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.


  1. Wow, thanks so much for the update! I was considering emailing the dean of my school for a nomination in advance, so I'm glad to hear about these changes.

  2. I guess I should clarify that these changes have not gone into effect yet, so until the PMF program office publishes updated application procedures, you should assume that they will follow existing rules.

  3. When were placement rates as low as 40%

  4. Do you think the changes will go into effect before this next cycle starts? And if not, if the changes come mid year, say December or something- would would that mean?

  5. Too little, too late.

  6. god i wish there were more jobs being posted

  7. I plan on applying in Sept. I am curious as to increased applications/competition considering graduates may apply. If I am reading these old posts correctly, JD's might have a placement advantage. I really want this so, hopefully it works out.

  8. Keep in mind these changes haven't been implemented yet. You'll be applying under the same rules I and everyone else on this board to date have been under.

  9. If the changes do in fact get put into place- do you think next year students who just graduated from their grad program will still be able to apply?

    So if I graduate in May 2012 but don't yet want to apply for PMF this September 2011, can I apply then in September 2012?

  10. That's probably possible. I have no reason to suspect the proposed changes will fail to be accepted. However, you might consider applying this year, with the knowledge that you may not make it through to one of the successive rounds. If you make it through, great. If not, you can take what you've learned and try again next year.

  11. Good call. Thanks for the advice!

  12. Re: the "Interactive" instead of Classroom Training change...

    I was thinking that it would be nice to see a post on classroom training opportunities for current PMFs. I am in the process of drafting my Individual Development Plan (IDP) and would love to get some feedback from people about which training courses they have taken, which ones were great, which ones stink, etc.

    Having already gone through a MINIMALLY interactive training session already (ugh), I am optimistic about this change to the PMF program and interested to hear from current/former PMFs about other learning opportunities out there!

  13. PMF Fellow,

    Do you have a post previously written that gives "application" advice, since it is coming up shortly?

    3L Law Student

  14. I don't have anything specific on the application process. It hasn't changed for this year, so anything you find on previous years would still apply. Do you have a specific question? I can try to answer those.

    Here is some general advice I can give, though:
    1) Find out ASAP who at your school handles nominations. You don't want to wait until the last minute to find out who does this, especially if you are at a school that doesn't have experience with the program.
    2) Make sure you have any documents you need to submit ready. They are all listed on the website.
    3) This may seem obvious, but make sure you actually submit your application all the way through. Give yourself enough time to verify that everything you intended to submit was included, and to resolve any technical issues in case there is a problem.

    Other than that, good luck.

  15. PMF Fellow,

    Thanks so much. My dean said he will already nominate me, so I have that covered.

    I was curious if there are specific essay questions that I can start working on? Do I need to fill out the USAJOBS resume builder or just wait until I am rerouted to Application Manager?

    Yes, I am a crazy detail oriented law student :) Thanks for this blog!

    3L Law Student

  16. 3L,
    First of all, breathe. I graduated law, and there was no one else from my school picked for PMF. The details of this application is that they are looking for "leadership" answers. If you have worked in government then you have some idea of how it should look. If you haven't find someone who has been in a federal position and show them one of the crazy questions they will ask.

    Despite your detailed organization, you still need to be personable to federal employees. They are going to gauge whether or not they would want to work with you, so if you lead with hyperactive over-achievement you won't make it. Save that for interviews, then you can get a job with DoD. This isn't a race, and you can't really practice essays. It's not the LSAT.

    Yes, build a resume on USAjobs, and then you upload it into the application manager. If you need to upload it from another source it has to be in the USAjobs format. And you can google the requirements for federal resumes.

    P.S. No one is screening the employers. So even if you rock it all the way to the interview, you are probably going to get a job where you twiddle your thumbs for two months because HR isn't familiar with PMFs. Then they will mess up your pay. Then you realize that you are way over qualified for the GS 9 job you accepted, and that your supervisor retired on active duty a long time ago but keeps showing up to work.

  17. I'd make as kick ass of a resume as possible, both on USA Jobs, and your normal one. If you get far enough along in the process, your resume will be the most used and viewed thing out there. The job fair this past year was one big resume collect, so having a strong resume will separate you from the pack. Basically, the employers that show up there weed through resume and give the best ones a call that same day to interview.

    As far as advice getting through the initial screening process, be honest on your answers in the online assessment. There were some where you are tempted to put an answer you think is best but really isn't true, but just put the one that fits with you. Also, be able to type quickly and coherently. If you make it to the in person assessment, good job. The online assessment weeds out the most people, and the in person one I think weeded out another 50% or so. Don't be an ass or look like you are nervous. I was the voice of reason in a divided group and I think that is why I passed through. I didn't try to out smart anyone or make anyone look bad, I was just a halfway decent communicator and not off putting.

    Lastly, you won't be any different than the 300 or so law students who become finalists (if you even get that far). I sure as hell wasn't and my background was criminal law and law enforcement, and in my law school career, I actually achieved a lot. The DOJ didn't show up, and the criminal oriented agencies like DoD, CBP, etc. didn't give a shit. So expand your horizons and realize that there are cool jobs in some of the non-sexier agencies. Most of the legal type jobs seemed boring: analyzing legislation or writing rules and policy. If that doesn't appeal to you, then look into other things. I actually got a pretty cool position with an agency that I am sure plenty people wouldn't consider sexy, but I am not analyzing legislation or writing policy, and the job is a lot of fun.

    Also, separate yourself from the pack in anyway you can. On paper, I surely didn't think I was qualified for the position I got, but I was considered because I did a lot of charity work that was related to the agency's mission. That alone got my foot in the door, and even though I still didn't feel like I had enough experience for the position, I think they took a gamble on me because of my passion for the mission and figured I was smart enough to learn the ropes eventually. So, if you volunteered assisting veterans (VA), planting trees (Ag or Interior), or low income housing (HUD), then be sure to emphasize that stuff. Because, just like every other law student, I clerked at a firm and a government agency just like everyone else. My charity work was actually probably what got me hired.