On a crisp fall day in 2011, I donned my best professional outfit, harnessed up my guide dog Railey, and headed off for another day of college classes. I had a special appointment between management economics and business finance classes. The campus Disability Support Services office, a designated Workforce Recruitment Program site, had a federal representative making a visit and I was scheduled for an interview.
Armed with my resume, and the hopes and dreams of every graduating senior, I stepped into the office. I met with a woman named Laura, who looked at my resume and asked questions about my scholastics and work experience. She wanted to know which U.S. cities I would consider moving to for employment. Interviewees were allowed to select up to five cities, and four of mine were safe choices (close by). As a young woman with a significant disability, I was hesitant to stray too far from home. Believing the probability of getting a job offer in Washington, D.C., was slim, I selected it as my fifth choice.
Laura explained that my skills, resume and location preferences would be entered into the Workforce Recruitment Program database and would be made available to federal agencies and private sector employers. If my skills matched the needs of employers looking at the database, I could be called for an interview. I thanked Laura and headed off to finish the last two months of my undergraduate studies.
By April of 2012, I was getting discouraged. Job interviews had come and gone, and I was still sitting on my parents’ couch scouring the Internet for job openings. Then, a call from the Labor Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy changed everything. They saw my resume in the WRP database and were looking for a summer intern. Would I be interested in moving from Bloomington, Illinois, to Washington, D.C., next month? Now the opportunity was here, and it was BIG -- could I really move 750 miles away from everything I had ever known? There would be new routes to learn, no family to help me and a metro system to navigate. Washington is a big city and I am blind.
After many sleepless nights and lots of in-depth discussions with my supportive yet hesitant parents, Railey and I relocated over Memorial Day Weekend of 2012.
My internship led to a full-time position with a nonprofit organization for two years, admission to graduate school where I am pursuing a master’s degree, and a return to ODEP as a full-time employee. I took a huge leap during that October interview and never ever looked back. Today, my outlook on life is great, and I have the Workforce Recruitment Program to thank.
Tiffany Jolliff is a program specialist in the department's Office of Disability Employment Policy.
Editor’s note: If you are a college student with a disability who is looking for another source for employment, talk to your DSS office about the Workforce Recruitment Program today. If your campus is involved, learn how to get your information into the database. And, if your campus has not yet signed up to participate in the program, talk to your DSS office about registering — it‘s easy! Visit www.wrp.gov to get started.
Employers can also benefit from the WRP by finding interns and permanent employees from the pre-screened and qualified students in the database. Federal employers can search the database at http://www.wrp.gov/. Private-sector employers can go to www.wrp.jobs where they can post positions to which WRP students and recent graduates can respond.
For information on navigating the job search process, check out ODEP’s video series featuring young professionals with real-life experiences. To search for federal positions, visit http://www.usajobs.gov/.