Federal Jobs for Generalists
Lily Whiteman | Federal Career Coach
Are you a passionate person? Do you synthesize information well? Do you write in a compelling, reader-friendly way? Do you have a liberal arts and/or advanced degree in law, business, international relations, public administration, public policy, environmental policy, public health or a variety of other fields?
If so, you may be what is referred to as a generalist. Here are some other common traits of generalists:
• Excellent writing and oral communication skills.
• An ability to synthesize information from various sources into compelling, reader-friendly communications.
• A natural curiosity about varied topics, instead of a passion for one or two highly technical, esoteric topics that only about five people in the world really care about.
• A willingness to stay current on the news.
TYPES OF FEDERAL JOBS FOR GENERALISTS
Federal agencies offer fantastic employment opportunities for generalists at all levels – from entry level to management level. These positions usually require developing some substantive knowledge about the issues addressed by the agency and then:
• Producing educational materials for large audiences, including the public, stakeholder groups and Congress. These materials may include, for example, fact sheets, web content, PowerPoint presentations, reports, videos, blogs and podcasts.
• Answering questions about federal programs from the public, the press and Congress.
• Managing fact-finding hearings on hot-button issues and press conferences to announce new regulations, the results of investigations, legal actions and other regulatory activities.
• Delivering briefings to the employees of federal agencies and/or to senior staffers
• Pitching news stories to the press.
• Serving as a liaison between a federal agency’s headquarters office – which generates policies and regulations – and field offices throughout the U.S. that implement those policies and regulations.
Common job titles for federal jobs for generalists include public affairs specialist, writer/editor, web content specialist, communications specialist, outreach coordinator, Congressional affairs specialist, legislative affairs specialist, policy analyst and program analyst. You may find openings for generalists by searching for these job titles on:
• The federal government’s main employment website at http://www.USAJOBS.gov.
• The career sections of agency websites. (A hyperlinked, A-to-Z list of agency websites is posted at http://www.firstgov.gov.)
• GovCentral’s job search database.
You may also find federal openings for generalists by:
• Landing a place in one of the hundreds of well-paying internship programs that are sponsored by federal agencies. Examples of such programs include:
1) the Department of Health and Human Service’s Emerging Leaders Program
2) the Department of Labor’s MBA Fellows Program
3) The Department of Transportation’s Internship Program for Diverse Groups
4) Internships in the Overseas Private Investment Program.
Note that federal internship programs are only rarely advertised on USAJOBS; they are usually only advertised on agency websites.
TARGET AGENCIES FOR GENERALISTS
Although generalists are hired by virtually all federal agencies, several federal organizations are particularly popular among generalists because they offer “think tanky” environments and manage studies, reports and programs on multi-disciplinary topics, including foreign affairs, education, information technology social issues, economics, environmental issues, public health and the sciences. These agencies include The Library of Congress, the Congressional Research Service, the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Office of Management and Budget.
Other popular destinations for generalists include the Smithsonian; the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy and Transportation; the Environmental Protection Agency; Foreign Service agencies and intelligence agencies. In addition, the National Academy of Sciences, which advises the federal government on scientific and technical issues, also employs a large cadre of generalists.