Obama-ites wait for jobs, and sit tight

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Visit almost any coffee shop in Washington these days, and you’ll see them.

Twenty-somethings, sitting with laptops adorned with Obama campaign stickers, jumping between job-search Web sites and their G-Mail accounts.

At Tryst, a hangout for young people in Adams Morgan, a man wearing an “Obama for America” T-shirt says he’s been hunting for a job with the new administration since January. After working on the Obama presidential campaign for more than a year as a paid staffer in three states, he has his heart set on joining the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

But so far, no luck.

Nearby, Megan O’Neill and boyfriend David Browne, both veterans of the Obama campaign in Missouri, browse job sites and sip lattes. They, too, are still waiting.

Barack Obama inspired thousands of young people last year and had as many as 5,000 full-time staffers during the general election. He then implored his former employees not to abandon their ideals.

Yet trying to find work in the Obama administration has been a difficult way for his loyalists to follow that dream. Many Obama enthusiasts have come to the capital hoping to help the president and, after months of trying, have wound up frustrated.

Chris Pohlad, 24, was the director of campaign operations in Minnesota for the Obama campaign for five months last year. He now spends most days writing e-mails and having lunches with former colleagues. He’s hoping to find a gig in the Obama administration with either the State or Energy Department.

“It’s been a little bit of a grind trying to find a job,” Mr. Pohlad said. “It’s really just a waiting game, and everybody’s doing the same thing.”

The federal government’s Plum Book, which provides an inventory of positions left open at the end of each presidential administration, lists as many as 7,000 jobs in the executive branch. That includes everything from political appointments to part-time positions reserved for major party donors.

Many people coming from the campaign are just a few years out of college and are qualified to be assistants or schedulers - entry-level positions.

“People who are confirmed by the Senate need people to sit outside their offices and make sure they know their schedule and what papers they need for their next meeting,” said Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution, who served on the White House staffs of Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon.

However, the government tends to hire from the top down, so Cabinet secretaries have to be confirmed by the Senate - and other senior officials need to be put into place - before the serious hiring can begin. The process could take months.

“Somebody has to put them in place,” Mr. Hess said of the lower-level hirees. “They are not going to get a low-level job until the boss appears.”

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Jillian Badanes

Jillian Badanes presents the day’s top news stories in the daily “Morning Briefing” video. Check out the latest “Morning Briefing” here. Jillian graduated from The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs with a major in Journalism and Mass Communication and a minor in International Politics. She spent her early years in London, England and Connecticut before ...

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