The story was updated at 10:24 a.m. Oct. 22 to include comments from OPM.
The online guide Path to PMF offers a step-by-step process for applying to the Presidential Management Fellowship as the program opens up this year to more candidates.
The site offers a PDF guide, as well as videos with current and former PMFs, agency PMF coordinators and university career advisers.
PMF is a two-year fellowship that places a recent graduate with a federal agency. However, the instructions for how to navigate the application process is somewhat of a “black hole,” said Bo Kemper, executive director of Robertson Foundation for Government, which created the guide with GovLoop, an online networking site for feds.
Traditionally PMF was eligible to only graduate students in the year they were completing their education. As part of the Pathways Program, the Office of Personnel Management changed the eligibility to two years since graduating.
“I think you’re going to see a huge influx of applicants, and because it’s a new process, they’re going to need help to navigate through that process. ”
— Steve Ressler, Founder, GovLoop
With the new requirements, OPM estimates up to 30,000 applicants could apply, said Steve Ressler, founder of GovLoop. Last year, 9,000 graduate students applied to be a PMF, with 750 becoming finalists and 60 percent of them placed with an agency, according to OPM.
“I think you’re going to see a huge influx of applicants, and because it’s a new process, they’re going to need help to navigate through that process,” Ressler said.
One of the changes is an online assessment to apply for the PMF. Previously, schools nominated students to apply. The window to apply is Nov. 5-19.
Ressler said one of the biggest mistakes applicants make is to “underplay their skills.”
“Don’t be humble,” he said. “Being humble is the worse thing to do in this.”
He also said interviewees noted the need to “quadruple-check” an application.
“Like all things, a lot of folks get missed in the initial screening. So if you do any kind of misspelling or any of those small things, you can get kicked out of the system,” Ressler said.
Path to PMF also offers advice on what to do during the in-person assessment, at the job fair and how to make most of the fellowship.
Although OPM does not officially endorse the guide, the personnel agency worked with GovLoop on fact-checking throughout its creation, Kemper said. It was, he said, “a very collaborative product.”
OPM still encourages applicants to go to the PMF website for the most up-to-date information, said Angela Bailey, OPM’s associate director of employee services, in an email to Federal News Radio.
Path to PMF has also offers insight into the type of candidates vying to be a PMF, including a map of where fellows come from and the subject of their graduate degrees. Not only does it serve applicants, it also presents data that OPM may not be aware of, Kemper said. For example, the guide shows the number of law school graduates accepted into the program has exceeded the number of public policy majors.
GovLoop and the Robertson Foundation for Government are in the early stages now of creating resources for other ways to get into public service.
“You have this cadre of folks who are passionate about public service, who have applied to PMF, and my thought is, ‘How do you leverage those folks and help them get into govt by these other channels?'” Ressler said.