Monday, March 1, 2010

Ambassador Profile: Elizabeth Streett, Army Human Resources Federal Career Intern

After graduating from Whitman, I didn't have any job waiting for me, but I knew I needed some practical work experience. At some point during my senior year, I applied for a STEP (Student Temporary Employment Program) position with the Army Corps of Engineers in Walla Walla, WA. Although I wasn’t selected for that position, they were impressed with my resume and forwarded it onto their central Human Resources for the West Region. While working on a few internship leads, I was contacted by the Seattle Corps of Engineers in late August a few months after I graduated.

I was hired as a Department of Army, Human Resources, Federal Career Intern. Although it was named an internship, it wasn’t what I considered to be an internship at that time. It was a full-time, two-year paid program with guaranteed promotions (if I performed well). Within the first 3 weeks of employment, they sent me to Fort Huachuca, AZ for classes and on-the-job training for 7 months! It was my first time renting alone and moving to a place where I knew no one. Although my long-term TDY (temporary duty location) was in Arizona, my classes and on-the-job training took me all over the country. I went to Alabama, Maryland and Texas; three states where I had never been before.

The program started as a GS-7. I was promoted to a GS-9 one year after I started and reached a GS-11 at the end of my second year then became a permanent federal employee. I had to show that I reached certain performance and job skills benchmarks before the promotions were completed, but I had no trouble meeting the benchmarks early. At the end of my third year as a federal employee, I had been there long enough to be tenured. At this time, all federal employees receive lifetime, non-competitive reinstatement rights to apply to federal positions.

More about the Federal Career Internship Program (FCIP)

The Federal Career Internship Program is a great way for recent grads to start working for the federal government. They can start at the GS-5, 7, 9 or even the 11 level depending on the particular experience and education a candidate has. Generally, the job announcements will list the target grade (promotion potential) for the position. My job announcement said GS-7 /9 target 11. With a Bachelors degree from an accredited college, you can qualify for the GS-5 level. If your undergraduate GPA is 3.0/4.0 or equivalent or higher, you qualify for what is known as Superior Academic Achievement, which allows you to be hired at the GS-7 level with no additional experience. You can also qualify for the GS-7 with one year of graduate level education and no additional degrees. With a Masters degree you qualify for the GS-9 level. There are more applicable degrees for this level to include a J.D. or L.L.B.

The FCIP positions usually ask for a two year commitment from prospective employees and may require you to sign a mobility agreement. This allows the agency to move you to fill its needs. This could mean across the country or from Seattle Corps of Engineers to Fort Lewis, WA (this is what happened to me). Training is guaranteed for all FCIPs and usually rotations through other departments are part of the program so that interns have a better grasp on the intertwining processes of the agency.

For more information, feel free to contact me: brownea 2 at uw dot edu.