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Career Versus Non-Career Positions

There are two ways to serve in the Administration: through a career position or through a non-career position. Career positions are civil service positions that have a traditional application process, while non-career positions will be appointed by President Obama. Some appointments will require Senate confirmation while others will not. Although some appointments will be made during the transition period, the immediate focus is on higher level appointments.

Those who may be interested in career positions should search for vacancies using www.usajobs.gov, where all career civil service positions with the federal government are posted by the Office of Personnel Management. All applicants should follow the instructions contained in each posting of interest to them. Most career positions are not replaced during an administration change and interested individuals may apply for these jobs at any time.

How to Seek a Political Appointment

For those who may be interested in non-career positions, NAPABA strongly recommends that such members carefully and thoughtfully educate themselves about the available positions sought, their qualifications for such positions, and how they intend to navigate through the application, interview, and, if applicable, the Senate confirmation process. A good starting point is to review the 2008 Edition of the United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions (also known as the “Plum Book”), which is available online at www.gpoaccess.gov/plumbook/2008/index.html. NAPABA members interested in non-career positions should also review the Council for Excellence in Government’s unofficial guide to selected presidential appointments, which is called the “Prune Book” and available online at www.excellenceintransition.org. Applications that identify non-career positions of interest with the greatest degree of specificity possible (e.g., “Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative”) are more likely to reach the appropriate decision-makers on the Obama-Biden team. Conversely, applications that are not specific in the position sought will be at a disadvantage in the process (e.g. “I want to do something in trade.”).

Whether or not assistance from NAPABA is sought, everyone seeking a non-career position with the Obama-Biden Administration must visit and follow the application instructions posted on www.whitehouse.gov/blog_post/apply_for_a_job/. As with other competitive opportunities, NAPABA members pursuing positions in the next Administration—especially non-career positions—are highly encouraged to apply early and to promote their applications through all networks available to them, in addition to seeking any desired assistance from NAPABA.

Finally, given that the priority of the Obama-Biden team is to make its highest-level appointments first, NAPABA hopes that members applying for lower level positions will not be discouraged if they do not receive a response from decision-makers on the Obama-Biden team for some time. Selection for career positions and appointments for non-career positions is an ongoing process that will continue year-round.

How NAPABA Can Help

NAPABA will try to answer members’ questions about service in the Obama-Biden Administration that were not addressed or not fully addressed by the information provided herein. Questions should be emailed to asamson@napaba.org, using the subject line “OBAMA-BIDEN APPLICATION QUESTION.”

NAPABA may be able to provide a limited number of members with mentors who can directly answer questions about pursing political appointments and provide guidance about the appointment process. If you would like to request a mentor, please send an email to asamson@napaba.org containing the subject line “OBAMA-BIDEN APPLICATION MENTOR REQUEST” and a brief description of your needs and why you believe that you would particularly benefit from mentorship. We will try to fulfill as many matches as possible and appropriate. To ensure an accurate mentor match, NAPABA requests that each NAPABA member seeking a mentor to have already reviewed the Plum Book, the Prune Book and/or usajobs.gov and have narrowed his or her areas of interest based upon the information learned from the Plum Book, the Prune Book and/or usajobs.com.

Where appropriate, NAPABA may try to facilitate an individual NAPABA member’s application for a position with the Obama-Biden Administration. Those interested in this type of assistance should submit their resumes and bios to asamson@napaba.org using the subject line “OBAMA-BIDEN APPLICATION MATERIALS.” Resumes and bios should be given filenames based on one’s last name, first name, and type of document. For example, a resume submitted by Aleli Samson would be saved as “Samson Aleli Resume” and her bio would be saved as “Samson Aleli Bio.” Please identify positions of interest using the greatest degree of specificity possible (e.g., “Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative”). NAPABA’s direct efforts to facilitate any specific application may be subject to review and approval by the NAPABA board and/or Co-Chairs of the appropriate committees.

Note that although NAPABA may be able to support its members during this process, submitting materials to NAPABA is not an essential component of one’s application. All applications for career or non-career positions with the Obama-Biden Administration can be submitted using only www.usajobs.gov or www.whitehouse.gov, as described above.

NAPABA wishes the best of luck to all applicants!

Aleli Samson
Policy Director
National Asian Pacific American Bar Association
1612 K St. NW, Suite 1400
Washington, DC 20006
Ph: (202) 775-9555
Fx: (202) 775-9333
E-mail: policy@napaba.org


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