Friday, December 16, 2011

2012 PMF In-Person Assessments: Reactions

The PMF Program should have completed the in-person assessments today. Up to this point, I've been mostly silent on the issue because I didn't want to risk influencing the assessment process. Now that it's finished, I think it's fine for everyone to share their experiences and talk more freely about how they think they did. Include as few or as many details as you are comfortable sharing.

The next update, the one where we find out who is a finalist, will be sometime in January. In the mean time, let's hear from you all.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

2012 PMF Semifinalists: Open Thread

[Update 3 November: The actual number this year was around 1200. I guess we can thank the political and fiscal climate for that number. If the percentages from previous years apply (so, uh, beware the following conclusions), then we're looking at a finalist pool of perhaps 600. Whether that improves your chances of getting a job or not is anyone's guess.

Also, I think it's worth noting that the PMF Program Office hasn't provided links to the lists of nominees or semifinalists as they've done in previous years. This makes it impossible for me to analyze the data and ask some potentially tough questions about it. If anyone has seen such lists, I would be interested in seeing them. Otherwise, I find this move to be the antithesis of a transparent process. It's baffling.

Notifications for semifinalist selection were supposed to begin rolling out sometime yesterday, and I've seen some comments that indicate they have, at least for some of you. Given the sheer volume of you (over 9000), the process can take a while, so if you haven't heard anything, I would recommend patience. I will provide an update here once the PMF Program Office posts something, but we can already anticipate the number will be around 1500.

I'll also remind you that the PMF Program Office is responding to some inquiries via their Facebook page:

Whether you've heard anything (good or bad) or not, let us know.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

2012 PMF Online Assessment: Open Thread

According to the PMF Program Office, more than 9000 people applied for the PMF program this year. I haven't seen any official word on how many nominations resulted, nor have I seen any official list (if you've got a link to one, we would all be most appreciative).

Anyway, that presumably means some 9000 of you are or will be taking the online assessment. This is your thread to talk about the assessment, but keep in mind that, since it runs through October 10, 2011, it is probably unwise to reveal any substantive details about what you've found on the test. Once the testing window closes, please feel free to say as much as you want about the contents. They tend to change every year anyway. In the mean time, we would all be very interested to hear if you have taken the test, if you've had particular technical issues, what your thoughts are on the efficacy of the test, and any other assessment chatter you'd care to share.

As a side note: I have never seen the (entire) modern incarnation of this assessment, nor was the assessment offered online when I did take a version of it in 2009, so if you have specific technical or administrative questions, you'll have to rely on each other for answers.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Comments Policy

I haven't had one of these officially in place, beyond the things I've mentioned in the About page.  Some unpleasantness in the 2011 applicants' comments, however, have prompted me to review my approach here, so let me just briefly outline what I believe and why, what you can expect of me as the host and moderator, and what I expect of you in return.

  1. First and foremost, this is my site.  Period.  I run it for your edification, information, and enjoyment.  I reserve the right to preserve those qualities aggressively by any means necessary.  That means deletion of comments and, if necessary, banning of users.
  2. I believe that your edification, information, and enjoyment are maximized by allowing open and frank discussions unencumbered by ties to your real identities.  (If you need evidence for this, check out the comparative level of engagement here with that on the various GovLoop PMF resources; nothing against GovLoop, of course, but adding someone's real identity tends to hamper some kinds of communication).
  3. To date, I have pursued this belief by maintaining a purely anonymous comments system.  I understand that there will always be trolls.  They are inevitable, even with more robust identity solutions.  The problems I encountered, however, were exacerbated by the inability to deal with each commenter as an individual.  
  4. I am changing my policy for this PMF season to be pseudonymous rather than purely anonymous.  That means you will have to register some account.  I don't care whether you want to use your real name or not.  That is your choice.  What I care about is my own ability to maintain the greatest level of edification, information, and enjoyment possible in this format.
  5. From you, I expect civility.  Joking, snark, sarcasm, criticism, complaints, bellyaching, and the like are all allowed.  But I expect that you do not harass one another or make abusive comments about individuals involved in this process. Racist and/or sexist remarks will likewise not be tolerated here, and I reserve the right to remove any comments that fail to meet the standards here. Or for any reason, really. Additionally, I will ban repeat offenders.  
So I think that sums up the what, how, and why of my approach to comments.  Feel free to express your opinions about this policy here, whether they are positive or negative.  
Finally, should you have any concerns about any of this and don't want to air them publicly, you may contact me at Yeah, that's me putting a real email address on a webpage.

PMF 2012: Application Begins Today

Yes, it's that time again. The Presidential Management Fellows application process is officially open for the 2012 application year. Here's a very quick rundown of how to determine if you are eligible and what to expect. At the end of this article are the other great resources available on the web. I will be happy to answer any questions you have about the application process, assuming I know the answers, but otherwise, just let us all know whether you are going to apply or not.

