My most rewarding experience this summer was contributing to a project that started out small and snowballed as it gained momentum. I was contacted by one of our human resources supervisors during one of the first weeks I had been in the DOT, who asked if I could work with a woman who handled the hiring of veterans in the office. This task started out fairly simple: our supervisor just wanted to reach out to more veterans to alert them when there were more job opportunities, but the task gained layers as more people got involved. The lady who handled veteran employment was named Debbie, she was a veteran herself, and she had a vision for reforming how we get in touch with veterans entirely. She wanted me to brainstorm ways to create partnerships with smaller district FMCSA offices around the country and other organizations that could provide potential candidates for veteran employment.
I thought that a good place to start would be with veteran community groups and nonprofits. From the phone calls I made, veteran groups that were composed of female, LGBT, and veterans that are racial minorities felt as though they were under-represented in the veteran community, as the FMCSA’s hiring materials and job opportunities often did not reach members of these groups. I brought this issue up to Debbie and we worked together to propose new ways to change veteran hiring outreach so that the FMCSA made sure to get in touch with these groups. At the end of my internship I was able to submit a report to our HR director about the potential ways we could increase the representation of these underrepresented veteran groups within our office and the DOT in general. She plans to pass this along to hiring departments in other divisions of the DOT, and I’m going to keep in touch to continue to contribute to reforming veteran hiring.
This experience was eye-opening for me because it showed that there is an opportunity for people to voice their opinion about how to improve federal departments like the FMCSA. I wasn’t sure what the politics of the FMCSA would be like when I first arrived, but everyone that I have worked with regardless of their political affiliation is willing to take in input from the communities they affect so that it can be incorporated into their policies and programs. The problem is that there is not always a clear way to connect with decision makers in federal departments, there needs to be a clear line of communication for groups outside of Washington. After this internship I realized that having your voice heard in government can be achieved when you have the right people internally to advocate for you. The challenge that every federal department faces going forward is finding a way for each person to find someone within the government capable of advocating for them.