Several articles have been written about how one’s personality traits impact the job search, either positively or negatively. Most employers seek job candidates who are positive, reliable, punctual, dependable, flexible, and good communicators.
"When companies are assessing job candidates they’re looking for … the right personality,” said Rosemary Haefner, Career Builder’s Chief Human Resources Officer. “It’s important to highlight soft skills that can give employers an idea of how quickly you can adapt and solve problems, whether you can be relied on to follow through, and how effectively you can lead and motivate others.”
Hiring executives have studied the personality traits that can “make it or break it” for job seekers. Some of the important personality traits are:
Team Player – Ability to work with others
Cultural Fit - Every organization is different and you may fit into one place and not another
Multitasking - The ability to do more than one project at a time
Strategist - Ability to think critically
Decision Maker - Ability to use your own judgment when necessary because your boss can’t be involved in every decision
Passion for the task at hand (even when it’s not fun or interesting)
Positive people and positive personalities are very important in the political world. No one wants to work with “Debbie Downer” or “Donald Downer." In a job interview, the interviewer is looking at whether you have the skills and “fit” to do the job. The person who conveys a positive personality and ability to adapt to new environments will be chosen over the person who comes across as negative and not passionate. Some people call it the “beer test," although I’m not one to encourage students or job applicants to drink. The “beer test” is whether the interviewer would want to have a beer with the applicant if stuck in the airport or working on a long project together.
Knowing how important one’s personality may play in the job search process, my advice is to always try to convey interest and positivity even when you don’t feel like it. Some people call it “fake it until you make it”.
Like so many chance encounters in this day and age, the story of Nikki Jedlicka and Ellesse Krall began with a Facebook post. Nikki was looking for a job. Ellesse had a job to offer. But Nikki did not know Ellesse, and Ellesse did not know Nikki. Thousands of miles separated the two women, but one bond tied them together. They were both graduates of the GSPM Strategic Public Relations program, and that was enough.
Nikki was looking for a job because she was about to move to Washington, DC, from California, not long after moving to California from Okinawa, Japan. Nikki’s husband is a U.S. Marine, and Nikki herself grew up a military brat, so she was used to crisscrossing the globe at the behest of the Pentagon. As it turns out, she completed her GSPM Strategic PR degree online while living in Japan. Faced with yet another big move, Nikki asked her fellow GSPM graduates to point her in the right direction.
“I started really hitting the ground running with the online networking and GSPM does have that alumni page on Facebook,” Nikki said. “So I introduced myself awkwardly. I’m heading back to the East Coast shortly and I just want to start putting feelers out there for opportunities and meet some people.”
Ellesse had a job to offer because of the drones. More specifically, the Federal Aviation Administration’s drone regulation program. Ellesse is a communications principal at Evans Consulting, of which the FAA is a major client. Although a job opening wasn’t immediately available, Ellesse knew that opportunities at the firm would emerge down the line.
“At Evans, we’re always looking for folks with communication experience because, as our projects and our business continue to grow, there was always that increase in needing communications support,” Ellesse said.
Ellesse came across Nikki’s post on the GSPM alumni Facebook page and the gears quickly began to turn.
“I got a handful of messages, but the most promising was from Ellesse,” Nikki said. “We had some email exchanges, we got to know each other, she told me all about Evans Consulting and just really tried to feel out where my skill sets were and where my interests lie, and we started an interview process as soon as I got to the East Coast.”
“It just lined up perfectly,” Ellesse added. “It took like six months or eight months from the time we first met to the time [Nikki] actually got on board.”
Fast forward to now. Nikki is about to complete her first year at Evans. She still focuses on providing communications and logistical support for the FAA’s drone regulation program, but she also tackles marketing and corporate social responsibility duties outside the FAA sphere. She believes she has found the right fit. She is happy.
“It worked out really well for both of us and I don’t know if I would’ve been so successful without someone in the program to help me,” Nikki said.
Both women are well acquainted with the capabilities of the GSPM and GW networks. Despite having completed her SPR master’s degree online, Nikki had met with SPR program director Larry Parnell and GSPM career director Mag Gottlieb, who connected her with other GSPM graduates at several DC firms. Ellesse remains in close contact with her former classmates and is proud to have helped several GW graduates obtain jobs at Evans.
