Tips for current or aspiring Presidential Management Fellows and the managers and associates who advise them:
- Before applying to the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program, consider its advantages and disadvantages versus other federal fellowship programs or entry-level positions.
The PMF program offers prestige, training, networking, mentoring and substantive experience. But so do many other federal internship and fellowship programs and entry-level jobs. Many such positions have simpler and faster application procedures than the PMF’s. And some entry-level jobs pay better.
- If you apply to be a PMF, keep pursuing other career options. Only about one in 10 applicants are accepted into the program.
- Even if you’re selected as a PMF finalist, you will still have to find a job in an agency and then rotations. When you’re hunting for jobs or required rotations, beware that some managers are more knowledgeable than others about the benefits of hiring PMFs and about the program’s requirements. And some agencies devote more resources than others to helping PMFs satisfy program requirements.
For example, a Bureau of Land Management PMF told me her managers assured her they “want me to fall in love with BLM during my fellowship’’ and “consider it part of their jobs to help me succeed.” Unfortunately, some agencies are not so invested in their Fellows. What’s more, the BLM Fellow warns that some managers may accept Fellows for rotations, in part, to gain “free labor.”
So when you research jobs and fellowships, ask current and former Fellows about your target organization’s attitudes toward Fellows. And in interviews with hiring managers, ask them about: their understanding of the program; previous experiences with Fellows; willingness to allow Fellows to devote time to required PMF activities; the agency’s infrastructure for cultivating Fellows; the impacts of budget cuts on this infrastructure; and the potential for landing promotions and post-fellowship positions.
Also, be prepared to sell the program and explain to hiring managers the benefits to them of hiring Fellows, as explained on the PMF website, www.PMF.gov.
- When you’re seeking a PMF job or rotation, the BLM Fellow advises: “Be genuine, confident and upfront about your interests. I found it OK to show hiring managers that I already had some direction, but to also acknowledge that I don’t know exactly where and how exactly I want to get there. Part of the appeal for managers is to show you a career path and get you excited about it.
“Explain to managers what you offer, while staying humble and expressing your eagerness to learn from other professionals. Be careful not to seem overly confident or cocky, or you’ll risk alienating hiring managers by reinforcing the unfortunate stereotype of PMFers as ‘people who act like know-it-alls.’ ”
- Land rotations that will complement — not merely duplicate — experiences offered by your main PMF job.
- Network. “Go down the hall and introduce yourself to PMF alumni,” the BLM Fellow advised. Through such networking, she received helpful advice on finding and selecting rotation and training opportunities, and on documenting her successes, as required for graduating from the program.
Due to sequestration, finding a rotation became so much harder. If a Fellow takes a job outside of DC they should be prepared for unknown training opportunities because travel cost is a huge factor. They should also be prepared for supervisors to want to keep them close which could limit their ability to find diverse rotation positions. Also there is a lot of discretion when it comes to approving rotations so it is critically important to try and keep your supervisor and management in the loop while searching a rotation out that way you get early indicators on if they would be willing to accept it if you are selected.