The application window for this year is today, September 15, 2011 to September 25, 2011. School nominations have to be in by September 30, 2011.


To be eligible, you MUST be enrolled in a graduate program of some sort and be scheduled to complete your degree requirements between September 1, 2011 and August 31, 2012. Seems easy enough, right?

The Process

First, and I can't stress this enough, you have to find out who at your school handles PMF nominations. It's usually the dean of your particular program. You don't get invited to take the test unless your school nominates you. Make sure your nominating official has all the information he/she needs to complete the nomination. All of the materials you need can be found on the PMF website.

Second, go over to the job listing on USAJOBS and apply for the program. You can find it here:

Third, make sure all of your documents are saved all the way through on Application Manager. You can provide corrected documents if you need to, but sometimes they require processing time. In that case, it's better to get your application in early.

And fourth, let us know here or on GovLoop that you've applied. We like to have conversations here about the experience and what everyone else is going through. And since I have been through the process myself, there are things I can probably help you with. Good luck, everyone!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

PMF 2012: Tentative Calendar

It's almost that time of year again, folks. A couple of days ago, the PMF Program Office announced its anticipated application schedule for the 2012 cycle. Under current regulation, students must be completing a graduate degree between September 1, 2011, and August 31, 2012, to be eligible to apply. (This means, of course, that we won't see the effects of the recent changes they've proposed until at least the 2013 application cycle). Anyway, the application period should open on September 15, 2011, and close on September 25, 2011, with all nominations completed by the schools by September 30, 2011.

Additionally, there is a new tentative calendar available outlining the 2012 process. It is much more compressed than in years passed, as you'll notice.

Thursday, September 15, 2011Application for the PMF Class of 2012 opens via a job opportunity announcement on USAJOBS; search for "Presidential Management Fellows"
Sunday, September 25, 2011Application for the PMF Class of 2012 closes
Friday, September 30, 2011
  • Deadline for Nomination Officials to fax nominations
  • Deadline for applicants to submit supporting documentation for any claims for Veterans' Preference.
October 1-10, 2011Invited applicants participate in on-line assessment process
By November 1, 2011
  • Applicants notified on eligibility and nomination status
  • Semi-finalists selected and notified
  • Semi-finalists scheduled and notified for in-person assessments
November 14 - December 16, 2011In-person assessments conducted for semi-finalists
January 24, 2012On or around this date, semi-finalists notified of Finalist status via email
Late-February/Early- March 2012PMF Class of 2012 Finalists Job Fair (Washington, DC, metro area)

This time around, finalist notifications are expected to go out in late January!

I'd be interested to see what you all think of this aggressive schedule. Also, it's worth pointing out that, given the possible new rules that could affect next year's application cycle, you may benefit from the ability to apply more than once. In fact, I can foresee a possibility that you could apply up to three times, given that the new rules would allow eligibility to be extended back two years for degree completion. So what I am saying is go for it this time, and if you don't make it through, try it again next year if you're still inclined.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer Update: PMF Program Changes Afoot

This is the slow season in the life of a blog like this, but occasionally things do happen that are worth noting. Before getting to the big stuff, though, I figure it's worth providing a quick update.

First, I should point out that there are 327 listed PMF hires to date. I have no idea how that compares to previous years, unfortunately, but considering the historical placement rates have fallen between 40 and 60 percent of finalists, we can expect something like 340 to 510 to be placed out of this class. Anecdotes from people who can't find a placement aside, 327 seems to be a good number at a point approximately 1/3 of the way through the placement cycle. More positions will undoubtedly appear, so if you haven't secured anything yet, just give it some time.

Second, it's almost time for the next class to apply. OPM plans to open up the 2012 program sometime in September. As I did last year, I will write a post about the program with updated statistics and description. It would be helpful if any of you who have already been placed would submit your experiences with the program so far, especially where the initial application is concerned.

And finally, OPM has submitted its proposed rule changes to the Federal Register to amend its Pathways Program, which includes the PMF program. The biggest change I see so far in my reading of the proposed regulation is the widening of the application window to two years. That is, anyone who completed a graduate degree within the last two years would be eligible to apply. There are other important changes, though, so for a more thorough highlighting, read below.

PMF Program Revisions Highlighted
  1. No More Nominations - The proposed regulation removes the requirement for college or university staff to perform the nomination action. This step of course removes the burden from nominating officials who may be less connected to PMF aspirants in future classes, because up to two years may have passed since the last interaction between the PMF hopeful and the nominating official.

  2. Apply Again - As long as someone falls within the two year window outlined by the regulation, there is nothing prohibiting people from applying again if they were unsuccessful the first time around. So those of you on the finalist list right now who haven't been placed yet might get another chance or two to apply. This is a pretty significant structural change, but I suspect most programs have to deal with repeat applicants. And who knows? Perhaps an extra year working will be the thing that gives you an edge over other finalists.