Now that it is difficult to envision a return to the days of shaking hands, slapping backs, and exchanging business cards at meet-and-greets, Nikki and Ellesse’s story serves as an example of remote networking at its finest. In the era of social distancing, being proactive, reaching out to the right people, and dedicating time to building relationships is essential.
“It sounds cliché at this point but you just have to participate and be willing to spend time on your computer and get on the phone and do the webinars and the happy hours,” Nikki said. “I hate to frame it as trying to stay relevant but that’s really the only way to do it since we do lack that in-person piece and we do need to stay in communication.”
Nikki did not know Ellesse, and Ellesse did not know Nikki. What they did know were the skills and experiences they acquired at GSPM. They knew the work ethic, the focus, and the commitment necessary to succeed at GSPM. This knowledge cultivated an implicit trust between two strangers and led both of them to take a leap of faith that ultimately paid off.
“I knew the skills she already had just based on her being a GW alum,” Ellesse said. “That’s the great thing about the network. We already know your background. We already know you can do the job.”
Every person you ask will likely have a different story about how they landed their coveted job on the Hill. For me, I was a few years out of college working in the Ohio State Legislature. I told everyone I knew that I wanted to work in DC on the Hill. Low and behold, I received a call on a Friday about a job with an Ohio Member of Congress that started on Monday! "Could I get there? Yes I could!" My then-boyfriend and now-husband drove out to help me pack my stuff and made the 6 1/2 hour drive to DC.
The job was great. I learned a lot every day and met so many great and smart people. For me, it was the realization of the American Dream, from studying civics in elementary school to actually writing legislation. Back then, no one I knew started out interning on the Hill, we all had paid positions.
Nowadays, unfortunately, many people do have to start out interning just to get their foot in the door. Don't fret, though, if you do need to start out interning. Many folks have parlayed interning into full-time paid positions. Work hard, look and be smart and good things will likely come your way. You may get lucky and land a paying job from the onset. Just don't give up.
While the House and Senate do have job posting sites, most jobs will be taken before they are posted. Figure out which political party you want to work for and start reaching out to Hill offices. Use LinkedIn and other resources available to you through your college career offices and libraries. There is a wealth of information to be found online about working on the Hill.
Make sure to tell everyone you know about your interest in landing wIll job. Be bold! Good luck!
Never give in—never, never, never—in nothing great or small, large or petty.
-Winston Churchill, speech on 29 October 1941
As one of its elective programs, available to all students seeking master’s degrees or certificates, GSPM offers several Global Perspective Residencies per year to provide an opportunity to learn about governance, advocacy, and social change around the world. In addition to coursework, Residencies include one immersion week abroad. The goal is to empower and prepare political professionals for success and leadership in engagement in foreign environments and relations with international counterparts.
Since March, the US and our university are operating in crisis mode. Under lockdown measures, domestic travel is restricted, while international travel is still inconceivable. The United Nations World Trade Organization (UNWTO) estimates the decline of travel and tourism by 22 percent in the first quarter of this year and expects a 58 to 78 percent decrease in international tourist arrivals in 2020, depending on the speed of the containment of the virus, the duration of travel restrictions, and shutdown of borders.
Does this mean that we should stop studying the world and resort to parochial perspectives, giving up the global ones? GSPM’s answer is the firm “never, never, never”! Learning persists, and the global scope of the current health and economic emergency is a telling reminder about the need to go beyond understanding and changing US politics. If we want to mitigate the current crisis and prevent another one, we must develop cultural and political sensitivity to the challenges of other countries, enhance mutual understanding and solidarity, strengthen cooperation, and develop together solutions to global problems.
Given the intensity of the current unprecedented calamity and an unpredictable pathway out of it, global leaders must reimagine the future and conceive a “new normal.” At GSPM, we must reimagine our courses and programs, increase their flexibility, and be both adaptive and innovative.
In the spirit of resolve, perseverance, and resourcefulness, we have not allowed the travel suspension to bring the Global Residencies Program to a standstill. In the words of a Greek Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, “We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.” And we have responded by going virtual.
A Course and Program on the Republic of Georgia
Those students and faculty members who attended the reception at the Embassy of Georgia to the United States last November should remember the excitement about the prospect of having a course on the Republic of Georgia – a strategically important country where Europe meets Asia, beautiful mountainous land with rich history and culture, and a democratic frontrunner among the Caucasus nations and their neighbors. Hosted by H.E. Ambassador David Bakradze, the reception featured our partnership with the leaders of Georgian civil society – Sector 3 – Hub for Development, Center for Development and Democracy, and Endowment “ProDemos” – and also introduced us to hospitable and generous Georgian people as well as vintage Georgian wines and exquisite food.
