Amber Williams ’12 worked her 1L summer at two NGO's in Bulgaria (The Center for Legal Aid--Voice in Bulgaria and the Rule of Law Institute) and during her 2L summer at the National Nuclear Security Administration in D.C. I interviewed her recently on GChat to talk about her federal government job search.
PSC: Hi Amber, I'm so glad you can join us. You just started a job recently working with the Administrative Conference of the United States. What does the agency do and how are you liking it so far?
Amber: I started at the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) nearly 3 weeks ago. ACUS is an independent agency charged with making government better and more efficient. I absolutely love my job. Everyday I feel like I am making a positive difference.
PSC: That's wonderful! When you started law school, what kinds of jobs were you interested in?
Amber: I didn't have a particular job in mind. I knew I wanted to make a difference and that I wanted to work in D.C., but I didn't have a particular career path sketched out.
PSC: Sure. Many of us feel that way when starting out. Let me fast forward then to your 3L year. This is a long, hard year for many public service students. How did you start out your job search?
Amber: I started out by meeting with different people and by pursuing a number of opportunities. I met with you, Kevin Donovan, and other attorneys working in public interest careers to brainstorm particular jobs to pursue and to draft my cover letters accordingly. I also set up alerts through Symplicity and PSLawNet so that I would know when certain jobs became available. Separately, I scoured both Symplicity and PSLawNet about once a week in case any job opportunities fell through the cracks. I also regularly visited both USAJobs and federal agency websites. I stayed in touch with attorneys in D.C. and returned to D.C. a handful of times to attend networking events. I kept a spreadsheet of the jobs I applied to so that I knew at a glance what stage I was at with each application.
PSC: You were organized! When and how did you find out about the ACUS opening?
Amber: I found out about the ACUS opening from Professor (now Dean) Magill the last week of winter break 2012. I had never heard of ACUS before, but when I visited the website, I got really excited about ACUS’ mission and knew I had to be part of it.
PSC: You applied for the position, of course. What did you do after that to help your chances of getting the job?
Amber: ACUS contacted me for a Skype interview. I set up a meeting with you to prepare for the interview and you recommended I go in person. I did go and both at the interview and since I've started my job, I was told that that was a good decision. After the interview, I followed up by sending ACUS a couple of different writing samples to show my versatility as a writer. I also gave them letters of recommendation from attorneys with whom I had worked at NNSA. In addition, I asked five professors to contact and recommend me to ACUS.
PSC: When did you end up getting your offer?
Amber: They called me two weeks after the interview and extended the offer to me. I was absolutely thrilled and accepted on the spot. That was right before spring break, so the whole ACUS application/interview process took nearly two months.
PSC: That meant you were working on your job search most of your third year. Any words of advice for 3Ls now about things to keep in mind as they enter their job searches?
Amber: I think meeting with ACUS in person was extremely important because it showed my genuine interest in the job. However, those professors and attorneys who advocated for me, especially Professor Magill, were instrumental in helping me attain my dream job. I recommend developing relationships with attorneys and professors who know you and your work. UVA professors want their students to succeed; they are there to help you. I also recommend meeting with Annie and the Public Service Center staff. They have a wealth of knowledge and are ready, willing, and able to help you achieve your dream job. Attend their functions, meet one-on-one with them. Also, keep searching for jobs and applying. Set time aside every week to apply to more jobs. The more applications you have out there, the better chance you have at landing a job. Finally, don't give up. This is still a tough market, but if you are dedicated and stay the course, it will serve you well!