement potential.

Source: Wetfeet