You can imagine the disappointment of the applicants to the Global Residencies Program in Georgia when coronavirus arrived, destroying our much-anticipated visit to Tbilisi in early May. Nevertheless, we went ahead with the course and reconceived the face-to-face residency as an online program. True, there was some anxiety about whether this option would work, especially given the eight-hour time difference between DC and Tbilisi, but this virtual option did work! Below are the testimonies of some of our students:
I have really enjoyed the course; it has been so informative, and it has been much easier to stay focused [during the online program] than I had feared. Devon Murphy, Legislative Affairs.
[I appreciate] bringing such distinguished and experienced individuals to present at the class and for enthusiasm and commitment in making this virtual program a great success. Anna-Maija Mattila-Litvak, Strategic and Public Relations.
Open and extensive discussions with [Georgian] high-ranking politicians, administration officials, and diplomats were of unique value for us. Gary Crone, Global Public Relations.
Thanks to our invaluable partners in Georgia, the virtual program attracted excellent speakers and ensured informal and frank, off-the-record, interactions, following the Chatham House rule.
We were deeply impressed by the thoughtfulness, enthusiasm, commitment, and receptivity of the political leaders of Georgia who participated in the program: Archil Talakvadze, Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia; Kakha Kuchava, Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia; Levan Davitashvili, Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture; and Mariam Kvirishvili, Head of the Tourism Administration. Despite their youth (all in their thirties), they already have many achievements under their belts and were eager to share with us their successes as well as challenges.
We also could sense first-hand the vibrancy of Georgian civil society while holding exchanges with Lela Akiashvili, Prime Minister’s Advisor on Human Rights and Gender Equality; Tornike Zirakishvili, Deputy CEO of Enterprise Georgia; Ketevan Chachava, Chairwoman of Sector 3 - Hub for Development; Luka Kurdgelia, Programs Director of Endowment ProDemos Foundation; and Margalita Shakarashvili, who is associated with both Sector 3 and the Heritage Foundation, to name just a few speakers and panelists. The discussions with H.E. Ambassador David Bakradze and Giorgi Tsikolia, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Georgia to the US, were also most useful.
All participants in the program expressed a profound interest in reinforcing ties between the United States and the Republic of Georgia and support for Georgia’s aspirations for freedom and prosperity as part of the community of democratically-minded countries. Envisioning the return to normalcy after the coronavirus pandemic, Ambassador Bakradze invited us to the traditional Georgian feast at Supra in DC. It is still unclear when we will be able to accept this kind invitation, but we will certainly have a chance in the future to raise traditional Georgian toasts for the families, our countries, friendship, love, and peace.
As part of the communication campaign launched by our Georgian partners, the online program was profiled by the Voice of America’s Georgian division. Ketevan Chachava, Chairwoman of Sector 3 - Hub for Development, also interviewed me for the new podcast of her organization. I was honored to be the first speaker on this podcast. The second speaker was Ambassador Bakradze. I am happy that GSPM is in such good company!
Forthcoming Global Concentration Courses and Programs
Global Perspective E-Residency: European Union, Fall 2020
Building on the approaches tested during the virtual program on Georgia, the fall semester schedule will include a Global Perspective Program on the European Union (EU). You may know that in the interest of students’ safety and wellbeing, GWU has suspended studies abroad until at least January 2021. Therefore, we will again go virtual while not sacrificing the rich content the Residencies offer.
The course will familiarize students with EU history, political institutions, and programs; the agreements and clashes among the EU member states; and EU foreign and security policy. It will aim at developing students’ critical thinking and forward-looking skills in analyzing the EU stakeholders and trends as well as the dynamic relationship among governing, legislative/policy, electoral, and cultural/media environments within the EU. Students will be expected to complete the course with a concrete product – a Strategy Brief on political engagement between the US and the EU and within EU member states on the topic of one’s choice and related to a chosen (or aspired) career path.
