How to Make Your DoS Internship Stand Out!

On Friday, we spoke about State Department Internships, what they are and how they can benefit graduate students.  Now, since the Department’s internship application opens today, I thought it would be good to talk about how to make your application stand out and secure the internship placement that fits your strengths.There are at least five main steps to success to make your application stand out.  This is in addition to reading the Department’s Brochure on the “Student Internship Program“.

Know How to Navigate USAJOBS

All State Department Civil Service opportunities are advertised through USAJOBS. USAJOBS is the government’s online job board, and does take a few minutes to learn to navigate.  Step one in successfully applying for a State Department Internship is setting up an account on USAJOBS.

Have a Federal Resume

The State Department’s internships, like other federal direct hire opportunities, require the development of a federal resume.

Unlike a traditional resume which prioritizes brevity and eloquence, the federal resume goes into greater detail about past experience, education and other notable information.  Instead of the standard 1-2 pages for an entry level job, a federal resume can run as long as 5 pages at the same level.

While USAJOBS has a great federal resume framework built into its software, you may also want to look at the suggestions put together by the Partnership for Public Service’s Go Goverment Project, on″Creat[ing] Your Federal Resume.”

The Maxwell School’s Center for Career Development has also put together a Professional Development Guide which includes sample federal resumes submitted by Maxwell School Students and Alumni.

Identify the Correct Bureau and Country

As part of the application, prospective interns select two bureaus or international posts to which they wish to be assigned.  To this end, it would be useful to familiarize yourself with the different bureaus of the Department and the different overseas missions to determine where you would like to serve.

Craft a Specifically-Targeted Statement of Interest

The State Department’s Internship program assigns internship billets on the basis of the candidates resume, bureau selection, and the statement of purpose.  If you can do your best to identify which bureau or country you wish to work in and explain why, it will greatly help your work.

In the words of my colleague, Samantha Clemence, “Zero in on one or two offices of interest and in your personal statement of interest, tell them upfront in your first sentence or two which you are interested in interning with and why. They look for this specificity, so give it to them!”

Use the Correct Terminology & Nomenclature

State is constrained in their internship process by the rules under which they operate.  There are two major ones that you should be aware of.

1)  DO NOT mark the box saying that you expect the semester you are interning.  Otherwise you will be summarily rejected from consideration. You must be a continuing student to be eligible, so, for now, just “expect” that it will not be your last semester and we will adapt as necessary if/when the time comes. They understand that grad dates may change, which is why they use the term “expect.”

2)      Repeat back to them in your descriptions and answers their list of requirements/qualifications. Again, quoting Samantha “If they say they want someone with a red hat, don’t tell them you have a maroon fedora. Use their language or they will overlook it!”