Hands-on experience is a must in the government job field

James Haines (left), Michael Stallone (center) and Thomas Armbruster (right) speak to students about obtaining a job with the federal government. (Delisa O’Brien / Staff Photographer)

Members of the U.S. federal government spoke to College students about careers, internships and job security during the Career Center sponsored panel, “Jobs with the Federal Government,” on Wednesday in Roscoe West room 201.

According to James Chambers of the Career Center, the presentation was in response to the growing number of students interested in working for the government.

“There is a significant part of the student body who are interested in jobs with the federal government, particularly liberal arts majors,” Chambers said.

The panelists included Thomas Armbruster of the U.S. Department of State and diplomat-in-residence for the Greater New York Area; senior political science and economics double major Michael Stallone, an intern with the federal government; and secret service agent James Haines of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“If you don’t shoot somebody, you’re not getting fired,” Haines said. “I don’t know if I can actually tell you how to get the job, but I’m gonna try.”

The panelists discussed job and financial securities extensively, and they agreed that working for the government is not a career you land by chance.

“It’s a little bit like getting into the NBA,” Armbruster said.

In his sector at the State Department, many people begin by taking the Foreign Service Exam, accessible for free online but difficult to pass, Armbruster said.

Armbruster advocated the critical need for language studies in his department, particularly Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Russian and a wide variety of Middle Eastern languages.

The three panelists also stressed the importance of getting as much hands-on experience as possible before trying to land one of the highly competitive government jobs.

“You’re gonna be in an applicant pool of thousands for just a few positions,” Stallone said. He worked in the summer of 2009 in the Department of Justice, Criminal Justice Division, in Washington, D.C.

“I was 19 years old, and I ended up working with federal officials every day,” Stallone said. “I would never have expected to be doing that kind of work at that age.”

Haines, a College alumnus, urged the importance of internships as well by detailing his experience after graduating. After sending 250 résumés and cover letters to different bureaus, 247 told him he did not have enough experience. The remaining three gave him an interview, and only one of them offered him a job.

“I had an undergrad degree which, today, is the bare minimum,” Haines said. “That’s what you guys are facing, probably 10 times worse because the economy is so horrible.”

Nevertheless, all three panelists still maintained that their jobs were indescribably rewarding, with everything from traveling the world, to living in the Capital, to flying with the president.

“During campaign season, I traveled all over the country … with Presidential candidate Obama,” Haines said. “I went to the Olympics in Beijing with former President Bush.”