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Advice for Employers and Recruiters

How Governmental Agencies Can Attract College Students and Recent Graduates for Administrative Roles

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Anita Jobb AvatarAnita Jobb
June 27, 2024

In the quest to attract the bright minds of college students and recent graduates to administrative roles, we’ve gathered insights from a diverse set of professionals, including Directors of Operations and CEOs. From implementing reverse-mentorship programs to showcasing career progression opportunities, we explore the sixteen pieces of advice these experts have to offer for large governmental agencies.

  • Implement Reverse-Mentorship Programs
  • Form Partnerships with Universities
  • Showcase Authentic Stories on Social Media
  • Highlight Impact and Career Growth
  • Emphasize Work’s Meaningful Impact
  • Redefine Work Structure and Career Paths
  • Host Impactful Public Service Workshops
  • Promote Growth Opportunities in Public Service
  • Utilize TikTok for Job Insight Videos
  • Improve Government Agency Branding
  • Prioritize Dynamic Development Programs
  • Facilitate Transition In and Out of Roles
  • Offer Competitive Salaries and Benefits
  • Provide Robust Mentorship and Development
  • Leverage College Alumni Networks
  • Showcase Career Progression Opportunities

Implement Reverse-Mentorship Programs

Establish a reverse-mentorship program where young hires mentor senior employees on the latest technologies and trends. This not only values the fresh perspectives of young professionals but also enhances intergenerational learning and collaboration, bridging the gap between generations and fostering a more inclusive and innovative workplace environment.

Vanessa Anello, Professional Development Consultant, Workforce Charm, LLC

Form Partnerships with Universities

To get students and recent graduates into administrative positions in a government agency, it is very important to form partnerships with universities. Such partnerships would help in creating internship programs, co-op opportunities, and even job-shadowing days. Students thereby gain practical experience that enables them to develop ideas of what the real-world work environment is like, besides establishing relationships with the agency.

Additionally, such relationships can be strengthened through engaging university career centers and participating in campus career fairs. Public administration should also provide workshops, as well as guest lectures and seminars featuring agency practitioners, which will help students appreciate many aspects of public administration. It does not only promote the visibility of the organization but also proves its commitment towards nurturing future public servants.

Jessica Bane, Director of Business Operations, GoPromotional

Showcase Authentic Stories on Social Media

Millennials and Zoomers have strong values when it comes to job seeking, so you can’t rely on salary alone.

Instead, focus on building your image across social media. Share authentic stories and testimonials that give potential candidates a window into your organization’s culture. Highlight growth opportunities and professional development programs while also emphasizing the mission-driven aspects of the work to resonate with young professionals’ values.

A recent YouTube ad campaign by the Royal Navy, ‘Melanie’s Story,’ is a great example of how government agencies can connect with young professionals. The ad promises self-determination, career progression, and variety by joining the armed forces. While the specifics of the job differ from those of administrative work, the vision that it promises candidates is relatively scalable across most large government organizations.

Sebastian Morgan, Senior Content Specialist, CV Genius

Highlight Impact and Career Growth

To attract college students and recent graduates, highlight how their roles will directly impact the community and society at large. Young professionals today are driven by purpose and want their work to matter. 

Showcase the meaningful, tangible outcomes their contributions will bring. Whether it’s improving public services, enhancing community resources, or driving innovative projects, make it clear that their efforts won’t just be routine tasks—they’ll be part of something bigger, something that makes a difference.

Combine this with a clear path for career growth. Offer detailed examples of how their roles can evolve over time, leading to greater responsibilities and opportunities. Internships, mentorship programs, and clear progression routes can make the positions more appealing. The promise of growth coupled with meaningful work can be a powerful motivator for young talent eager to launch their careers and make a mark.

Cesar Cobo, Director of Operations, Webris

Emphasize Work’s Meaningful Impact

Drawing from my 12 years of experience in the migration and education sector, I believe one important piece of advice for large governmental agencies looking to attract college students and recent graduates is to emphasize the meaningful impact of their work. At KBA Global, we’ve seen firsthand how young professionals are increasingly driven by a desire to make a difference in the world.

