Considering a political appointee spot? Tap these resources


President Barack Obama rapidly filled many Cabinet-level political positions. Still, thousands of influential but less prominent political positions remain to be filled in the coming months and years. These positions cover many specialties and career levels, with annual salaries ranging from about $30,000 to under $200,000.

Some tips if you are considering applying for a political appointment:

*If you are a career civil servant, consider whether you are willing to sacrifice your unparalleled job security for the prestige, power and networking advantages — as well as the pressures and long working hours — of a political position. On average, a political appointee serves less than two years.

*Don’t apply if your background is blighted by legal, financial or substance abuse problems because the screening process for all political appointments includes in-depth security investigations. Some political appointments require Senate confirmation, and some don’t.

*If you decide to apply, identify target positions in “United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions,” popularly known as the Plum Book, an inventory of the titles and pay grades of about 7,000 federal leadership positions, including career civil service jobs and political appointments. A caveat: The latest publication inventories only positions that existed as of Sept. 1; these positions are subject to change by the Obama administration. The book is available through the Government Printing Office — click on “A-Z Resource List” at

*Once you identify your target positions, surf agency Web sites and news sites for information about these positions and the people who previously held them; consider contacting these people for more information about the job demands.

*Cite the titles of your target jobs in your application. Emphasize academic and professional experiences that overlap with the job demands, credentials that peg you as a leader in your field, and your political and campaign experience.

*Treat your quest as an aggressive campaign. Gather endorsements from power brokers, including political luminaries and leaders from associations, unions, nonprofits, academia and business. Tap your connections with friends, acquaintances and colleagues who receive political appointments; they may hire you.

*Continue to seek political positions throughout the next four years because many positions turn over between elections.

Some indispensable, free resources:

*The Council of Excellence in Government offers three of its publications online at — “The Presidential Appointee Roadmap,” which features an overview of various types of political appointments and provides tips for landing them; “A Survivor’s Guide for Presidential Nominees,” which reviews the rewards and challenges of holding political appointments and provides practical advice on surviving the confirmation process; and “The Prune Book,” which details information about selected political positions and describes hot-button issues addressed by them.

* reviews Obama’s agenda, announces nominations for political appointments, and has a notice up that it will soon accept online applications for executive branch jobs.

Use the site to determine how and where to target your job hunt. For example, one of Obama’s recently announced goals is to expand national service programs, such as AmeriCorps and Peace Corps, and create new service organizations. Therefore, if your credentials and interests have prepared you to manage national service programs, you would be wise to watch the news for announcements about new and expanded programs and to target your job hunt at them.

Lily Whiteman is a public affairs officer at the National Science Foundation and author of “How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job.’’ Her Web site is The views expressed in this column do not necessarily represent the views of the National Science Foundation.


About Author

Lily Whiteman is a federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-paying Federal Job,” and a trainer of career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is Ask your career questions by email to or by Twitter to @Lilymwhiteman.

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