Generation Obama Eyes Work on Hill

Posted November 6, 2009 at 4:32pm

They are young, educated and unemployed. But the terrible job market has not dissuaded this group of political professionals who have set their sights on Capitol Hill.

The Generation Obama — Washington, DC Career Networking Development Group recently held its first résumé and cover letter review session at George Washington University. PoliticsUnder30.org hosted the event with guest speaker Mag Gottlieb, career development director at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.

The Generation Obama networking group was founded by 35-year-old Jim McBride, a former president of the Arlington Young Democrats. It targets young adults up to age 40 hoping to answer President Barack Obama’s call for everyone to get involved. McBride sees the group “as an opportunity for young people to have a community to get involved in … that can allow people to make friends, build their professional life, do community service and help progressive candidates or causes,— he said. “It’s kind of like a club for people once they are out of college.—

At the career workshop, Gottlieb opened the session by instructing job applicants to focus specifically on their target. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,— she said. She took the audience through an effective cover letter, paragraph by paragraph.

According to Gottlieb, submitting boilerplate résumés and cover letters is a surefire way not to get the attention of hiring managers. “The purpose of the cover letter and résumé is to get your foot in the door. Mirror what they are asking for. Breathe life into the cover letter,— Gottlieb said.

The first paragraph should be what she called a “passion— paragraph. “Most people make the mistake about just talking about themselves. I say, instead, people need to show their passion for the target,— Gottlieb said. “Show your passion working for the organization.—

The second paragraph should outline an applicant’s specific background and how it matches up with the job specification. Gottlieb added that applicants should always end the letter by saying thanks. “Nine out of 10 people don’t say thanks,— she said.

Gottlieb said applicants should nix career objectives from the résumé. “Capitol Hill hates objectives.— List results and numbers under each job description on the résumé and avoid outlining responsibilities. Don’t bold dates and keep them on the right side of the page. Create a LinkedIn account. Remember that employers Google prospective candidates, she said.

And if someone does get an interview, Gottlieb advises to dress to impress, quoting William Shakespeare: “Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, But not expressed in fancy; rich not gaudy; for the apparel oft proclaims the man.—

“We must make sure that we are looking good. That means hair, clothes and shoes. Beards are probably risky in this town,— Gottlieb said. “Browns don’t work that well in Washington [for interviews]. The rules are better for women than for men. Men can only wear three colors: black, gray and navy. … Ties should be conservative.—

A valuable point Gottlieb made was to treat everyone equally, from the receptionist to the interviewer. She said applicants should be cordial to the receptionist because she will express her impressions of everyone.

Most importantly, Gottlieb had this advice: “Send a quick e-mail after an interview and say that ‘Before any time slips by, I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your time.’ A formal thank you will follow,— Gottlieb said. “It is very hard right now, the economy is bad, but I would say to people, ‘You don’t need to take on the whole global economy, you just need one job. … There is one job out there with your name on it.’—

Michael Bales is one of those young professionals who came to the session to get a little extra job-hunting help. Bales is a 28-year-old college graduate who earned a liberal arts bachelor’s degree from St. John’s College in 2006. He is unemployed and looking for a job on the Hill. “It’s been very difficult,— he said, with “lots of people applying. I’ve had to send out lots of résumés to hear back— from one employer. He said he has come close to getting a couple of jobs but ultimately hasn’t been hired.

On a more promising note, Bales said he found the information at the workshop very helpful. “It kind of reminded me that it’s important to be direct and passionate and say things in as concise manner as possible,— he said. “Not to waste people’s time. Keep trying.—