Video: Want to work for Barack Obama?

updated 11/13/2008 1:51:20 PM ET 2008-11-13T18:51:20

Hate your job? Out of work? Tired of scanning for something better?

Try cracking open the newest page-turner from the federal government, the 210-page "United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions."

Inside what's more commonly known as the Plum Book, you'll find a listing of more than 7,000 top government jobs that are likely to open up with the presidential transition.

Sens. Joseph Lieberman and Susan Collins, the leaders of the Senate committee that sponsored the book's publication, call it "essential reading for anyone interested in pursuing public service in the executive branch of government."

Who do you know?
But one expert on the federal bureaucracy cautions that the $38 paperback may not be a very smart investment for jobseekers.

"It certainly isn't a classified jobs section," said Paul Light, a New York University professor. "It's a place to look for a possibility that might come to you in a dream world. Nobody applies for these jobs in an open process. It's really just a wonderful listing for people to page through and say 'Gee, I wish I could get that.' The real plums in the plum book go to people who are well-connected to the administration."

In other words, it still comes down to who you know — or how hard you worked on President-elect Barack Obama's campaign.

Video: Obama inspires hairdos The book represents a compilation of appointed jobs from all federal agencies, such as agency heads and their immediate subordinates, policy executives and advisers, and aides who report to those officials. It reveals salaries, who's currently got the jobs, and whether the job requires Senate confirmation.

For example, page 143 shows that the Broadcasting Board of Governors' station manager on Tinang Island in the Philippines gets paid $150,229.

Scan down the same page, and there's a listing for the director of CIA, at executive pay grade II, which means $168,000.

After the CIA, next come listings for the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, whose chairman is at pay grade IV, which means $145,400.

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Further down the same page, there's a listing for members of the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation, pay plan "WC" — without compensation.

Watch the government grow
The idea for the Plum Book originated in 1952, when Dwight Eisenhower was elected and Republicans took charge of the government after 22 years of Democratic control. The Republican Party requested a list of government positions that Eisenhower could fill. The next edition of "The Plum Book" appeared in 1960 and it has since been published just after every presidential election, according to the Government Printing Office.

Whatever its value to jobseekers, the book is a treasure trove for scholars of government, laying out how the federal bureaucracy has grown over the years.

"For researchers like me, it's a really helpful book to show how the hierarchy has thickened over the years," says Light, "but it's not a good book for the people who are looking for a job."

Light compares the Plum Book to the Nieman Marcus Christmas catalog.

"It's the kind of thing you want to pretend you can afford, but you're not going to find much in there in your price range," he said.

Still curious? You can find the whole thing online for free at

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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