Public service group promotes networking site, campus program

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During a panel discussion with nearly 100 interns Tuesday, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting public service began pushing a social networking site it is set to launch in the next month and a program to send government representatives to college campuses.

The networking site, developed by the Partnership for Public Service, will begin as a resource for potential employees to learn more about government jobs by viewing the profiles of current federal workers. It will include video tours through offices, message boards and answers to common questions.

The Walter and Leonore Annenberg Public Service Speakers Bureau will enlist distinguished representatives to visit college campuses and other venues to educate young people about careers in public service and help them navigate the federal employment system. It will debut on campuses this fall.

"Students need a personal connection to get turned on to government, not just technology in and of itself," said Tim McManus, vice president for education and outreach at the Partnership. "This way, we can put a face on government and deliver things virtually. The problem is that neither the Partnership nor government itself can hit all potential audiences."

The Partnership is considering ways to push the network through existing social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. Initially, it will be a stand-alone database operating through the Web site Making the Difference.

Russell Krumnow, the program manager of the speakers bureau, added that the federal employees on the networking site will be from many different agencies and areas of the country so that job seekers can fully appreciate the federal government's reach.

In the longer term, however, the networking site could become a resource for current federal employees -- not just applicants.

"We've also talked about getting government employees to interact with each other," said Krumnow. "First, they'll reach out to external audiences, but we could have electronic working groups and get people talking across agencies. We're not there yet, but that's really the long-term vision."

The speakers bureau will perform much the same mission as the networking site.

"It's not just to do the rah-rah, but to help them figure out where . . . when the rubber hits the road, how do I get in [to government]?" McManus said. "The federal system is so different, you can't just say, here's my resume, I've applied."

Both McManus and Krumnow said that many federal employees have expressed interest in participating. Most recently, the Partnership met with members of the State Department's Diplomats in Residence program, senior Foreign Service officers who have been stationed on college and university campuses. Those officers are ideally positioned to both sell federal service to students and report back to the Partnership about what recruiting strategies are effective on campuses.

McManus said he believes that personal interactions with federal workers through social networking and campus events can help the government compete with corporate recruiters and supplement inadequate or understaffed career service centers by giving students the tools to pursue jobs that match their interests.

"Students really want to make a difference," McManus said. "Government is a way to do that on a scale that is unprecedented, and if government can provide concrete examples of that through the Web site and speakers, that's more powerful than any lunch with a corporate recruiter."

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