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Obama team: Help wanted

Staffers are inundated with e-mails and calls from go-getters seeking employment in the new administration.

November 28, 2008|Jill Zuckman | Zuckman is a writer in our Washington bureau.

WASHINGTON — One member of President-elect Barack Obama's transition team measures meetings by the number of resumes arriving on his BlackBerry.

Another says job-seekers have offered him tickets to Redskins football games, which he has turned down. And yet another has given his mother in Chicago "talking points" to deal with people trying to get to him by going through her.

"People are anxious to figure out every possible avenue in and want to get advice on how to do this," said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic lobbyist who has gotten calls asking how to break into the new administration -- even though he backed Hillary Rodham Clinton during the presidential primaries.

For people on the receiving end, it's an unrelenting daily bombardment of resumes and requests to meet for coffee.

"I think it's wonderful that people want to serve. But for those of us who have to deal with the onslaught, it's a little overwhelming," said a senior official with the transition who asked not to be identified for fear it would prompt a further deluge of applicants to his in-box.

So far, the transition team has received 290,000 applications for jobs in the Obama administration through its website -- www.change.gov -- and officials believe they could wind up with 1 million job-seekers by the time Obama is sworn into office on Jan. 20.

By comparison, before President Bush took office in 2001, he received just 44,000 requests for political jobs. As former President Clinton assumed the White House in 1993, he had received 125,000 applications for jobs.

The problem is that only about 8,000 non-career service positions are available, according to the Plum Book, which lists those jobs.

Ron Klain, chief of staff to Vice President-elect Joe Biden, has been hearing from people he knows and from people Biden knows.

Klain is also making new friends at a rapid pace on Facebook, the social networking website. He's up to 1,000 friends, and his Facebook page is filled with good wishes on his new assignment.

"It's really super-talented people who all want to be part of this," said Klain, who served as chief of staff to former Vice President Al Gore. "I'm amazed by the breadth and depth of people who want to serve."

For those working out of a transition office in Washington, it's a constant barrage of requests and the knowledge that a lot of people will ultimately be disappointed.

"I had somebody who I have not seen since the fourth grade call me and say, 'Hey, I'm really excited about the opportunity to work in the administration. Here's what I'd like to do, and can you get my resume to the right people?' " said one transition staffer.

Others have responded to all the incoming messages by trying to lower their Internet profile, removing their Facebook pages from public access and trying to keep their names out of the newspaper.

"It's amazing -- the people's persistence," said one transition official. "People have e-mailed me now four or five times since election day.

"I'm trying to be polite, but there comes a time when you're actually annoying me now."

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jzuckman@tribune.com

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