Increasing Awareness of Federal Government Career Opportunities

By Imants Jaunarajs and Tori Spring

In our quest to increase student awareness of federal government career opportunities, we quickly found out that as professional staff we had a lot to learn. Only one staff member had been counseling students on federal government career opportunities. To truly expand our reach across campus, we decided several staff members would need to become experts on federal service and then subsequently train not only the rest of our own career center staff, but professional staff and faculty across campus as well.


The best resource we found to further develop our understanding was The Partnership for Public Service, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting federal government opportunities and revitalizing government with new talent. Their “Call to Serve” network  provides exceptional federal career resources. Several professional staff increased departmental knowledge of the federal career landscape by reading articles in the “Toolkit”, and then funding a “Federal Advisor Training” through a grant obtained by The Career Center.


Faculty, academic advisors, and other professional staff were invited to the “Federal Advisor Training”, which the Partnership presented on campus. Over 50 attendees learned how to best help students navigate the federal career landscape. After the training, The Career Center was able to provide on-going professional development to campus constituencies by hosting free Partnership webinars and conducting information sessions for campus colleagues. By engaging constituents across campus, we ensured that our knowledge was spread around to those who most readily serve students.


You must be asking yourselves, how were we able to get colleagues around campus to “buy in” to this initiative? In all honesty, the “buy in” came with a bit of help from the less then stellar economy. With the economy in a slump, there was an increased need for student opportunities beyond the “typical” on-campus recruitment. Utilizing the Partnership’s resources, we were able to increase our campus colleagues' understanding of government opportunities and give advisors the tools they needed to help students navigate the application process. Once colleagues saw that federal service was an outstanding option for students, the rest of the professional development sessions we hosted were well attended and there was no more need to “bust myths” about federal government work.


Federal Government Career Opportunities: Informing and Advising Students

How to reach students? This is always the burning question we ask ourselves. We took a customized approach. It was first important to get the word out about government opportunities. We needed to dispel many of the preconceived notions held by students. A marketing campaign was needed.


We decided to target first-year students by providing federal career advising times and workshops within the residence halls. By creating a Federal Career “Bulletin Board in a Bag” we were able to promote not only The Career Center, but inform students on federal opportunities across campus. We distributed over 100 bulletin boards to Resident Advisors, who hung them in common areas where hundreds of students would see the information. The Career Center also developed specific marketing materials to first-year students and presented information during summer orientation to incoming students. Other marketing materials were created to promote government opportunities across the campus. We distributed posters to advisors, created radio commercials, and dedicated our window display to marketing federal government.


With our increase in marketing, we added more government events to our calendar. Along with presenting several “Exploring Careers in the Federal Government” and “Mastering the Federal Application Process” workshops based off of material from the Partnership’s website, we also brought in several agencies to co-present workshops and events, and even offered numerous webinars in which agencies co-presented “how to” information to students looking to apply. Students responded best when they interacted directly with agencies and when they readily saw a connection between their interests and the agencies’ mission. To further build connections, we worked with the Alumni Association and gathered an extensive list of federal alumni. We plan to use this list to add more on-campus information sessions.


Federal Government Resources

Finally, we have disseminated information about federal government career opportunities through the development of a dedicated government section within our website. Here are many of the valuable resources that we have added to this webpage:


Making the Difference.org


A student friendly website, explaining: what kinds of federal jobs/internships are out there, how to find them, and why federal service could be a great option.




The main federal job board




Federal jobs by college major




Includes an A-Z index of departments and agencies (and what they do)




A social network for government







Opportunities on the “Hill” and in politics


Every campus is different. What we presented above may or may not work for you. What we did find is that by educating our own staff and colleagues around campus we were able to inform more students about federal career opportunities. By actively creating and then maintaining an emphasis on federal service, we informed students about great opportunities within the federal government.




Imants Jaunarajs, M.A., serves as the Senior Assistant Director for Career Counseling, Outreach and Information at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Imants has a Bachelor of Arts from Earlham College and Master of Arts from Western Michigan University. He focuses on Career Counseling, Staff Training, On-Call Services, Career Outreach, Federal Government Career Opportunities, and New Student Programming. In his free time, Imants enjoys coaching soccer and relaxing with family and friendsimants@illinois.edu
Imants is the new Career Convergence Associate Editor for the Government Department and welcomes submissions for consideration for publication.

Tori Spring, M.Ed.,serves as the Assistant Director of Employer Connections and Job Preparation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  One of her focuses in this role is the promotion of federal government opportunities to students.  She has her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Communication and her Master’s Degree in Higher Education Administration, both from the University of Illinois. Tori has gained valuable experience as a technical recruiter, working with athletic academics, and serving as a Career Services Coordinator with Business Career Services. In her free time, Tori loves to get together with friends, relax with her partner and dog, and research her upcoming trip to Italy! vspring@illinois.edu

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