NAPABA | Service in the New Presidential Administration

Presidential Appointments in the Next Administration

We know that the next President of the United States will need to appoint talented and dedicated individuals to high-visibility jobs, including Cabinet and sub-Cabinet positions, as well as to mid- and entry-level positions. Although the selection of individuals for career positions and appointments for non-career positions is an ongoing process that will continue year-round, the elections mark a special point at which opportunities may become available and when individuals may become particularly motivated to seek positions in government.

NAPABA is committed to supporting its members who are interested in seeking appointments in the next presidential administration and to ensuring that individuals from diverse background are considered and appointed to positions at all levels of government. To that end, NAPABA has assembled the information below as an introduction to the appointments process and we will be offering a special seminar during the NAPABA Convention in San Diego on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, at 2 p.m. PDT with speakers (Juliet Choi, Christopher Kang, Ginger Lew) who will discuss the presidential transition process and the ins-and-outs of presidential appointments, including the types of positions likely to be available, how to find out about positions, and how to be a productive advocate for yourself.

What a Democratic or Republican Presidency will Mean

Regardless of who wins the election, there will be opportunities for individuals interested in serving the Administration. However, keep in mind that a transition to a Republican Administration will mean more opportunities for individuals seeking appointments. A new Democratic Administration may choose to retain appointees who served under President Obama, either in their current positions or in new ones, resulting in fewer new opportunities available. In addition, the timeline may be different under Republican and Democratic Presidents. For instance, a new Republican President might prioritize the Senate confirmation of high-level appointees while a new Democratic President might choose to focus on other legislative priorities because of the option to rely on Obama appointees who can continue to serve.

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 more traditional application process, while individuals in non-career or “political” positions are appointed by the President. Some non-career appointments require Senate confirmation while others do not, and there are often considerable delays involved in the Senate confirmation process.

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. Most career positions do not turnover during an Administration change and interested individuals may apply for these jobs at any time. Postings include application instructions but applicants should educate themselves about the application process, including seeking advice from mentors who have gone through the process in the past. 

How to Seek a Political Appointment

For those who may be interested in non-career positions, NAPABA strongly recommends that you learn about available positions, consider your qualifications for such positions, and plan how you intend to navigate through the application, interview, and, if applicable, the Senate confirmation process.

Another good reference is the “Plum Book,” which is a listing of thousands of positions in the federal government. You can read more about the Plum Book here. The Plum Book will be updated after the Presidential election but you can review the 2012 version online with the text version.

There is no official list available of positions that are currently open or likely to become open. Interested parties should identify the positions in which they are interested regardless of the availability of this information. Applicants who 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 often more likely to reach the appropriate decision-makers and to have greater success in the process. Conversely, applicants who are not specific in the position sought may be at a disadvantage in the process (e.g. “I want to do something in trade.”).

After the election, more information will become available about the application process and we will share that at that time. 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.

How NAPABA Can Help

Where appropriate, NAPABA may try to facilitate an individual NAPABA member’s application for a position in the Administration. Those interested in this type of assistance should submit their resumes and bios to appointments@napaba.org. Please identify positions of interest with as much specificity as possible. Please note that because of limited resources, NAAPABA may not be able to support all interested members but will try to assist where possible.

NAPABA will try to answer members’ questions about service in the new Administration and inquiries may be submitted to the Contact Us form, and NAPABA will respond as soon as possible.

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