Landing the Last Minute Fall Position

first-5-icon-07Panicking because you haven’t found a fall internship/job yet? Don’t worry. No matter what the season, you’re not alone. Plenty of young people have been in your boat before, myself included, and while it’s always better to start early, there’s still hope for those who waited to apply at the last minute.

Whether you’re applying for a fall internship or paid position in government, these tips can be applied for any season.

Start with recently posted positions
In a recent TIME article, Philip D. Gardner, Director of the College Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University says, “Organizations have been recruiting all year but with due diligence, students can still find internships.”

This is why it’s important to start with recently posted positions. Usually, government organizations like to get a head start on hiring fall interns and post as early as spring. However, with a bit of dedicated research and time, you can identify the last minute openings.

Do some work before you apply
But before you shoot off 10 or 15 applications into the stratosphere, make sure you’ve done the following:

Do Your Research. Think about what interests you in public service. Don’t just apply randomly to any agency hoping someone will take you. That hardly works. Identify what makes you tick. Is it serving at the international level? Maybe State Department is the place for you. Do you consider yourself a policy wonk? The Hill might be where you want to aim. If you’re having trouble finding positions in government, advocacy groups are a great way to get experience on relevant government issues and you’ll also get a chance to interact with government.

Once you’ve identified where you might like to work, read up on the organizations as if you’re preparing for an interview with them. So when they ask you, why did you apply to our position, you’ll have a solid, genuine answer.

Remember, the point of an internship is to give students and young professionals real work experience that will eventually lead to a job in the chosen field. Choose wisely, because most likely you will be unpaid, work full time (depending on whether you’re in school or not), and still need time to manage the other things (like school) on your plate.

Clean Up Your Resume. Government internships can be stiff competition and many agencies depend on computers to weed out the first round of applications. Look at the job/internship description and build your cover letter and resume around the position, in an honest matter, to demonstrate how you fit the skills required for the job. For example, if the description says “Critical writing skills and editing,” adjust your resume accordingly and be specific rather than having something along the lines of “strong communication skills.

Also, seek help on your resume. Ask a mentor at work, make an appointment with a school career adviser, or have a friend or parent look over your resume and give you some feedback. Check out these tips on governmentizing your resume.

Become an Interview Expert. Let’s face it, millennials are much less experienced, especially those of us in our first five years out of college or in the job market. Government employers understand that, which is why they usually value attitude and temperament over experience. So it’s extremely important to practice before interviewing.

The littlest things are actually huge. Can you speak well and articulate yourself? Are you willing to show up on time? Are you willing to ask questions after the interview?

If you’re applying last minute, you’re hoping for a very fast response to your application. Be ready for that fast turnaround by equipping yourself for an interview before you get it. Practice with a friend or mentor and nail your 30-second elevator speech about who you are, what you do, and your interests in government. Make sure you’ve practiced the top 10 interview questions. 

Start Your Outreach. Reach out to staff members at the government agencies you prefer, or identify alumni from your school who may work there. LinkedIn is a great way to connect with these alumni or potential employers. Seek out these people and try to set up a one-on-one.

Information interviews are great opportunities to get a connection to the agency, share your work experience, identify your interests, gain advice to work there, get in contact with more members of the office, and increase your chances of recruiters being able to identify you in their application process. Most importantly, these are the same people who may be able to clue you in on any last minute openings at their agencies.

Be Ready to Start at the Bottom
Now is not the time to be picky. At this point, it may be harder to get the paid internships and entry-level positions than unpaid internships. As one former Research Assistant of the Congressional Management Foundation astutely said, “It’s about paying your dues.”

With last minute applications, you’re probably not going to get the dream job yet. But with government, sometimes it’s just about getting your foot in the door. You may be unpaid, the tasks may be boring, and you may feel like you’re at the bottom of the food chain. Trust me, I’ve been there. It might be painful for that time, but it’s worth it. Government is not always fun and exciting and others have been in your place before. Just remember, Secretary of State John Kerry and other high-level officials were once interns and entry levels too.

Know the Seasons to Apply
The time to start is NOW. Sure, you would have had an advantage had you started thinking about fall positions back in May, but things come up. Again, we’ve all been there. For future reference, know the seasons of application rounds. The beginning of Fall is usually when federal positions and other government agencies start recruiting for spring internships.

So next time, think at least a season ahead. When it’s winter/almost spring, look for summer jobs. When it’s end of spring/beginning of summer, look for fall jobs and so on. But remember, there is still hope, and last minute positions always open up. Just be ready for them. Good luck!

Here are some helpful job search engines to get you started:

If you’re interested in an internship on the Hill, the Congressional Management Foundation suggests the following job search links:

For those of you aiming for the White House, this has the link to their internship, though these are for Spring of 2016, so it won’t land you anything for the fall:

Don’t forget our site, where you can specifically search for openings in public employment.

Feel free to email me if you have further questions at [email protected]


For more reading about millennials in public service, check out this weekly GovLoop series, First 5: Advice from millennial to millennial


Photo Credit: Flickr/Brittney Bush Bollay

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