The online program will provide an insiders’ view on the EU and thus help students understand the objectives and priorities as well as challenges and opportunities of the organization, advance knowledge of the employed strategies and policies, and assist in evaluating their effectiveness. The sessions will feature staff of the Delegation of the European Union to the United States, counselors of the DC-based embassies of the EU member states, and US experts on relations with the EU and will be complemented by virtual bridges with the EU headquarters in Brussels (including both the European Commission and the European Parliament) as well as the capitals of the key EU member states. Although we will not be able to visit Brussels physically, we will have a chance to experience the EU’s spirit, ambitions, hopes, and practices virtually.
Comparative Political Management Environments, Fall 2020
Although this 14-week course is offered to all GSPM students, it is especially useful for those who have chosen a Global Concentration. It also serves as good preparation for all students for participation in the Global Perspective Residencies courses.
Students will gain a conceptual and practical understanding of the political management environments and the workings of political institutions in a variety of countries. They will also develop an ability to compare these environments and institutions—highlighting comparative advantages and disadvantages—via readings, written assignments, PPT and video presentations, and participation in debates and negotiations.
The classes on general concepts—such as states and nations, democratic and nondemocratic regimes, the developing world, and international organizations and globalization—will be illustrated by country cases and will be alternating with role-playing sessions. Students will assume the roles of “Ambassadors to the UN” and “UN Advisers” to both present political systems of “their countries” and offer rebuttals to the messages of “country delegates.” The course will feature some guest speakers and will culminate in a Model UN simulation focused on the management of the coronavirus pandemic around the world.
Throughout the course, students will practice and thus sharpen their evidence-collection, analytical, presentation, negotiation, advocacy, and assessment skills. By translating their intellectual inquiries into recommendations for practical actions and measures, they will also strengthen their proficiencies in strategic decision-making and consensus-building.
Global Perspective Residency: Strategy and Statecraft in Churchill's London and Today’s Great Britain, Spring 2021
It is not accidental that a quote from Winston Churchill serves as an epigraph to this blog. British Prime Minister was a master of crisis communication, and his messages about the tenacity and overcoming in a “finest hour” resonate during the current health and economic emergency. The reference to Churchill’s present-day relevance is also pertinent because we will be partnering with the International Churchill Society (ICS) to offer our Global Perspectives Residency program in London in March 2021.
The December 2019 London Residency, which serendipitously overlapped with the parliamentary election, provided a unique exposure of GSPM students to influential national and global leaders abroad. The highlights of the program –developed in cooperation with ICS – included the meetings at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) for Defense and Security Studies, the Foreign Policy Centre, and the UK Ministry of Defense; exchanges with members of the House of Lords, Lord David Owen and Lord Howard of Lympne; visits to several public affairs and government relations firms; and a private tour of the Churchill War Rooms.
With expected sponsorship by the International Churchill Society, the March 2021 program seeks to attract an even more illustrious group of speakers from the UK parliament, prime minister’s office, ministries, and think tanks of strategic importance. In addition, the online pre-travel portion of the course will provide students with unique insights into Churchill's life and leadership, his place in history and the continuing relevance of his statesmanship today, combined with extensive readings about contemporary issues in politics, government, economics, and other fields in Britain. Learning about strategy and statecraft on the scene in Churchill’s London, students will also develop their analytical judgment and communication skills. These skills are essential for inspiring leadership and perseverance during crises as well as in more stable and fortunate times. So, please consider joining!
For questions about the Global Residencies Program and the Global Concentration classes, please contact Dr. Natalia Dinello, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Ms. Charlsie King, email@example.com.
Dr. Natalia Dinello is the director of the Global Residencies Program at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management. Dr. Dinello can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
References are very important in the job search process
As anyone knows who has applied for internships and permanent jobs, potential employers will ask you for job references most times before they offer you a position. Potential employers spend a lot of money, time, and resources before they bring someone on to their teams so they want to make sure they know as much about a potential applicant as possible before offering the coveted position.
What types of references are there? There are several different types of references:
Too many job applicants underestimate the importance of great references. When asking someone for a reference, approach them very politely and professionally either by email, mail, or phone and ask “are you in a position to give me a positive reference”? If they say “yes”, then great. If not, know that they are doing you a favor by not agreeing to be a reference and then not saying something positive about you.
I’m asked frequently to give people references and so are many other professionals. To make it easy on the person you are asking the reference, ask them if it would help if you would provide some “talking points”, a copy of your resume, and the link to your LinkedIn profile.