To appeal to this demographic, agencies should highlight how their administrative roles contribute to important societal goals and public service. They could showcase specific projects or initiatives that have tangible benefits for communities or individuals. For instance, when we help students navigate the complexities of studying abroad, we emphasize how their experience can lead to personal growth and cross-cultural understanding.

Additionally, agencies should consider offering structured mentorship programs and clear career progression paths. Young graduates are often looking for opportunities to learn and grow professionally. By demonstrating a commitment to their development, agencies can position themselves as attractive long-term career options.

Lastly, leveraging digital platforms and social media to communicate these opportunities and showcase the agency’s culture can significantly boost engagement with this tech-savvy generation. At KBA Global, we’ve found that a strong online presence helps us connect with young talent effectively.

Shambhu Kadel, Founder, KBA Global

Redefine Work Structure and Career Paths

To attract young professionals, employers should consider automating or delegating routine tasks like data entry or generating status reports to gig work. This not only boosts efficiency but also offers employees more freedom and flexibility. Simultaneously, it’s crucial to personalize the more interactive, human aspects of work, giving individuals the autonomy to shape their own career trajectories based on where they see value.

Clearly outlining career paths and potential lateral moves within an agency can significantly help new or prospective hires visualize their future within the organization. For instance, the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency introduced a Cyber Career Pathways tool, which is a fantastic example. This tool outlines 52 different work roles, each described in detail with the necessary skill levels required. This kind of resource can be invaluable for someone exploring potential career paths in cybersecurity or any other field within the government.

Rosana Tejada Crespo, CEO, Tejada Solicitors Law Firm

Host Impactful Public Service Workshops

As a business owner, I know all about strategic engagement and outreach. If a large government agency wants to attract college students and recent grads to admin roles, they should host workshops on the impact of public service. These workshops inform and inspire students. They show them that public service is not just a job; it’s a chance to make a difference.

Showcasing how admin roles contribute to real societal change can help young professionals match their values and aspirations. Interactive sessions, where students can participate in simulated projects or case studies, will give them a flavor of the work and its importance. When students see the real impact they can have on their community through public service, it ignites a passion and commitment that goes beyond just looking for a job.

Lucas Riphagen, Co-owner, TriActiveUSA

Promote Growth Opportunities in Public Service

To attract college students and recent graduates for administrative roles, I would advise a large governmental agency to emphasize the impact and opportunities for growth within public service. Highlight the agency’s role in shaping policies and initiatives that affect communities, offering meaningful work with tangible outcomes. 

Provide avenues for professional development, such as mentorship programs and cross-functional training, showcasing a clear path for career advancement. Utilize digital platforms and social media creatively to share stories of employees making a difference. Lastly, offer competitive benefits that reflect the agency’s commitment to work-life balance and employee well-being, appealing to the values of today’s young professionals.

Mohammad Goodarzi, Co-Founder, Pixune Studios

Utilize TikTok for Job Insight Videos

Create short video content for TikTok and social media by interviewing colleagues on the job. Young people are using TikTok as a primary search engine over Google Search. 

Video is nice because you can show versus tell people about your company culture and career progression. You can do a quick interview, less than 5 minutes, recorded on a phone, edit it, add captions, and post it to socials in under an hour.

Cooper Newby, Co-founder, Classet

Improve Government Agency Branding

Government agencies should focus on improving their brand. It’s a misconception that only private institutions need to worry about branding!

To draw in top talent and fresh graduates, especially those just starting their careers, government agencies must enhance how they’re perceived as employers. Despite the significant and impactful work these agencies handle, they often don’t communicate this effectively.

Government bodies should actively promote the dynamic and meaningful work they do. This approach resonates well with those who are purpose-driven, informing them about the diverse roles, learning opportunities, and experiences public service provides. 

For instance, the city of Denver launched a branding campaign titled “Be a part of the city that you love,” aimed at fostering pride among citizens and encouraging them to work for the government. They even featured their employees as “brand champions.” This campaign resulted in a 19% boost in job applications, showing how powerful effective branding can be in attracting fresh talent.