  3. "Interactive" instead of Classroom Training - OPM is clarifying the language surrounding the training to emphasize that delivery methods other than instructor-led classroom training can fulfill the annual training requirements. Frankly, this is long overdue. We're in an age where the most efficient delivery methods for focused training are internet-based, and while there is definitely value to be found in classroom training, it should be limited to situations that warrant it. This will probably go a long way toward making the program more palatable to agencies, since there is a great deal of decent-quality online training that was of dubious value to PMFs given the earlier requirement that they can now use.

  4. SES Mentors - The new rules would require agencies that hire PMFs to match them up with a mentor at the Senior Executive Service level. Overall, this is probably a good thing. I learned a great deal from those SES with whom I have served.

  5. Rotation Adjustments - The program still includes provisions for a 4-6 month developmental assignment, but OPM has included some intriguing language about the viability of agency-wide, Presidential or Administration initiatives for use as developmental activities. I can imagine some potential applications of this, but would be interested in what any of you think about it.

Those were the major points I found in the document after scanning through it. Give it a read and let us all know what else you find in it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Question: Where Should the In-Person Assessments Have Occurred?

This is definitely something exploratory, and it's certainly not intended to be predictive. I am just musing here, partially to determine whether the in-person assessment locations were sound or not.

So the question is this: Based on what we know of the 2011 semifinalist pool, where would the most effective in-person assessment locations have been? Let's broaden that a bit to get at what we really might want to know. Which cities with a Federal presence would have made good cities in which to conduct PMF in-person assessments, based on what we know about where the semifinalists (those invited to the in-person assessments) presumably originated? I hope that's a clear question, but we can break this down into components so the criteria are better defined, and the follow-up questions are enumerated.

  • Federal presence: This can mean one of a few things. First, and fundamentally, is there any Federal agency with an office in the city? For many cities, the answer is a qualified yes. Qualified, because even if a city has some Federal presence, this does not mean that the city is at all suited to hosting in-person assessments, either because it is located too far away from the bulk of semifinalists, or because it is simply too small to provide convenient transportation options. It turns out there is another way we can measure Federal presence in a city: The Federal Executive Boards (FEB). FEBs form a nationwide network of Federal branches providing communication and collaboration solutions to agencies outside the DC area. Given their wide geographic distribution, it seems clear that FEB cities might serve as a good starting point to analyze future in-person assessments. In the graphics below, I show a summary view of how many semifinalists were listed as closest to each of these cities.
  • Semifinalists: I chose semifinalists from this year 1) because there were semifinalists for 2011, and 2) because semifinalists were the ones invited to take in-person assessments. It doesn't make much sense to me to choose nominees or finalists for this particular comparison, although choosing nominees would at least provide some information for future planning. What we know about semifinalists is the school they listed in their materials, and not much more. This is a limitation of the data set, of course, but it's all we have to work with. What we have to assume from it is that the schools in question were correctly identified for purposes of geolocation; that every semifinalists were correctly listed with their schools; and that the locations of the schools reflect the geographic origins of the semifinalists. That's a tall order, but again, what choice do we have? Some of these schools conduct extensive online programs that mean students could be widely dispersed beyond the brick-and-mortar campus. What we have, then, is close enough approximation of the truth for this analysis.
Now our question becomes this: Of the FEB cities, which are closely located around the most 2011 semifinalists? That is a question we can answer. I took the cities in which there are FEB offices and calculated the distance from that city to each of the 278 schools represented in the semifinalist data. Then I figured out, for each school, which was the closest FEB city. And finally, I aggregated the FEBs and summed up the semifinalists that were listed as closest to each FEB. That data is shown below:

One thing you'll notice, of course, is that Washington, DC, is listed here, even though it's not an FEB location. I trust you'll understand why this is the case. Regardless, what we see is that, outside Washington, DC, the top 5 FEB locations are Boston (161), Atlanta (118), New York City (110), Chicago (92), and San Francisco (76). If we were looking for validation of the 2011 in-person assessment location choices, this might suffice. What the top 5 FEB list doesn't really account for, though, is that there are significant numbers in other locations. The trick here would be to determine locations that are central to a region in some way. DC makes sense for most of the East Coast, especially given the ease of transportation between, for instance, Boston and DC. It is entirely fitting, then, to keep DC as an assessment location. Atlanta also makes sense for large portions of the South. The Midwest is well served by Chicago, and the West Coast is well served by San Francisco (although Los Angeles looks to be a good second choice). That just leaves areas like the North Plains and the Southwest less well served. But we can frame a different question that might help here. Let's eliminate all but one NE city (DC), one Southern city (Atlanta), one Midwest city (Chicago) and one Western city (San Francisco), leaving the others on the list to see what we can come up with. That leaves us with the following:

Based on this, I think we can recommend that either a city in Texas or Oklahoma City could serve as the only other location needed. I am choosing OKC because of its fairly central location compared to Denver and Albuquerque. If we do that, then the numbers look like this:

Even so, the payoff for adding OKC is much lower than other locations, and it may not ultimately be worth the effort to add the assessment location.

