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5 Top Tips for Job Hunting in DC

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5 Top Tips for Job Hunting in DC

If you’re hoping to land a job in DC, the nation’s capital offers several career paths, including some in Washington’s power corridors. As is the case nationwide, the coronavirus pandemic has affected some job seekers’ prospects in D.C. Still, a new list by U.S. News & World Report shows that D.C. ranks eighth among U.S. cities that offer the highest number of best-paying jobs.

Suppose your career interests include a position in politics and policy, working as a lobbyist, or landing a job with the latest administration. In that case, there are several opportunities if you act fast.

If you’re interested in working for the Biden administration, you may be in luck. The new Democratic president is filling up roughly 4,000 political jobs that change hands when a new president arrives. Sure, the competition is stiff, but why not pursue your dreams?

President Biden’s administration has promised to build its team from a big talent pool that “looks like America and works for all Americans.” They’ve created a job portal where you can apply directly for all kinds of positions. The portal features White House jobs and obscure posts like a seat on the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission or the US-Russia Polar Bear Commission. Hey, you never know!

Having powerful connections in the right places can be a big help, but even if you don’t count political insiders among your family and friends, you might still land your dream job at the State Department, the National Park Service, or the White House. 

That’s not to say that DC jobs are limited to government positions or that landing a job in DC is easy, but there are things you can do to stand out and get your resume to land on the top of the pile.

  1. Construct a Base Resume

Develop a base resume so you can customize it according to each specific position for a robust and eye-catching resume that highlights your qualifications. Go the extra mile to learn current topics affecting the company so you’ll be able to align your experience and skills with things that matter to the employer, making you more memorable. Lose the antiquated “objective” section—use that visible place to sell what you can do, not what you hope to gain.

  1. Pay Attention to Keywords in Job Listings

Many companies and agencies in the DC area use an applicant tracking system (ATS) as the initial scan. The ATS  searches for keywords, so you need to pay meticulous attention to any keywords and industry-specific words and incorporate them into your cover letter, resume, and any corresponding documents before you submit them. Strike a balance, so your material doesn’t seem spam-sounding after you pass the ATS and a human reads your resume. 

  1. Check Your Online Profiles & Image

Employers (roughly 70 percent) scour the internet and search candidates on social media and search engines, so be mindful of your online image and clean up anything that presents you in a negative light. Many DC jobs may require a security clearance, which can be challenging to get with a bad online reputation. Be careful with politically-related posts since you never know who knows who in DC.

Pay special attention to your LinkedIn profile (if you don’t have one, set one up) to make sure it shines. Your LinkedIn profile should include:

  • Professional-looking photo
  • Detailed work experience and educational background
  • Any aspirations (but don’t state that you’re job-hunting. A study found there’s a bias when it comes to hiring the unemployed)
  1. Network by Joining Local Groups

Networking is a way of life in the District, from lunches to formal gatherings, impromptu cups of coffee, to running into someone at the Metro. One way to stand out in the DC job market is to get involved in local and industry groups. Some local industries are pretty close-knit, so get to know people and become a familiar face. Many of the opportunities don’t come from what you know but who you know. Always be prepared to network!

  1. Attend job fairs

Various job fairs are held in the DC area each year. Even though most of them are virtual, they still provide good opportunities to make connections, check the job market’s pulse, and meet directly with organization representatives. Several job fairs take place in the D.C. region throughout the year. 

Tips for Successful Virtual Job Interviews

The pandemic hasn’t only changed the job market; it’s also changed the interview process. Here are interview considerations specific to making a good impression remotely.

  • Be Cognizant of Body Language
    • Avoid the instinct to look directly at the interviewer on the screen. Instead, direct your gaze at the webcam.
    • Good posture (back straight and shoulders open) can help convey an upbeat mood and optimism. 
  • Test Your Technology Beforehand
    • At least a day before your virtual interview, check all of your technology to ensure it works effectively and can be used to communicate effectively. 
    • If you don’t have the necessary equipment, you may want to consider the following options:
      • Explore the resources available at the public library. Some libraries have computers that are available on loan and private rooms that you can reserve.
      • Ask friends if you can borrow equipment.
      • Rent equipment.

Technology doesn’t always go as planned. If your video or audio stops working, ask the interviewer for a phone number before the interview beings if you experience technical difficulties. If the video cuts out, call them at that number. Ask if you can continue the interview by phone or if you can reschedule.

  • Limit Distractions
    • Use a clean and quiet location and professional-looking area, or use a virtual background, so the interviewer can focus on you and not what is around you. 
    • Apologize for any interruptions and mute your phone. 
  • Prepare in Advance

Connections are essential when you’re searching for a job, so make sure to talk with other Thompson-Markward Hall residents. They may be able to introduce you to someone who could be helpful in your job search. Compare notes and experiences with other residents over a meal, in the recreation room, or the piano room. It’s a great way to bond with other residents, cheer each other on and celebrate wins.

Good luck with your search!