I always ask people to tell me a lot about themselves including where they grew up, what their passions are, what they are good at, and anything else that would be great for a potential employer to know. I can’t be a great reference if I don’t know you. So no, I won’t be a reference for someone I don’t know. That wouldn’t make any sense. So make sure to ask people who really know you well to serve as a reference. Know that a positive reference can and often does get you the job. So make sure to make as positive an impression on people you deal with at school, church, job, and wherever else you spend your time.
Make sure to keep your references apprised of where you are in the job search process and please remember that you must always ask someone to be a reference before you list them as one. If you land the job, make sure to let the reference know that as well. Too many people fail to thank their references. So, never fail to say “thank you” and also send a note and/or email.
Only provide the name of your references when the potential employer asks for them. You don’t want to “overuse” your references. Yes, your friends/former employers want to help you, but no, they don’t want to be contacted over and over again if you aren’t being seriously considered for a position.
Hey all you cool cats and kittens - my name is Alaina Dahlquist and I’m a current student in the Legislative Affairs program. I’m a 2015 graduate of Stonehill College where I majored in Political Science and minored in Public Administration and Public Policy.
Like I’m sure is the case for many of you, my interest in policy and politics was born out of taking AP Government in high school – my first in-depth exposure to the functioning of our great system. While in undergrad, I had the privilege of studying in Washington, DC for a semester where I took classes at American University and interned on Capitol Hill. My passion for the industry, and now the city, was confirmed.
After receiving my undergraduate degree, I moved to DC within two days. I began my career as a Government Relations Assistant at the National Federation of Independent Business, where I aided the Government Relations team in advancing pro-small business policy on behalf of the association’s membership. A couple years later, I joined the bipartisan lobbying firm Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen and Thomas as a Legislative Assistant. In this role, I supported four Republican Principals and Partners on technology, tax, energy, and appropriations work for various clients.
Currently I am a Government Relations Associate at the Pew Charitable Trusts where I work on a large portfolio of government performance policy issues including student loan reform, civil and criminal justice, state and local government fiscal health, retirement savings, and consumer finance. I also help manage relationships in our Government Relations partnership portfolio, which teams up with various organizations in order to promote Pew’s work and research.
Last summer is when I became serious about returning to school for an advanced degree. After researching various schools and programs, GSPM became the clear choice for me. The school provided the opportunity to learn from skilled professors with distinguished careers and an ideal night-time class schedule for working professionals. The Legislative Affairs Program, in particular, offered a uniquely tailored opportunity unlike anything else offered in the city.
Although I have had experience working at a trade association, a lobbying firm, and now a nonprofit, I felt the one thing holding me back from advancing in my field was a lack of time spent on Capitol Hill. GSPM has been an excellent academic supplement. My professors have had decades of experience on and off the Hill and classes such as Congressional Committees, Executive-Legislative Relations, and Legislative Politics have provided me with knowledge and skills that I use daily in my job.
Not only was I excited for the academic opportunities provided by GSPM, but I also sought to be as involved outside the classroom as possible. I successfully ran for a Senate seat in the GSPM Student Association and was elected last fall. After hearing about the GSPM Student Ambassador program, I was really interested in an opportunity to talk about my journey thus far in GSPM and provide advice in successfully balancing being a student and working professional. It’s certainly a fulfilling experience to speak to prospective students and I look forward to continuing being a resource throughout my time at GSPM.
A final note - As I’m writing this, the world is truly going through an unprecedented time. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone’s daily life. For those people (including myself) that are studying and working, it has been especially disruptive.
I wanted to provide a few pieces of advice that have helped me in my transition:
Establish a routine and practice good time management.
Keep your sleep schedule on track.
Exercise! I take some time every day during lunch to practice yoga.
Get some fresh air.
Stay connected to your friends and family virtually.
Read (for fun). This can often be difficult to do when having to read for class weekly, but I made this part of my routine by replacing one hour of TV every night with reading.
Don’t forget to take care of your mental health! I have found meditation vital in managing my anxiety and stress.
Naturally, there is a lot of stress in our country about people keeping their jobs and wondering if organizations are still hiring. Already during the COVID-19 global health crisis, I’ve heard from employers who are still hiring and from others who are laying people off.
Should you continue looking for a job during the crisis?