Next, let's see if we can determine whether there's a distance factor involved here. That is, if we take these five locations, is there an average distance we're looking for that might be ideal? The first table shows us a widely variable average distance between the school and the assessment center.

The largest average is for DC, but this can be partially explained by the large distribution of semifinalists (Boston to a point about halfway between Atlanta and DC) and the inclusion of overseas schools in this list, all of which are in excess of 2000 miles away. There aren't many, but they are enough to affect the result. Filtering those out will give us perhaps something more meaningful.

So there you have it. These are pretty good distances from what I can tell, but I am interested to know what you all think. As one final point of comparison, here are the average distances to the original in-person assessment locations. By omitting OKC, we raise the averages for Chicago, San Francisco, and Atlanta, but DC is unaffected.

So after examining the locations that might have made sense for the in-person assessment, what we found is that the original locations seemed to be about right. We could fragment the assessment centers a bit more by adding one in OKC, but doing much more than that seems to have a lower benefit. What do you all think? Were these distances doable for you? I know many of you would have preferred not to travel as far as you did, but consider the alternatives (such as all in-person assessments being held in DC). What locations do you think should be considered?

2011 PMF Appointments: Another Open Thread

The reason for this post is simple: I have Google set to turn on comment moderation on posts older than 30 days. If I don't post something today or tomorrow, those of you still conversing will have to wait for your comments to be published by me. Not only does this hamper your conversations, it is a bit burdensome to me as well, which is why I changed the site from moderating everything to what it is now (that was a while ago). Had I not done that, I would have had to approve all of the 2000+ comments you all have written over the past 3 months. As it is, I READ every comment, but I don't feel the need to moderate them all.

Anyway, please continue sharing your experiences as you go. I am planning some other exploratory and data analysis posts, but that process has gone a bit slower than I had desired. (This is *totally* not a call for some part-time help, no way, no how...OK, it is, if anyone wants to)

I'm not posting this one on GovLoop, because the threads over there are far from full. Ghost town is more like it.

Oh, and if there is a specific kind of post you would like me to write, let me know. I do take requests.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

2011 PMF Survey: How did you do?

If you are a 2011 PMF finalist, please take the time to fill out this survey. I am collecting this information to get an idea of how effective the job fair was, and some information about the placement rates and geographic distribution of finalist appointments. If your information changes, go ahead and submit a new form. I will perform all the data cleanup this time next year or thereabout, once you all have had a chance to secure an appointment. Pass this link around to all of the 2011 PMFs you know or meet over the next year. If you want access to the information, email me at and tell me your name, your school, and your degree so I can make sure you are who you say you are.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

More PMF Finalist Data Visualizations

This is just a quick, fun update, an excuse to aggregate some data and display it in pretty charts for you. Good luck at the job fair, everyone! It looks like I will be at the GovLoop happy hour tomorrow after all, so look for a guy in a luchador mask ;)

The bar chart below is a Google Fusion Tables visualization of the absolute number of finalists year on year for the 10 top academic fields. That is, I took the ten academic fields that have produced the most PMF finalists in all the data years I have, then looked at each one in terms of how many finalists graduated with those degree fields in each year. It's obvious from this that the single largest group of finalists have law degrees, and other two of the top three fields are International Affairs/Administration/Studies and Public Administration/Policy. I don't think there's anything here that you didn't already know.

I also did this with the ten schools that have produced the most PMF finalists from 2009-2011. Again, we can see some pretty obvious things. First, four schools absolutely crush all of the others in terms of representation among finalists: George Washington, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, and Harvard. Perhaps interestingly, the total number of finalists from these schools decrease in order of increasing distance from OPM (GW is right across the street from the OPM building, FYI).

These charts reinforce things we already know, or that we think we know. What about looking at the data a different way? After thinking about it, I tried sorting to see if there were any schools with finalists this year that didn't have any in 2009 or 2010. I came up with 57, and all but six of them fielded only 1 finalist this year. These are listed below.

I think there are some other ways I can explore this data, especially once it has all been completely loaded into my database for programmatic manipulation, aggregation, and such. As I get time and finish the imports, I will produce more of this.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Misc: Job Fair Guide, Happy Hour, and Collaboration Call

Since I didn't want to post three new (short) posts in succession, I figured I would lump these together. Anyway most of you are probably either in DC already or in various stages of arrival, so I want to keep this brief and to the point.