Alex LaDouceur, Co-Founder, Webineering

Prioritize Dynamic Development Programs

A large governmental agency must prioritize a dynamic development program to attract college students and recent graduates. Highlight opportunities for mentorship, career progression, and real-impact projects. 

Young professionals crave growth and a sense that their work makes a difference. Early in my career, mentorship transformed my understanding of industry intricacies and accelerated my growth. 

It illustrated the value of professional guidance and continuous learning. Conveying this commitment to development and impact is key to drawing in top young talent.

Beni Avni, President, New York Gates

Facilitate Transition In and Out of Roles

Government agencies need to make it easier to transition in and out of government roles to attract young professionals in administrative roles and compete effectively with private institutions for talent.

The government workforce increasingly requires “trisector athletes”—people who can navigate the diverse cultures of the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, bringing their varied skills and experiences to tackle today’s significant challenges. With workers now often pursuing careers that involve multiple roles and employers, government agencies should focus on making it more rewarding and straightforward for these workers to return to public service if they wish. 

Some strategies already being implemented include enhancing alumni programs to encourage “boomerang” employees, utilizing special hiring authorities, and creating opportunities for short-term assignments in government through secondments or initiatives like the Presidential Innovation Fellows and White House Fellows programs. 

For instance, NASA has been employing limited appointment authorities in recent years to bring in temporary talent. It aims for a more ‘porous border’ where employees can move between NASA and commercial space organizations, facilitating a dynamic exchange of ideas and skills.

Michael Brown, Managing Partner, Dribbin & Brown Criminal Lawyers

Offer Competitive Salaries and Benefits

My advice is to ensure that the salary and benefits packages are competitive with the private sector. Many young people are concerned about financial security and may be swayed by the perception that government jobs do not pay as well as those in the private sector. 

Highlighting competitive salaries, excellent healthcare benefits, pension plans, and student loan assistance can make government roles more attractive. Additionally, promoting other unique benefits like job stability and generous leave policies could also appeal to this demographic.

Leigh McKenzie, Community Advocate, Traffic Think Tank

Provide Robust Mentorship and Development

My advice for a large governmental agency to attract college students and recent graduates for their administrative roles is to offer a robust mentorship and professional development program. 

Many young professionals are eager to learn and grow in their careers, and a clear pathway for advancement can be very appealing. This program should include regular mentorship sessions with experienced professionals, opportunities for continuous learning through workshops and courses, and exposure to a variety of departments within the agency. 

By showcasing a commitment to investing in their future and providing tangible opportunities for career growth, the agency can position itself as an attractive employer for the next generation of administrators.

Mike Drouin, Co-founder, Digital Marketing Director, Gardening & Home Improvement Expert, Reefertilizer

Leverage College Alumni Networks

The strategy I’d suggest is utilizing alumni networks of various colleges and universities. Engage with alumni who are currently in government roles to act as ambassadors to reach out through these networks. 

They can share their positive experiences and the benefits of their careers in government, providing a relatable and persuasive recruitment message to soon-to-be graduates and recent alumni.

Alan Parkes, Owner, Roofcorp

Showcase Career Progression Opportunities

My top advice for attracting students or recent graduates to these kinds of roles is to emphasize the ways that working in the role could facilitate future career progress. Students and recent graduates are often eager to add relevant work experience to their resumes that can help them land other roles down the line, and will be more likely to take an administrative role that feels like it’s productive in this way for them.

There are multiple ways to do this. If your organization has a track record of promoting entry-level employees into higher roles, that’s definitely something to mention in the job postings. Also, consider what useful skills the candidate could learn or hone during their employment. 

For instance, if they’ll be using a popular software program like an ATS or CRM that can enhance their resume, or if they’ll be responsible for things like entering payroll data or typing up meeting minutes, which can give them insights into how the agency functions behind the scenes. The better you can demonstrate how the administrative role can be a stepping-stone to future opportunities, the more likely you’ll be to attract young applicants to the posting.

Matt Erhard, Managing Partner, Summit Search Group

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