Yes, of course, you should continue your job search during the COVID-19 health crisis. People tend to be a little more friendly and approachable during tough times. Fortunately, you can use several technology tools to aid in your job search. Some tips to consider:
Spring Cleanse - Make sure to review your Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts. Present your most “professional self”
Professional Email Address – I still see students who use “cutesy” email addresses. Those will not impress potential employers. If you must, use “cutesy” email addresses for friends. For employers, make sure your name is clear within the email. You don’t want to miss out on an interview either because the employer is unimpressed with your crazy email address or they can’t remember your name to contact you.
Update your resume/cover letter - I see a lot of what I call “lazy” resumes and cover letters. By that, I mean that some job candidates tend to send out the “same-old, same-old” resume/cover letter for each opening. Back in the day, people had to sit down and type each and every resume/cover letter on a typewriter. I know, “Hey Boomer!" Now, technology is your friend. You should have several different resumes/cover letters for the different targets you are going after.
Skype and FaceTime are your friends during COVID-19 – The natural tendency is to do nothing during a crisis. While you may not be able to meet with potential employers for job interviews or informational interviews during the crisis, you can suggest Skype/FaceTime, phone and email exchanges. Reach out to people and ask for help.
Linkedin – I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face … if you don’t have a Linkedin presence, employers may think you don’t exist. You should have at least 500 connections because employers are looking at that. I know, I know, there are exceptions – if you’ve been stalked and/or work in intelligence, you may be prevented from having a Linkedin presence.Those folks are in the minority. Don’t use it as an excuse if you don’t “fit the bill”.
Keep Going – There is a thin line between success and failure. Don’t give up! Do whatever you have to do to try to maintain your mental and physical health during this trying period. Remember that your professors, friends, family, and university staff are with you during these hard times. Good luck!
Recently, I have heard some people spread a rumor that “cover letters are no longer important”. Whichever group is perpetuating that myth must be trying to get rid of their potential competition for jobs. Despite these rumors to the contrary, please know that cover letters are alive and well and very important for your job search.
Too many people send really boring and generic cover letters. Those cover letters don’t work. Take a little time to customize a targeted cover letter, and you’ll have much more success finding and landing a job. Make sure to personalize your cover letter for the organization you are targeting. I call the first paragraph of the cover letter the “passion paragraph”. That means you should say why you want to work for that particular organization. It should be about them, not you.
Intro Paragraph Example
Dear Hiring Executive,
I am writing to respond to your __ position opening. My background and experience meet your stated qualifications, and I’m highly interested in working for ___ (name of that organization) because of the work you do to ___ (fill in the blank from information you glean from the website).
Body of Cover Letter
Highlights of my experience include (start each bullet with an action verb)
*Established a ___
Close of Letter
Thank you very much for considering my letter of interest, and I very much look forward to hearing from you.
You can find cover letter samples online. A former university librarian wrote the “Riley Guide” (now called “My Perfect Resume”) which offers “A-Z” job search advice including cover letters. Check out this information online
Have you ever wondered why your classmate landed the job of her dreams and you’re sitting there depressed about having bombed your recent interview? Well, it’s happened to many of us, and chance are it will happen to you at some point. Try not to despair and don’t beat yourself up.
As with many things in life, preparation is key. We see how much work elite athletes do to stay “on top of their game”. In preparing for interviews, we should emulate elite athletes and practice, practice, practice, and keep practicing until we are doing the best possible job we can do. We will do a better job handling interview questions when we practice them.
Anticipate getting some of the following questions during an interview:
Why do you want to work here? For this one, you’ll need to make sure to do your research about the organization. Check out the organization’s website and recent news coverage about it.
Why do you think you are a fit to work here? Again, as with the prior question, you’ll need to do some research about the organization and craft your answer accordingly to show that you’re a fit for the organization.
Tell me what you know about this organization? Yes, again, you’ll need to do the research about the organization. Too many job candidates fail to do basic research about the organization. Those who do the research will stand out.
What is the most recent book you’ve read? This isn’t a trick question. Just make sure to have the name of a book you’ve read recently and be prepared to talk a little about it. When possible, try to show some humor or how your reading might relate to either the person you’re talking to or to the organization.
What tasks do you do well and what tasks do you find challenging? This is the time to really focus on what you do well and show some enthusiasm and passion for working.
Tell me about yourself? Yes, they’ve usually read your resume in advance, so try to come up with some information about yourself that is positive and shows your interests.
Where do you see yourself in five years? This question is really old and can seem annoying. Just say you’d like to grow in the current role you’re interviewing about. You want to learn as much as possible.