First, of course, there is the job fair. A number of folks working over at GovLoop have been kind and diligent enough to put together a pretty comprehensive guide to the PMF job fair. If you need some airplane reading, why not check it out? I haven't gone through all of it yet, but I concur with what I've read so far. It's at

Second, also courtesy of GovLoop, a group of current and former PMFs will be meeting up for a happy hour on Wednesday, April 20 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM at Old Dominion Brewery. More details and an RSVP form are at

And finally, the collaboration call. So far, contentious though some of your banter has been, you have shown a great deal of willingness to collaborate, as evidenced by your shared Google Spreadsheet. Here is what I was hoping I could get you all to do. Using that same collaborative energy, let's try to collect as much tabular PMF information as we can. You can see the kind of information that is missing from the PMF site where it displays the finalist lists. Compare that with some of the requests you've made on the data visualization thread, and hopefully you can see where this is going. So we start with the data I already have in tabular format (I will be happy to make it available, names and all), and as you or finalists you know from this year's class accept PMF appointments, simply add into the spreadsheet which agency and the city and state where the appointee will be working. Is this something you all are interested in doing? With that data, we can, for probably the first time, gain an understanding of the geographic distribution of PMF placements, as opposed to the distribution of schools attended. Let me know in the comments what you would need to get this going, and I will provide my cleaned up data shared from my account.

Friday, April 8, 2011

PMF Data 2009-2011

[Update 4/11/2011: As promised to those of you looking for CSV/Excel formatted data, here it is:]

Here is another quick update to let you know that I have made available all of the finalists data from 2009-2011, in JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) format. If you ask nicely and want it, I can offer it in other formats as well.

The data can be retrieved here:

Available fields and descriptions are as follows:

  • label: Either an MD5 hashed version of the original finalist name, or, because I didn't have the names available when I imported the data, something like "applicantX" where X is an incremental number.
  • type: Currently only finalists are available, but when I get to it, other valid values, for which there are available rows, will be "semifinalists" and "nominees."
  • year: The PMF class year. Not every record type is available for every year.
  • rank: This is just the database unique record identifier; you don't really need it for anything.
  • school: The corrected name of the school the individual PMF attended. By corrected, I mean the standardization I undertook as part of the record cleanup.
  • field: Individual's academic field. No effort to standardize or clean these up occurred.
  • latlng: The latitude and longitude of the school, as determined by a separate geocoding script. I expect some percentage of error to have occurred here, but see below for error reporting.
If you have questions about the data or spot any obvious errors, please let me know in the comments. As stated above, I have the greatest expectation of errors in the latitude and longitude data, but this can be fixed pretty easily if you just tell me which school is wrong, and what the correct lat/long should be.

Also, feel free to use the data however you see fit. If you have anything you're trying to put together, I would be happy to link to it. Similarly, I would be happy to help if you want data that's not currently there (assuming I have it).

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Furlough and the Job Fair

A number of you have been speculating about what would happen if Congress and the President cannot work out an agreeable budget for the rest of the fiscal year and annual appropriations lapse. Specifically, you have been wondering about the status of this year's PMF job fair. Today, OPM has released some information that you may find interesting, although it doubtless will not set your mind at ease.

Most of OPM operates on funds that are not annually appropriated by Congress, so in the event of a funding lapse, a good deal of OPM will still operate, at least for a while. In the event of a prolonged lapse, a number of these operations may cease if they ran out of money. The Presidential Management Fellows Program Office operates from non-appropriated funds and would be able to continue operations. However, if no budget is in place prior to the PMF job fair, the job fair will have to be postponed, since many of the agencies who would have attended would themselves be furloughed. So this is the answer to how the looming government shutdown will affect you: it depends, but only on the duration of the shutdown.

I wanted to provide this information as soon as I came across it just to make you all aware. For more information about what I just discussed, visit OPM's special page at

Saturday, April 2, 2011

2011 PMF Data Visualization: Semifinalists vs Finalists

[Also posted here]

I spent a good deal of time gathering and sifting through the lists of 2011 semifinalists and finalists, cleaning up school names and gathering latitude and longitude information for each of the schools I saw represented in the data sets. At present, I have not had a chance to do the same for the nominees list, because it is so much larger than the other two sets of data. Once I do, I will showcase what I find, hopefully presenting it in a nice interactive tool so that you can see the sheer drop-off in numbers, especially as a function of geographic distribution.

In the mean time, what I present here are two graphics I extracted from my current visualization efforts, which seek to present this year's PMF program in terms of its geographic distribution. It is of course centered on the US, not only because there are many fewer applicants from non-US schools, but also because I had to have a starting point to make my representation. I will adjust my visualization settings later to indicate the scales of the global distribution of this program, which in some ways out-performs the reach of the PMF program in a certain class of schools within the US (I mean in this case HBCUs, or historically black colleges and universities, whose representation in the PMF program has been marginal in the past). All this is to say that more visualizations are forthcoming just as soon as I can find meaningful ways to express them.

