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Interested in a Government Job? Find Your Niche!


Olivia Northrop '19
Olivia Northrop '19

Like many Hamilton students, I came to school knowing I wanted to major and potentially work in government. I had grown up in the D.C. area surrounded by government employees, and at school I had always been interested in history and the social sciences. At Hamilton, I took philosophy, multiple languages, and avoided math and science. I even participated in the Hamilton in D.C. program and worked various government-oriented internships. While I learned so much at Hamilton and loved my time there, I realized after graduation that I was unsure if a government job was right for me, and I think that may be true for a lot of government majors. For one, I had no idea how difficult it is to land a government job without a certain level of expertise. Instead of settling for just any job in government, my advice is to take your time, explore your passions, both in and out of the classroom, and find your niche.

When I first started looking for internships over my freshman summer, I knew I wanted to be in D.C. and do something in government. After many applications, interviews, and of course rejections, I took an internship with a veterans’ lobbying group and supported the passing of a bill firsthand. It was thrilling. I still have the admissions ticket for the unanimous house vote hanging in my office. My boss at the time always stressed the importance of being a subject matter expert or S.M.E., which still rings true today. However, while meeting with hill staff, developing target lists, and attending networking parties across the city was enchanting, I wasn’t much of a S.M.E. about student veteran problems, nor did I have any personal ties or experience to it. I needed to find another subject.

During my semester on the DC program, I decided to intern for a larger lobbying firm. The firm took on various clients lobbying for policies which ranged from 5G infrastructure to Workplace Opportunity Tax Credits. As an intern, I mostly did research, but my biggest accomplishment was actually building a website using HTML, which I learned in my intro to computer science class at Hamilton. As I applied for other internships my third year, companies latched on to this hard skill. They were interested in my ability to apply general knowledge in a technical way. This was the first time I realized how valuable technical skills in the government industry are. So, I decided to go to graduate school and build up my technical repertoire.

I decided to specialize in global risk because of my love of languages, traveling, and interest in the global political economy. At Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, I gained the hands-on technical skills in risk assessment and mitigation I was hoping for. This helped me land a job in government consulting with ABS Group, a company specializing in risk. At ABS, I not only get to work in government, but I am also able to develop a career out of a niche I love and learn about various topics every day. Working in risk enables me to be flexible or pivot into something more specific. 

Additionally, as a government consultant, I get to avoid the bureaucracy. Government consulting can be very different from regular management consulting, but it includes many of the same principles. My job is basically problem solving, but instead of improving a company’s performance, I provide a service to the government. This service can be anything from data analytics, management consulting, technical report writing, to even just acting as a government employee paid by my company. While ABS specializes in risk management, the variety within government consulting makes it a great path for anyone who would like to gain a technical niche or just help the government.

Because government jobs are often very specific and require extremely technical knowledge, they may not be a good fit for Hamilton government majors. The government typically does not  hire  someone generally interested in its operations, but rather trained engineers, mathematicians, statisticians, chemists, data analysts, computer scientists,  and those  with technical skills and experience to apply their knowledge to the regulatory and bureaucratic process. Regulatory experts who apply their knowledge to technical fields they do not understand are not optimal. 

Internships that focus on subjects or policies you are interested in or passionate about can help set you on the path to specialization and position you as a desirable government candidate.It can also help you develop a lifelong career working on something you love. So, if you are interested in public service or government, I highly recommend you first take the time to develop your passions and interests. These will provide a great foundation for success and flexibility in any field.

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