Thought I’d share this story that my former manager asked me to write for the program.
WRP Success Story
There are many paths to the top of mountain but the view is always the same. – Chinese proverb
by Nathan W. Kester
Hi, my name is Nathan W. Kester and I’m going to write how Workforce Recruitment Program, WRP for short, has helped me find a job. Some of you may have heard or used the program but for those of you who never heard of it before, WRP is a program coordinated by the Office of Disability Employment Policy and the U.S. Department of Defense to enable college students to find summer internships not only within the government agencies but also in the private sectors. It aims to set up a path to obtain a permanent position following an internship and to develop career networking too.
In 2003, three years ago, I was a junior at Rochester Institute of Technology in the upstate New York, majoring in Information Science. It was becoming a crunch time because I still needed to complete two more quarters of internship. I had interned at my old school, Illinois School for the Deaf, as a webmaster and assisted with tech support. My I.T. department had a firm belief that every student needs to have at least three quarters worth of real world job experience to help prepare ourselves for the future and to land a permanent job. I remember it was during that time that the economy was going through a bit of recession largely because of what had happened with the 9/11. Nearly all of us were having a hard time trying to find an internship and I was fortunate to hear about the WRP that my employment adviser told me about. I was a little hesitant because I wanted to work in the private sector like Microsoft, Proctor & Gamble or IBM, so I was aiming for that opportunity. But none of them surfaced and I decided to apply to the Workforce Recruitment Program.
The application to WRP got through and my only internship offer came from the Coast Guard department in Miami, Florida. Since it was the only opportunity I had, of course, I had to take it , so I packed my bag and got a plane ticket to the city of south beach in spite of the fact that I had never been there before and knew no one there.
I worked as an assistant to a civilian officer who was an Information Specialist. I worked with database programming, system administration and tech support. It was my first time that I was completely out of my comfort zone, and was more than a thousand miles away from my hometown. I had no car, picked a wrong apartment location because it was about an hour south from the downtown Miami where the office was, and I had to walk more than six blocks to get to a bus station, take a bus to the metro station, get on the metro, then get off and walk to the office building, totaling in about an hour and half worth of commuting time. It was a tough experience and I was frustrated more than a few times but apparently, I had a stubborn streak in me and lasted through ten weeks of internship there. I got a taste of what it was like living in the real world. I was ready to go back to school, study hard and find a good internship.
In 2004, I had a bit of better luck hearing from private companies and was invited to IBM’s Diversity recruitment program called the ProjectView in Atlanta, GA. It was an all-expense paid trip and I stayed at a nice Marriot hotel near the airport. So I was excited to have the opportunity—I even bought my first full-fledged suit from JCPennys. I met several managers at the event, had interviews lined up and learned more about what IBM was all about. After everything was over, I eagerly waited to hear something from them but the call or email never came.
Notwithstanding, I went to the RIT’s career fair for any last chance hopes to land an internship within the private sector. I polished my resume, my presentation skill and approach to a recruiter because I had attended the fair for last three years and did not get any much success. It paid off because I got an email from Microsoft and they wanted to interview me. I was thrilled because it was my third time applying to Microsoft.
I thought I had a solid opportunity with Microsoft but it didn’t turn out the way I had hoped. Again, WRP came to the rescue and I applied one more time. Indeed, WRP kept its promise as I received not one but three job offers. One was an internship from U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), another from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the last one from US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA). It showed that WRP is a good program that has done its job by sharing information to different managers and that they establish partnerships between government agencies. It also showed that the Feds was intent on hiring students with disabilities as the results were there. I know more than a few who also got a summer internship through WRP and most of them have become full-time afterwards.
My application didn’t make it through with the CIA, although they had me flown out to their headquarters, and I took the lie detector test, and met with the manager. I remember I was a bit disappointed because I thought it’d be cool to work at an agency like CIA and I was surprised at how big the agency was. USDA was still pending and that I would have to wait till the end of summer to find out, so the path led to the USGS.
After securing the internship with the USGS, I was finally able to satisfy the internship requirements and then received my B.S. degree from RIT. It was one of my proud moments, considering everything I’ve been through and wouldn’t have done it without the help of WRP.
While I was working at the USGS, I kept in touch with USDA as they were still interested in hiring me for a permanent job and at the end of my internship, USGS offered me a full-time job too. It was a hard decision for me as I was starting to enjoy working there. It was funny because my interview with USDA actually took place during the WRP summer reception. Instead of listening to a speaker, I used the time to be interviewed by the manager because we both had a tight schedule and the WRP reception turned out to be the only free time we both shared. Our interview went well and sure enough, they offered me the job. Since I like to do different things, or being the “jack of all trades”, the manager said she’d give me the flexibility to do different things like web development, programming, technical writing, and tech support. Also, the job was right in DC too. I accepted the offer.
At one point, I thought I was going to work under the government for the rest of my life like those co-workers that have worked there for more than thirty years and that it was not uncommon to see someone having a retirement party almost every week. I wonder if I was ever going to work in the private sector that I had originally hoped till I met one friend through my website. He works for Google in the hardware department and told me that there was a position available near Washington, DC. The opportunity finally came and I applied.
With all the experience I have gained since I started job hunting and having applied to so many places, I was more than prepared to nail this interview. Rather than depending on someone to find an interpreter for me, I took it to myself and hand-picked a top-quality interpreter. I had my share of working with different interpreters so I know what to expect from them and how to work with them. My plan worked as Google offered me the job shortly after the interview. I thought the decision was going to be easy but after working at USDA for almost a year and having made many good friends with co-workers, the decision was tough. However, I felt I need a new experience since I never worked at a private company before. I accepted the job and instead of having a retirement party for me, they held a farewell party for me as I departed my position at USDA.
After looking back, I was reminded by this Chinese proverb, “There are many paths to the top of mountain but the view is always the same.” I realize that even though I wasn’t able to get an internship with private companies like Microsoft or IBM, WRP was there to provide opportunities for me.
Through WRP, I was able to build up my resume, gain experience, meet many people and develop my networking skill. Then at the end, the path opened up to the private sector where I got the job with Google. It made me realize that the path to the top of mountain isn’t an one-way expressway; it’s full of zig-zags but with some commitment, patience and persistence, we can get to the top and reach our goals.