Now let's get on to some graphics. You will want to open these up to see them full size, since this blog theme limits their visibility considerably.

In this first image you can see the geographic distribution of the 2011 semifinalists. The markers are sized according to the number of semifinalists from each of the nominating schools (though see below for some additional detail on my cleanup approach). The legend below indicates the relative sizes, and I should point out that the largest circle is for schools that had 60 or more semifinalists. In all, there were approximately 280 schools represented among the 1530 semifinalists. You will no doubt notice the heavy presence of East Coast schools, especially centered around DC, which should be no surprise; what may be surprising are the volume of semifinalists at Upper Midwest and West Coast schools.

In this second image, which depicts the schools with finalists, you can see a very noticeable decline in the scales of semifinalists and a less noticeable drop in the scope of geographic distribution. Gone is the apparent advantage exhibited in the previous graphic of both the West Coast and Upper Midwest schools. It is quite obvious that East Coast schools are massively overrepresented in this program (and someone has already done a breakdown of degree programs, so we know what that picture looks like). Since there were many schools with single digit nominees, it is also expected that there would be fewer schools represented in the finalists data. From 280 in the semifinalists round, we drop to 210 schools among 858 finalists. That is, approximately 25% of the schools that were represented in the semifinalists data ultimately failed to put forward finalists this year. This is a testament to both the competitiveness of the program and the long road it still has ahead of it to market itself to every eligible graduate school.

Finally, let me talk a bit about the data. The biggest challenge in an operation like this is that with so many data points to deal with, it is incredibly difficult to conduct 100% quality control. There are errors in the data, and I am aware of a few that I have not corrected yet. Additionally, the PMF Program Office, in conjunction with the schools who feed it their nominees, tends to make what I would consider needless distinctions in the school names. For instance, in the lists on the PMF site, you may notice that Harvard has four or five distinct names, one for Harvard University, and the rest for things like the law school, the divinity school, and the like. I realize that students at these schools, and the schools themselves, often pride themselves on such distinctions, but I assure you it makes data analysis an even greater chore. Where possible, I have consolidated schools to the common university names. Besides, it would be utterly meaningless for me to depict semifinalists and finalists at that granularity, because all you would see is a set of concentric circles centered on the latitude and longitude of Harvard, for instance. In addition to name consolidation, I have also expanded each entry to the full text of the school names, which was a prerequisite to gathering the geolocation information. This will become apparent once I am satisfied with and release the interactive tools.

I am interested in what you think of what I've presented, both in my approach and in what the data has to say. Also, let me know what other kinds of views you are interested in. My tools are probably capable of generating pretty much anything, so just let me know.

Friday, April 1, 2011

2011 PMF Job Fair: To Go or Not to Go. Plus Planning Tips

[Also posted here]

Now that the 2011 Presidential Management Fellows finalist list is out, the 850 of you who made it will be wondering whether or not to attend the upcoming PMF job fair, currently scheduled for April 19-21 (the venue is still undecided, but in the past it's been hosted at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center).

So, should you attend or not? I always say it depends on where you are, what your background is, and what you're interested in. I think I speak for most current and former PMFs when I say that the value of the job fair isn't exactly measurable, but almost everyone I've talked to about it thought it was a good idea to have gone; many of us got our jobs at the PMF job fair, and many more of us got our jobs as a result of having made connections there. Plus you will get to meet people from all over the federal government, including current and former PMFs who are excited to be welcoming in the next class (if we weren't, we wouldn't be working at the job fair; I plan to work it this year myself). In short, this is an excellent opportunity that, while it may not result in an on-the-spot job offer, nevertheless provides access to many agencies. And one other thing: just because you talk with the agency of your dreams and they don't hire you, that doesn't mean you can't eventually work with them, perhaps on your developmental assignment or a short rotation. These things are immeasurably valuable.

Now, will every agency be there? No, certainly not. There are agencies who, for whatever reason, either don't know about PMF or the fair, or don't participate in the fair. Also, if you are looking for something outside the DC area, the opportunities are not quite as broad (but they do exist; some agencies headquarter themselves away from DC).

Let's say you've decided to attend. Got your plane ticket and hotel reservation in hand, and are ready to go. Now what? Do you start contacting agencies? If so, who at those agencies? And should you load up your schedule with interviews over the three days? In general, I think these are all good ideas. Don't overload yourself too much, because you will want some time to breathe, but do remember that the more people you can talk to, the better your chances of snagging a job. This is your time to learn as much about the various federal agencies as possible, while trying to make an impression yourself.