Tell me about an experience where you successfully responded to a question, dealt with a rude client, had to tell your boss some unpleasant news? These types of questions are designed to see how well you can relate your experiences to your work and they do take some practice. For these, you might want to role play with a friend or family member to be able to come up with believable answers.
What did you learn in your coursework that you think would help you to do this job? At a recent Capitol Hill lunch, one of our Hill alums did the best job I’ve seen on someone weaving a discussion of their coursework into her job role. This question will take some time to think about. Start by recording all of the courses you’ve taken and then think about what you learned that would be applicable in a job.
In addition to anticipating and practicing answers to some potential interview questions, make sure to put your best self forward in the interview. Dress to impress. Show interest in the job, don’t come across as a “know-it-all”, be yourself, and show your appreciation to the interviewer. Good luck, and practice, practice, practice.
Hi y’all, Zach Barnes here. Growing up in Columbia, South Carolina, my father instilled in me a love for American history, and politics just kind of clicked for me while taking AP Government in high school. I am a 2014 graduate of Wofford College with a degree in Government, and I do what I can to catch every Terrier game during college basketball season.
Following graduation, I spent about two years working on Republican political campaigns in Ohio and South Carolina, before making my way to DC about two and a half years ago. I knew that I wanted to continue my education, and GSPM offered the opportunity to earn a master’s degree at night while picking up skills and connections that I could take to work the next day to advance my career.
When I started work on the Hill, I did what we all do – I grabbed coffees with my peers and with any senior staffer willing to sit down with me. I quickly realized that in the eight years prior to 2017, Republican staffers really only had the opportunity to gain Legislative Branch experience. During the Obama Administration, an entire branch of government was kind of closed off from Republican staffers. One connection led to another and I found an opportunity to work in a Cabinet agency. I jumped at the opportunity, if for no other reason than to add a bit of diversity to my government experience. Well, that and the fact that Executive Branch hours and pay are an improvement!
My work now still revolves around Congress. At the moment, I serve as the primary point of contact for about 180 House and Senate offices, in addition to pinch hitting on coverage for state and local elected officials on the Intergovernmental Relations side of our team. While covering those offices requires a firm grasp on a wide swath of HUD’s policies and programs, I’ve had the opportunity to step up and take ownership of HUD’s engagements with the Hill on topics such as carbon monoxide and disaster recovery, which I didn’t even realize HUD did! It’s been incredibly rewarding – at HUD, I’ve worked on policy and been in the room with Secretary Carson as he’s briefed Members of Congress on decisions that have a positive impact on the communities that I have called home.
Working in the Executive Branch has enabled me to specialize in a more narrow policy area than I would be able to on the Hill, where I covered what felt like 50 topics in my House Legislative Assistant portfolio. I think that the experience is complementary – I’ll be able to take the in-depth policy knowledge and the perspective of how Executive Branch agencies actually implement legislation with me should I eventually return to the Hill.
Ultimately, GSPM has given me a significant leg up through each of my career transitions. While on the Hill, I took “Advanced Legislative Procedure” with Professor Martin Gold, which gave me the tools to punch above my weight class, so to speak, during fights over amendments to the few “must-pass” bills the House pushed out in the 115th Congress. Taking “Executive-Legislative Branch Relations” with Professor Fisher in the summer of 2018 forced me to assess the successes and failures of the Congressional outreach efforts of past Presidential Administrations as I was making my transition into an Executive Branch congressional relations shop. While I still had a lot to learn on the job, knowing what to avoid doing during those first few weeks was invaluable, both in terms of saving time, and in building relationships. Courses like “Parties and Elections” with Congressman Martin Frost and “Managing a Congressional Office” with Professor Mark Strand have prepared me for an eventual return to Congress, should my career take that path.
So, knowing all of that, how could I not become a GSPM Ambassador? GSPM provided me with opportunities to learn from some of the best political practitioners in Washington, to get to know some of the brightest young operatives on both sides of the aisle, and gave me the tools that made me better at my job! As a GSPM Ambassador, I’ve been able to share my experience with prospective students, and I’d like to think I’ve done a pretty good job! It seems like each semester, I found myself working on a group project with a student who I’d met for coffee when they were exploring the program just a few months ago. Now that I’ve finished my final semester, I think I’ll miss seeing that transition from prospective to current student the most.
Zach Barnes is a 2019 graduate of the GSPM Legislative Affairs master's program. He is currently an advisor at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.