Monday, September 01, 2014

Finalists Frequently Asked Questions

1. When and where is Placement Week?

Placement Week will be held from November 16-21, 2014 in Washington, D.C.

2. Where will Finalists be staying during Placement Week?

Double Tree Inn,  8727 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD 20910

3. Can I stay at an alternative location during Placement Week, i.e. friend or family's house, instead of staying at the hotel?

In order to be reimbursed for your Placement Week expenses, you must stay at the hotel. Other benefits include:

a. Your proximity to these various places will be a major convenience to you. The hotel is easy to get to by public transportation from either National Airport (DCA) or Dulles International Airport (IAD).

b. Staying at the hotel with the other Finalists will allow you to meet and mingle with them, share experiences and thoughts on the week as it progresses. This is an important interaction as you will formulate impressions, talk to your Finalist colleagues, re-form those initial impressions, and so on. You'll find your colleague's impressions to be informative and influential as you move through your interviews. You'll also enjoy getting to know your colleagues and your predecessors. You'll get an opportunity to do this during the week's evening activities at locations around D.C.

4. What do I wear during Placement Week, when do I need to wear it, and do I have to break the bank to update my graduate student wardrobe?

Business dress and business casual are the appropriate professional attire for Placement Week. It constitutes the following:

Men - Suit with dress shirt and tie; business casual would be a non-suit, i.e. a dress jacket (blazer, etc.) with dress slacks, dress shirt, and tie (optional). Dress shoes are an obvious component as well.

Women - Suits (pants or skirts) with a blouse. Dress shoes are part of the getup as well. Hose is appropriate with skirt suits (plus, it's likely to be chilly in November). Business casual would be slacks or skirt with blouse or dress sweater.

Bottom line: You want to dress according to how you want to be perceived by the Hosts. Your appearance leaves the first impression and you obviously want that impression to be a good one. However, don't go breaking the bank to achieve this.

I advise business dress for Monday through Friday of Placement Week, particularly on days you'll be interviewing: 2 days for Leg. Finalists and 2.5 days for Exec. Finalists.

As for other attire, the first night of Placement Week (Sunday night) is dinner and Hosts won't be there. Business casual is okay that night as well as each night that we have evening activities. Feel free to bring athletic attire if you want to go for a run or want to work out. The hotel is 8 blocks from the Mall and you can easily run up and down the Mall to the monuments, etc.

5. How flexible or rigid is the February 1 start date for the fellowship?

The start date is flexible within 1-2 weeks of February 1. There have been fellows in the past who have needed to start earlier or later due to school- or personal-related matters. The fellowship would simply run 365 days from the time that you start (e.g. Start: Feb 1, 2015; End: Jan. 30, 2015). Having said that, it is strongly recommended that you inform Hosts during Placement Week of your scheduling needs. While Hosts are understanding and flexible on this issue, they prefer not to have any surprises. It is standard for offices to think about their staffing schedules well in advance.

Bottom line: Be forthcoming about your scheduling needs with the hosts during Placement Week and all will be fine.

6. How are my Placement Week expenses paid?

Your expenses for Placement Week will be out-of-pocket and you will be reimbursed by your local Sea Grant program. The structure and format of that reimbursement will vary as a function of your local SG program. Make sure you talk to your SG program prior to Placement Week about reimbursement.

7. Can I contact the host (i.e. the supervisor) personally?

Contact with the host prior to Placement week is strongly discouraged. It is important that no finalist has an advantage (or even a perceived advantage) over other finalists; conversely, hosts should be on a level playing field as well. This can happen, even innocently, if hosts and finalists are in discussions prior to Placement Week. If you need general information about a host (i.e. location, phone #, email, etc.), I can help you with that.

8. Should I bring my resume to each of my interviews during Placement Week? How about my goal statements, etc.?

There is no need to bring any part of your application package to your interviews during Placement Week. Nor is it necessary to bring it to D.C. I have all of your application packages on file and they are scanned and in electronic form. Hosts will have access to your application package via the a password-protected website. It is their responsibility to have your application package on hand as a resource for your interviews.

9. What if I have updated information that isn't on my resume that I want to convey to hosts?

If there are new activities, achievements that you want hosts to know about that aren't on your resume or in your application package, bring this up verbally in your interviews. There's no need to update your resumes/CVs for Placement Week. Giving hosts a verbal update on your credentials will suffice...it will also serve as a good conversation starter.

10. What time should I arrive in D.C. to give enough time to get to the hotel, settled, and ready for Sunday night's event kicking off Placement Week?

