Majors: Sociology and Social Work
Year of Graduation: 1972
Current Job Title: Senior Communications Analyst, Sociology/Social Work at the Government Accountability Office, Washington, D.C.
Please give a brief description of your current position.
When I was in college, I had no idea there was a career that would combine my analytic background with my love of writing and editing. This is that hybrid sort of job--part editor, part writer, part English instructor, part analyst, part peopleperson.
What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?
Not sure I followed the most direct route; I started out working in Social Work, then did a stint in marketing at Twin City Federal, got a master's degree in Professional Writing and Editing, ended up again in marketing doing proposals and marketing materials, worked as an English instructor, and then got hired by the GAO IT team.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
I think the key to being successful in any career is knowing what you are interested in/good at to pursue for your career, and then figuring out how to get paid to do that. Professional writing (AKA technical writing) is a developing profession. If you are interested, you need a solid background in writing and editing and some good people skills. Subject matter expertise doesn't hurt, either. For whatever job you are interested in, you should do your homework: find out what skills you need to have to get the job and then start working towards that end. An internship would be a good way to get started.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
I interned in the Social Work field and then got a job in it. I think learning how to work with people was very helpful.
What skills are important in your field?
Strong analytic and writing skills are required. And as with most careers, people skills are very important--that includes the ability to listen and understand what others are saying as wells as what they can't seem to say.
What kind of opportunities are available working for the government and how do you find out about them?
There are many job opportunities in the federal government; however, many of them are not available in the Twin Cities. I work with lots of people who come from the Midwest, though, so it's quite possible to get here from there. Look at www.usajobs.gov for descriptions of job opportunities with the federal government. Most federal agencies (except for FBI, CIA, possibly DOD, and the 'secret' branches) put their job ads on that website.
Most agencies offer summer internships. In the agency I work for, if you do an internship and get high ratings, you can be offered a position when you graduate and you won't need to go through the rather long application process. It's the best way to get into the federal sector. Once in, you can transfer within your agency or to another agency without losing benefits. When you apply, be sure that you follow the instructions exactly! There are no short cuts. And because the wheels of government turn slowly, it takes longer to get hired. But be persistent--follow up with a phone call and, if you don't get hired the first time, try again.