One of my struggles growing up was being diagnosed with a hearing loss at the age of 9. Being told that I would not get more than a high school education, I made it my mission to enroll in and attend a university to show that I can do more despite my disability. Not only was I granted a track scholarship to Virginia State University, but I became a member of their Phi Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated. Two days after I graduated from VSU, I began working as a student hire under the Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities.
My choice of employment was the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), where I served as a Human Resource (HR) Office Clerk. My appointment was extended and I placed in the Student Educational Employment Program (SEEP) after enrolling in graduate school. DeCA afforded the opportunity to perform many duties including serving as a recruit for the Agency during career fairs; serve as a Program Coordinator for the SEEP Program and an Assistant Coordinator for WRP program; represent the Agency as a Liaison for Commissary Case Lot Sales and work on various HR projects.
Being in the WRP program was challenging, at first, due to a common thought that a person must be sensitive to those with a disability. As a person with a disability, I don’t want to be treated differently – just fairly. I want a chance to prove myself and let others know that I am no different.
And I was able to do just that in Washington, DC. I was referred to Bender Consulting Services, Inc. to seek a permanent position utilizing the government’s Schedule A hiring authority. Through the help of the company, I was extended employment at the Department of Homeland Security, as well as my current place of employment, the Department of Transportation. Even though I have been a federal employee for four years now, I am still thankful that I was given an opportunity to be a part of the WRP program, as I believe it led me to being able to be a permanent employee today.
To upcoming and recent graduates, never let a job pass you by because you feel the position is “beneath” you or it is not directly related to your field of study. That same job may bring a greater outcome in the long run by having an underlying correlation with your dream job. My undergraduate degree is in Marketing and I ended up in HR. But, I was able to use marketing for recruitment initiatives and it worked out very well. Diversity in the workforce opens up many doors and opportunities, which in return, makes you very valuable to employers. With my education and experience in the government, I am aware that there are students and recent graduates having difficulty with finding a job upon graduation but do not give up. If you believe, prosperity will always conquer adversity.
Editor’s Note: The author, Teresa Watson is a former WRP student who now works for the Department of Transportation where she serves as an IT Management and Program Analyst, providing support across all aspects of program management, including planning, annual budget, governance, contract management, performance management, and internal controls.