COLUMN ONE : It’s Nice Work If You Can Get It : Thousands vie for jobs in the new Administration. One offers to be photographer of Socks the cat. Another ships a streudel. But connections still count the most.


“Jobs, jobs, jobs,” candidate Bill Clinton promised, talking, of course, about providing them to help boost the ailing economy. But now that he is President, tens of thousands of individuals are pulling out all the stops to get him to deliver--personally.

The fledgling Administration, more so than any in recent memory, has been besieged by job applicants.

Many have campaign or capital connections--if not blue-chip credentials--that are the real keys to a successful search in a city where personal ties and political fealty are the coin of the realm.

Others, however, are turning to good old American ingenuity.

Take the Californian who applied to be house photographer for Socks the cat. Or the Miami Beach man who mailed in a can’t-miss 2 1/2-foot-by-3 1/2-foot laminated resume. Or Mr. Determination, who sent 10 copies of his resume daily between Nov. 4 and Christmas.

Then there are the letters from adolescents seeking to be Chelsea Clinton’s companion or--for those with a policy bent--the children’s representative to the Cabinet. Scores of would-be FOBs (Friends of Bill) have sent photos of themselves with the peripatetic Clinton in various settings around the country throughout his career.


One woman even sent homemade apple strudel by Federal Express to a senior personnel official. “All I ask is 10 minutes of your time and I will bake a fresh hot apple strudel as an incentive for you,” the homespun aspirant wrote. “What have you got to lose?”

Not at least since Ronald Reagan’s arrival in 1981, if not John F. Kennedy’s election two decades earlier, has the federal government been such a Mecca for those “who want to serve.”

Twelve years of pent-up Democratic job demand--combined with Clinton’s distinctly generational appeal and a distressed economy--has drawn legions here in search of a place in the Administration or, alternatively, a post on Capitol Hill or with one of Washington’s many interest groups and think tanks.

In a city where youthful pin-stripers trade business cards at keg parties, the odds are daunting even for eternal optimists.

The White House personnel office has received more than 100,000 applications for about 2,800 political positions that it can fill. And, as the Clinton appointment machinery slowly grinds along, the resumes continue to pour in by the truckload.

This compares to 40,000 applicants when Vice President George Bush took over from President Ronald Reagan four years ago and many Republican appointees were held over. Reagan’s changing of the guard when he replaced Democratic President Jimmy Carter drew many more resumes than Bush’s ascendancy, but the number is not believed to be anywhere near as high as the Clinton deluge, capital veterans say.

“This is a much bigger entry population than usual,” said Stephen Hess, a presidential scholar at the Brookings Institution, who has witnessed the arrival of eight administrations.

“Lots and lots of these people are going to be very disillusioned because what isn’t made clear is how few political appointments a new Administration has to give out.”

To wit: The Democratic National Committee sponsored a job fair here earlier this month that was expected to draw about 1,200 hopefuls. More than 3,000 showed up. Many had journeyed here from Little Rock, Ark., or elsewhere after earning their partisan spurs in the Clinton-Gore campaign.

The frenzy to be part of a government structure that was only recently scorned from coast to coast--and still is in many places--is hardly limited to the new Administration.

The Democratic Study Group, a House research organization that runs a job-listing service, has been swamped with 3,000 resumes a week for the last two months for the 40 to 50 jobs available on the Hill at any given time. Its GOP counterpart, the Republican Study Committee, has received 7,000 applications for 200 to 300 open positions since Nov. 3.

Individual lawmakers also are awash in a tidal wave of would-be aides. Freshman Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Montebello) has received about 2,000 resumes--piled up in two foot-high stacks--for three openings. Applicants with master’s and law degrees have sought positions answering phones and reading mail. Salaries for entry-level House jobs start around $15,000.

Every morning in early January, hundreds of young hopefuls flooded the marble halls of the Capitol and adjoining office buildings to distribute resumes to lawmakers’ offices. “Some were casual about it and they’d smile at you but other people were really cutthroat and they wouldn’t even look at you,” recalled Mara Senn, 24, a Swarthmore College graduate who landed a job with freshman Rep. Frank Tejeda (D-Tex.) after moving here early last month.

Interest groups also are deeply immersed in this free-for-all as they maneuver to place their allies in key posts. One veteran Washington insider who is active in Democratic and women’s circles recently pleaded with a reporter not to mention her name in this article “because my phone will go crazy. I’m already getting 60 calls a day.”

It is difficult to gauge just how many people--particularly young people--have streamed into Washington and its environs to hunt for full-time jobs. The lucky ones gained paid positions in the transition or inauguration operations. Others have been forced to get by as temps or are draining savings or relying on parental subsidies as they knock on doors.

“If you want to make money, you go to New York. If you want fame, you go to Los Angeles. And if you want to make policy or change the world, you come to Washington,” said Pat Reilly, director of communications for the National Women’s Political Caucus.

One job hopeful is Juanita Gutierrez. The 23-year-old daughter of Mexican immigrants from East Los Angeles was the first member of her family to attend college. When she graduated from prestigious Wellesley College last spring, she was inspired by a commencement speaker who has emerged as one of the school’s most high-powered alumnae: Hillary Rodham Clinton.

After working on Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, Gutierrez moved to the capital on Nov. 30--determined to be part of a generational change and to learn about the workings of government at the highest level. She is particularly interested in advancing the interests of Latinos and women in a trade or international relations capacity.

“Very few of us actually get to college and make it through a school like Wellesley,” Gutierrez said between networking and resume-shopping. “There aren’t many Latinos or Latinas in government and I think I can make a difference in the Administration to some extent.”