Next, I think we should talk about something that people continually bring up. What if you don't really know what you can do or want to do in federal service, or the thing you really want to do isn't available? Do you take the first thing that comes along? In this case you really only have a few options. If you take a job you know you will not like, you are definitely setting yourself and your employer up for disappointment. However, if you approach this process with an open mind, you may be surprised at the kinds of opportunities that you find available. Keep in mind that two years is both a long time and a short time. It is a long time in that over the length of your fellowship, you could work on a variety of projects and assignments (of course, you could also only work on one; seek the variety level that appeals to you), so just because you are hired to do one thing does not mean that you will always be doing that (good or bad). It is a short time in that, once you've started, it seems like there almost isn't enough time to learn everything you need to do your job, get all your training hours, and fit in a 4-6 month developmental assignment. I hope I have conveyed a sense of the variety that is available in this program. Hackneyed platitudes about our "future leaders" aside, this program really does have the potential to provide you access to the kinds of situations people spend a good deal of a career aspiring to.

And finally plenty of people have asked about how to get to DC, where to stay, and how to get around in a cost-conscious manner. I've detailed some of my recommendations in a similar post from last year (linked at the end of the article), but I will reiterate some of them here:

  • Plan Ahead: Most of your last minute and underplanned decisions come with extra cost.  Learn everything you can about the airport you're flying into, the hotel you're staying at, the Convention Center, and how to move between them effectively and cheaply.  Also, this may or may not apply, but if you're arriving from a warmer part of the country, bring a jacket!  It was cold (45 degrees) last year and raining half the time.
  • Fly Southwest: Most of the time (but not always), their fares are the lowest you'll find.  Consider flying into BWI instead of Reagan.  Southwest had some great direct flights into BWI, which saved me time and money. Also, it's not very difficult to get back to DC by train: the MARC train, when I took it last year, was $6 each way, and the Amtrak was $12 each way.  It takes planning to pull it off, but it beats catching cabs everywhere
  • Walk Everywhere: If you managed to snag decent accommodations close enough to the Convention Center, try walking.  It's free.  Of course, if it's raining, this may be less desirable unless you're only going a few blocks.
  • ...Or Learn the Bus Routes: Sure, the subway is fast, and sometimes it's convenient too.  But not always.  The buses cover large areas that are not well served by the metro trains, and in many cases you can plan door to door, minimizing your walk time.  Learn to use the WMATA Trip Planner to find good bus routes, and supplement that with the Next Bus tool (also mobile formatted so you can check it from your web-enabled phone).  If you need another reason to consider buses: they are $0.40 cheaper per ride than the trains, and you can transfer for free within 3 hours if you...
  • ...Get a SmarTrip Card: Paying cash costs more (ten cents, which I know isn't much) per ride than paying with a SmarTrip Card.  It's a $10 minimum investment ($5 for the card and a $5 initial balance), but you can easily rack up more than that in transit costs over the course of the job fair.  Also, if you are going to eventually move to DC, you'll want one anyway.  The other benefit of the SmarTrip Card is that it enables the free bus transfers mentioned above, since Metro no longer issues the paper kind.  This can save you money.
  • Consider Hosteling: Hotels are nice, but that comes with a pretty steep markup.  I don't know of any hotels in the DC area that are both nice and cost less than $75 a night (as listed on Kayak; this rate was for a room in College Park, Maryland).  Most will be significantly higher.  Consider this alternative: Hosteling International runs a hostel within walking distance of the Convention Center.  Their rates run well below hotel rates: $25-$45 a night for dorm style rooms.  Admittedly, it can be tough to get good quality sleep, but you're only going to be there for like three nights.  One other note: if you aren't a member of Hosteling International, you'll have to pay an extra $3 per night as a temporary membership fee.  It's still worth it, in my opinion, since the location is so good.  Also, it's a great way to meet other people from all over the world.

And now I would like to solicit your ideas, things you've observed and, especially from readers of this blog who are themselves current or former PMFs (I'm grateful that you've stopped by to share your wisdom).


Thursday, March 31, 2011

2011 PMF Finalists Update

[Also posted here]

[Update 1: There were 850 finalists this year. Last year there were 869.]

[Update 2: The list is now posted at, so if you haven't gotten your email yet, go check the list out.]

The finalists for the 2011 Presidential Management Fellows program have begun to receive their notifications. At present, the list has not been posted. Also, it looks like rejections may be going out first.

Join in the conversation on the Open Thread (well, the second one).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2011 PMF Finalists: Open Thread 2

Would you look at that? One of you (or all of you) must have broken the last thread, because it stopped paginating properly at around 800 comments. So I'm opening a new thread to catch the overflow. Comment here instead of the old one.

Just for Fun: One Month of Site Stats

I saw a few comments in the monstrously active Finalists Open Thread requesting some sort of informational post about the site statistics I am seeing. Well, here are some numbers for the past month. You can see a very sharp up-tick in visits as people began anticipating the finalist results. From these graphs, you can see that there appear to be far more than the 10 people using this site than someone jokingly suggested might be the case. I can explain a little bit about what these statistics mean, but I don't really want to bore anyone, so I will try to keep the explanation high level. Click on the images to make them bigger.

