Job Hunting During a Pandemic

A Conversation with the Future

I took a meeting yesterday from a graduating college senior. She was looking for my take on the job market in the DMV.

Senior: I’m graduating from a Virginia school with a degree in marketing. I’ve earned good grades, had a summer internship with a not-for-profit, and now I’m looking for a job. Any idea where to start?

Melissa: Have you considered a job with the federal government.

Job hunting during a pandemic

Senior: (Laughs) Wait six months for my application to magically appear on some desk, worry about being furloughed, and never see a raise?

Melissa: I understand your concerns. National politics aside, hear me out. Historically, the federal government has been a stable place to build a career. I know hundreds of federal workers in dozens of offices. They mainly like their jobs, enjoy supporting their missions, have decent co-workers, a path to promotion, and solid benefits and pay. Think healthcare, retirement, vacation. I realize healthcare and retirement may not be high on your list at 22, but in a few years you may be married with a child.

Senior: (Nods) I don’t know if I can wait for a job to come through. My student loans won’t wait.

Melissa: Not all jobs take months to go through the system. Consider a paid internship to build some more skills while you wait. Put in your applications and look for job in the private world. That may take some time too, get the ball rolling. Or, find a job but consider something with the government in a year or two.

Senior: You can’t deny the pay isn’t the same as with a private company.

Melissa: Not in all cases. Each GS level has step grades you can progress through. The pay increase freeze is wrapped up in politics and won’t last forever. Maybe by the time you find a government job, things will have changed. Consider your choices: NASA, the CDC, FBI, Smithsonian, State Department. The federal government offers a lot of interesting agencies, supporting important work all over the world. And hey, the metro is right up the road.

Check out and start looking for your next great career. This is not a paid message for the feds. I just work with a lot of great people – it’s a bonus of life in Prince William County.

This article was initially published in Prince William Living Magazine.

Melissa Davies is an executive leadership coach and facilitator as well as the author of How Not to Act Like a BLEEP at Work. She resides in Prince William County and runs Wise Ways Consulting, which specializes in leadership, management and team development, executive coaching, group facilitation and high-engagement training. She can be reached at or through