Gutierrez, who worked at the inaugural committee until this month, spends some of her time these days volunteering at the White House personnel office in the Old Executive Office Building. This ornate outpost is ground zero for the capital’s most intense resume wars.

The Administration has 2,800 full-time political jobs to dispense. About 650 require Senate confirmation--Cabinet and sub-Cabinet slots, ambassadors, members of regulatory commissions, U.S. attorneys and federal judgeships. The rest are middle and lower management slots.

Most of the remaining 2.2 million federal jobs are Civil Service positions filled by career employees throughout the sprawling bureaucracy.

Efforts by Clinton to decrease the size of the government by 100,000 positions will not make job-hunting any easier. Conversely, this Administration has vowed to create more opportunities for women and minorities.

Every new job application is entered into a computer system known as Resumix. The computer is then able to sort and search for certain qualifications and skills--a college or graduate degree, experience in a particular field or language ability. It also can pinpoint those who have applied to work in specific areas, such as criminal justice or national security.

Some applications are difficult to process. Videos don’t cut it. Resumes that have arrived on blazing orange paper also have been difficult for the computer to digest.

Families who have sent photos of themselves cloaked in Clinton-Gore regalia are not gaining a leg up. And those who mail scrapbooks or weighty compendiums on their life experiences probably aren’t doing themselves any favors either, say White House personnel aides.

Neither are those who have written Mrs. Clinton, asking her to “put in a good word” for them with her husband.

Another long-shot is the zoo keeper who said he was mauled by a hippopotamus and wants a job that requires a zoology background--but one presumably far from the front lines.

Some of the letters contain “desperate stories from people who really need jobs,” said Claire Rusk, who helps read and sort incoming resumes at the White House. “Sad stories.”

Chase Untermeyer, who was chief of personnel for Bush, said that most of those who obtained posts during his tenure were either proven commodities from the Ronald Reagan Administration or had well-connected sponsors such as Cabinet members, lawmakers or members of the First Family.

He said those who sent in resumes cold ranged from “people with genuine talent to kooks and delusionists. People who were self-nominated were almost always in the second category.”

Among the memorable applications he recalled was the full-colored, self-published book, “The Amazing Mr. M,” which touted the virtues of a self-made millionaire--complete with pictures of the author next to his Cadillac and his grandchildren. He was not hired.

Pendleton James, Reagan’s first presidential personnel assistant, said the new Reagan Administration broke all previous records for mail during its first 10 days. James could not recall how many resumes arrived but surmised that it was many more than during Bush’s transition.

One applicant who did not win a post with Reagan was the woman who sent 100 resumes, each with a different cover letter and each applying for a different job. “I figured that anybody who has that much time on their hands probably was not a good candidate,” said James, who now runs his own executive placement firm in New York.

Peter Ansel, a 1992 graduate of UC Davis who worked on the reelection campaign of California Rep. Vic Fazio (D-West Sacramento) last year, figures he has as many as 75 resumes scattered about town--but no more than one with any source. Ansel moved here from Sacramento last month.

“At 23 years old I can afford to be in Washington not making a whole lot of money in an entry-level position (and) I can work in the process of change,” said Ansel, whose interest in politics stems from involvement in pro-Israel causes. “I’m not sure what graduate program I want to go on to and I want to spend a couple of years learning the political process.”

Untermeyer, James and others who were interviewed offered their own compendium of advice for those engaged in the nerve-racking process of Administration job-hunting:

Try to find at least one high-profile political sponsor in the Administration, on Capitol Hill or with access. “Multiple entry points,” as one savant called them, are even better.

Focus on specific positions. A good starting point is the famous Plum Book, which lists 9,000 executive and legislative positions and their pay scales.

Network, network, network. Milk university contacts. Go on “informational” interviews, and request names of others to meet. Put your resume in as many different hands as possible.

Volunteer somewhere, at least part time, while looking. This builds contacts and provides a professional phone number to dispense to prospective employers.

Be persistent (but not a pest). “Go back, go back, go back until someone focuses on you,” James said. Resume-wielding applicants ambushed him in parking lots and restaurants.

Avoid any problems with illegal immigrant employers or unpaid federal taxes for household help. This, of course, is Washington’s newest hiring no-no.

“I think of looking for a job in Washington as being a monkey and swinging from one branch to another and pretty soon you’re in the middle of the jungle, you’ve made it to the top and you’re left with all these vines twisted together,” said Reilly of the Women’s Political Caucus, who swung into town four years ago from Boston as a 22-year-old college graduate.

Gutierrez, for one, appears to be doing all the right things. Her sponsor is Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who was a national co-chair for Clinton’s campaign. Gutierrez worked for Molina in East Los Angeles after graduating last spring.

She has networked through Wellesley and campaign contacts and continued to expand her connections through the inaugural committee and as a volunteer in the White House personnel office.

“I feel like I’ve come so far and worked so hard that I should stick it out,” Gutierrez said, expressing determination to remain here. “This is when something will happen.”

Capital Jobs: Where to Send Resume

Those interested in applying for jobs in the Clinton Administration are encouraged to submit a resume of not more than two or three pages accompanied by a one-page cover letter. Articles or other supporting materials will be kept on file.

The personnel staff recommends the use of standard 8 1/2-inch by 11-inch white or light-colored paper. The computer scanner has difficulty reading words on dark or colored paper.

White House personnel strongly discourage sending resumes or other correspondence by fax or by express package service.

Applications can be mailed to:

Presidential Personnel

Old Executive Office Building

17th Street & Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20500

The telephone number is 202-456-6676.