Dinner Sunday evening (Nov 16, 2014) will start around 5 PM. Back-calculating from there, you will need to leave the hotel by 4:30 PM. To give yourself enough time to get settled into your hotel room and to take a deep breath after your travels, you should plan to check into your hotel room no later than 4:00 PM. This means that arrival into DCA around 3 PM will give you plenty of time to get to the hotel by 4 PM. Flying into IAD or BWI will translate into a 1.5 hr. minimum to get to the hotel (that's baggage claim to hotel estimate)...maybe less if you don't check your luggage (hard to do with a week's worth of business clothing).

11. Where do I start looking for health insurance? My state Sea Grant program? My host office? Go on my own? How are insurance costs covered?

Health insurance costs are covered by the $9,000 non-stipend funds that come with the fellowship (moving expenses and fellowship travel are also part of that $9,000). Your host office does not cover your health insurance. Here's how you get the health insurance ball rolling:

a. Call your state Sea Grant program and check to see if they enroll their fellows in a health insurance plan. Some SG programs will put their fellows on the same health insurance plan as other state SG employees (technically, you are an employee of your state SG program...or your college/university depending on how your money flows to you). If the SG program does in fact enroll you in their program, work with them on the details of how those premiums are paid, the details of the plans, etc. If not, go to step 2.

b. Most fellows not covered by your state SG program will search out health insurance on their own. Some will enroll in a policy in their home state before coming to D.C. Others will enroll in a plan once they get to D.C. There's no conventional wisdom here and where you enroll may depend on how long your current policy runs. Be sure to check on the dates of your current plan as well as the terms of potential plans you're shopping... you want to avoid a lapse in coverage.

c. Married? If you're married and your spouse has his/her own health insurance plan, you might be able to get incorporated into your spouse's plan. This would circumvent the need to enroll in a policy for just yourself and would free up more money in your $9,000 for moving expenses and travel.

12. When do we sign up for interviews for Placement Week?

You will sign up for interviews on the following day: Executive - Tuesday morning at the NOAA Silver Spring complex Science Center, 1301 East-west Hwy (Nov. 18, 2014); Legislative - Tuesday afternoon (TBD). Sign up for interviews will follow short briefings by potential hosts (Monday all day for Exec.; Tuesday afternoon for Leg.). Placement occurs on the last day of Placement Week.

13. How many interviews can I, or should I, sign up for during Placement Week?

It depends on a couple of factors and it depends on if you are Leg or Exec.

Legislative - Sign up is Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014, afternoon

You can sign up to interview with nearly all of the Hosts. 

Executive - Sign up is Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014, morning

You should select 12-15 offices with which to interview based on your impressions from the Host position descriptions (in the database), and the Host presentations (all day Monday). 

14. When are interviews during Placement Week?

Executive: Tuesday, Nov. 18, 1:00 PM through Thursday, Nov. 20, 1:30 PM
Legislative: Wednesday, Nov. 19, 9:00 AM through Thursday, Nov. 20, 4:00 PM 

Interviews take place in the host office. Finalists will be provided locations and directions to host offices.

15. How are Hosts and Fellows matched, i.e. how does placement work?

Hosts begin the week by presenting a short overview of their office and the fellowship position to the Finalists (Finalists become Fellows once they have been matched with a Host Office). Finalists then select Host Offices with whom they will interview. Interview sign up sheets will be faxed to the Host Offices and interviews will ensue until the close of business on Thursday, November 20 (Executive Hosts) or late Friday morning, November 21 (Legislative Hosts). Hosts will fill out a ranking sheet of Finalists they have interviewed to the Knauss Program Manager. Those rankings will then be provided to the Finalists on Friday, November 21 by email. Finalists will choose, following rank order, which Host Office they will commit to. A Finalist may only choose one Host Office. Once a Finalist has chosen a Host Office, that Finalist must cross his/her name off of every other list on which they are ranked. The process continues until everyone has selected a Host Office.

16. When and how will a Host know if it is successful in getting a Fellow?

Each office that is successful will be notified by a phone call from the Fellow directly on the afternoon of Friday, November 21, 2014. The Knauss Program Manager will notify each office that is not successful on the afternoon of Friday, November 21, 2014.

17. How is the fellowship agreement finalized?

The National Sea Grant College Program has a "Ratification Document" that commits the Host and the Fellow jointly to the fellowship program. It is signed by both a Host Office representative, the Fellow, and the Knauss Program Manager. Guidance on funds transfer to Sea Grant to support the Fellow will also be provided to Executive Host Offices as part of the Ratification Document. 

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