Is a Political Appointment Right for You?

Serving as a political appointee is a great honor. It also comes with the important responsibility of meeting the highest standards of integrity. Get the information you need here about the commitments required to hold a politically appointed position in the federal government. Consider the obligations and make your decision.

What to Consider Ready to Serve Assessment

What to Consider

Ideological Fit with the Administration
As a political appointee, you will be associating yourself with the individual who is serving as president. You should be aligned with the goals of the administration so that you are comfortable in a leadership role. The White House or presidential transition team may ask you for evidence of your support for the president or candidate.

Standards of Public Service Leadership
Presidential appointees represent the American people, take an oath to defend the Constitution and are stewards of taxpayer resources. For appointees to carry out the administration’s work for the American people, they need a deep-rooted service orientation and commitment to the public good.

Working in the Federal Environment
Federal officials operate in a highly structured environment with rules concerning acquisition, personnel and other operations. For example, senior-level executives may not be able to bring their teams with them. And the Hatch Act limits political activities of federal employees while they are in office.

Public Scrutiny
The White House or presidential transition team will examine your background to uncover any financial, employment or security issues that might prevent you from serving. For the most senior positions, this process can play out publicly in the media.

Vetting Process 
To see the types of questions you can expect during the vetting process, review this draft checklist. Answering ‘yes’ to some of these questions may not necessarily preclude you from serving. Rather, the disclosures may identify potential complications that need to be explained in greater detail.

Changes to Your Financial Portfolio 
If you have complex finances, you may have to make changes, sometimes at a cost, to your personal financial holdings to avoid conflicts of interest.

Length of Appointments Process
Especially for senior level positions, the appointment process can be lengthy, requiring months of waiting and answering follow up questions. You will need patience for the process and possibly delay major life decisions until you are confirmed in your position.

Post-Employment Restrictions 
You may be restricted in the types of activities that you undertake in future non-government jobs. Review the ethics restrictions for political appointees to see if you are comfortable with the restrictions that may be temporarily in place for you.

Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu with President Barack Obama in the Blue Room of the White House.
Shutterstock
President Donald Trump and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley during a meeting at the White House.
PAPPIS JEAN PIERRE POLARIS/SIPA/Shutterstock

Ready to Serve Personal Assessment 

Serving as a presidential appointee is an honor. You will have the opportunity to serve your country and work on some of the most important issues of the day. You will also gain experience working with career public servants, talented and committed people in the administration, Congress and others. However, it is also a major life decision and comes with responsibilities. Here are questions to help you assess if this is a good fit for you at this time in your career.


Readiness



Personal

Family

Pre- and post-service obligations 

Team

Financial

Benefits

Ready to Govern

To drive change and make a difference, incoming appointees must know how to navigate and succeed in complex federal organizations. Through its Ready to Govern series, the Partnership can help you accelerate your impact and succeed as a political appointee.