The first graph shows a breakdown of total visits vs. new visitors. This is Google's best guess as to what percentage of traffic is new. I am averaging 660 visits per day, and Google estimates that 85 of them are new. Of course it's not as simple as that, but I am not going to delve into the mechanics of Google Analytics. Others do that far more effectively.

The second graph is Google's estimation of the absolute unique visitors to the blog over the past month. Again, how it determines this is not straightforward enough to delve into here, so the number I am showing may seem a bit puzzling. The answer to the question, "How many people visit the blog?" seems to be AT MOST 3500 in the last month, which is obviously a lot larger than the number of semifinalists. It is conceivable, though highly unlikely, that every 2011 semifinalist has visited this blog in the last month. The most plausible explanation is that some of you have cleared your browser cache or space out your visits to the blog such that Google's tracking mechanism no longer recognizes you as a returning visitor, instead counting you as a unique visitor. My guess is that there are some several hundred of you lurking, with at most a hundred actively commenting. I have no way of confirming this, however, since I've limited my ability to collect that sort of information.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

2011 PMF Finalists: Open Thread

[Also posted here]

I've been waiting to post this until the PMF Program Office offered up any news. The 2011 PMF finalist list is due out sometime in late March, according to the latest news on the PMF web site. While this is still vague, it's nevertheless right around the corner. Historically, the PMF Program Office has provided roughly a 2 week news lead on the results, so my prediction is that we may hear something around March 29. As I have done in the past, I am opening this thread to collect your stories of acceptance or rejection. Did you make it? If so, congratulations to you. Is this the end of the PMF road for you? I know it may be disappointing, but consider what you've learned along the way, and remember how fierce the competition was; the semifinalists were already a stellar group, so you are in good company, just unfortunately on the wrong side of a line. Why not sit among peers and share your triumphs and frustrations?

Note: I would link to the news blurb on the PMF site, but since they still don't really get how everyone else does news, there won't be a permanent link to it, and it will die as soon as some new bit of fluff comes floating by. ;)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Calling for PMF Experiences

[Also posted here]

A number of current PMFs are working with GovLoop to put together a guide to the PMF Program, including what it's like to BE a PMF. While the audience on this blog to date has been applicants working their way through the PMF process, the fact is that many of you will become finalists and eventually successful PMFs. We would like to collect vignettes describing your experiences with the program, including any of the following: why you wanted to be a PMF; what you hope to accomplish in the program; what you think of any portion of the application process; your views on and experiences with training, rotations, and conversion; and anything else you want to share. As we get closer to publishing such a guide, we will solidify the list of topics. Expect it to cover the major areas, of course, but feel free to suggest things we may not have considered.

If you want to contribute anything, you can leave comments here; an email address is forthcoming, as are further details.

Monday, February 28, 2011

PMF 2011 In-Person Assessment: Debrief

[Also posted here]

The final make-up assessments were (presumably) completed on Friday, February 25, 2011.

In the interest of me not having to publish all the queued comments, I am opening a new thread where you can discuss your experience with the in person assessment this year. What did you think? How do you think you did? How do you think your fellow semifinalists did? What percentage of no-shows did you see?

We should be able to discuss the details of the assessment in much more depth now that the assessments are all complete. I am interested in what you thought of the questions, the subject matter covered, the assessors, the assessment centers, all of it.

Soon I will follow up with two more posts. One will be an open thread for you to discuss the finalist results, which of course are still forthcoming. The other will be an in-depth examination of the process from the assessor's point of view. Let me know if you want any other topics and I will try to accommodate.

Monday, January 10, 2011

2011 PMF In-Person Assessment: Locations

[Also posted on GovLoop]

In-person assessments for the 2011 PMFs begin on Tuesday, January 18 and run through Friday, February 18 at four locations throughout the U.S. According to the PMF Program Office, all notifications have gone out, so all 1530 of you should be scheduled for an assessment date and location (assuming you went ahead with it). The next step is getting to the assessment location.

The locations are as follows (also available on the PMF Program's Facebook page here):

Washington DC:

View Larger Map
Embassy Suites Downtown
1250 22nd St NW
Washington, DC 20037

Atlanta, GA:

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Atlanta Marriott Suites
35 14th Street NE
Atlanta, GA 30309

Chicago, IL:

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John C. Kluczynski Federal Building
230 South Dearborn Street
Suite 3070
Chicago, IL 60604

San Francisco, CA:

View Larger Map
San Francisco Federal Building
90 Seventh Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

I can't speak for the other cities, but I can at least tell you that public transportation directions are not available for Washington, DC, directly from Google Maps (they are, but aren't accurate). Use Google Maps to orient yourself and then use to get routes and timetables. Any advice for the other cities would be appreciated.