Tag Archives: Career

Winning the Job Lottery

In the early 19990s I won the job lottery. I became a part of the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) employed through the National Park Service. I learned how to use an auger, annihilate acacia, roll ice plant, and harvest native seeds. It was the best  first job I could have imagined. It led me to get my dream job as a Park Ranger (for a different agency) just a few summers later. My career has taken me places I could have never imagined after that.

In the Youth Conservation Corps high school students submit an application and names are randomly drawn (typically 50% male and 50% female). Getting my first job was pure chance- a lottery. My first summer job started me on a career through  3 different federal agencies (and a couple of other side adventures). It has been a great ride that all started with that one application. I spent three more seasons with the YCC in the National Park Service before I became a Park Ranger.

I hope some other youth this summer take the advantage of this amazing program to jump-start their careers. The Youth Conservation Corps application season is open right now. If you know any youth aged 15-18 in the Bay Area of San Francisco, wanting to live in Yellowstone or Yosemite, or in any other area listed on this website http://www.nps.gov/gettinginvolved/youthprograms/parksycc.htm

Apply by April 15th 2014 (some have earlier deadlines… contacts are on the website) the application information is at: http://www.nps.gov/gettinginvolved/youthprograms/yccapply.htm

May this be the start of many new careers…. good luck in the most amazing lottery ever.

Standing at the Entrance Sign

Winning the Lottery


The unintentional raise

A new job, office culture, team (with 2 staff changes already), and an ever-evolving position had me a little apprehensive about my job review this time. It really didn’t help that I wrote up my accomplishments and had them immediately handed back for revision due to totally missing the mark (how many pages? wow.). I mean when you fail at writing your accomplishments for your review isn’t that a bad sign? Apparently, No.

The review went well, I’m on track, and she likes where we are going building the program. SCORE! I mean seriously, it’s 6 months in and there was a pretty huge culture shock (in a good way) so reading this group isn’t easy for me yet. The thing that got me though was the paragraph summaries of my work. The paragraph format of a “Gold Star” lasts a very long time for keeping me emotionally invested.

Words are my currency and when people customize something specific for me it makes all the difference in the world.

If you are brave enough… ask for recommendation letter. They are awesome as a snapshot in time. I still have some from high school even. My favorite though is from my last position, I asked the boss for a letter for a new project I was applying to. Her letter and her insights into my skills really opened my eyes to change my perspective. Skills I dismissed as “meh” she highlighted with respect. She had me pegged better than I could have described myself.

To me a personalized letter or evaluation with prose translates to more investment in my position than a coffee cup, lunch out, or a myriad of other things. But it’s not just words that matter, it’s a balance of what is most important to me- time off to spend with my loved ones and training.

Time off is self-explanatory but how is training a raise? Training allows me to expand my knowledge, to get to spend time with colleagues interested in similar skills, and honestly to get out of my cubicle. My varied interests are typically considered non-traditional for my position. Allowing me to explore new paths that intrigue me is something I truly appreciate. I understand the value of five work days.  I know the opportunity cost. When a boss trusts me and allows that diversion from the software giant’s checklist of push button courses… that is a raise.

So today was a win- I received the bonus that means the most to me: thoughtfully written words and openness to my eclectic training plan for the year. It’s why I live the gov life.

Leadership- It makes me want to Invest #govlife

Today I had the pleasure of listening to the director of our agency. He is a career government employee – so he gets being a GS-low# since he started as a seasonal (just about the time I was born). He recently dealt with being on the hot seat dealing with a lot of political focus. To many he represents not the elite of the management but the regular Joe/Jane reporting to work and serving the public.

Today he stood in front of a room of people looking to him for answers. One of the questions was simply stated as, “what is the future of civil service.” The stuffed room held people at different points of their careers. There are a large number deciding if and when to retire. There are the mid-career professionals deciding if they are going to hunker down or look around. There are the re-treads (like me) who have tried a few things and are on the inside but not yet in that steady “career” job. And there are those bright-eyed young graduate and undergraduate students hoping to turn their internship into something.

The first statement and last statement were predictable in that I’ve heard them a lot in the last 6 months…. “These are challenging times… we have been through worse and we will persevere while we take care of each other.” It’s the middle that got to me. It’s the moment that I thought- this, THIS is why there are hundreds of applications for civil service jobs. Here is the gist of it poorly paraphrased and entirely mangled by my very biased need for inspiration:

To be inspired and renewed we must go to the field. Locked in the offices and walking the hallways we do not always get to see the look on the public’s face as they experience the great wonder that is our public lands and heritage. We need to reconnect to our roots to keep inspired and moving forward. We need to remember the core of our mission for that is what will give us strength to get through these lean and divisive times.


Words such as these need to be uttered in every  government building. We need to go back to the mission statements, the moment when you were a teenager and “knew” what you wanted to do, the wide-eyed college optimism where you could never fathom the actual career you’ve had. We need as a general civil service to forget the “do more with less” silliness and focus on our core reasons and essential tasks. Let’s keep our chins up.

Stability… How’s that Working for Me?

I changed my job about 6 months ago. It was a needed switch-up in order to pursue some personal goals. One of the main reasons was I was aiming for a stable environment with time to dedicate to  adventures outside the office. I  re-joined the federal government as the sequester hit and experienced the first government shutdown in seventeen years. How’s that working for me?

I accepted my job during the last couple of days before the sequestration hiring freeze. I snuck in as one of the last ones hired before the great pause. I was onboarded during a hiring freeze. I did a double take as the agency adjusted, the belts were tightened (yet again), and the new normal took over. Sequestration was just part of my new reality.

For those who don’t know me well-  I’m a serial government employee. I’ve worked for the government directly for over 13 years and the years I worked in the private sector my clients were primarily government. Heck, when I’m in the government many times my customers are other government agencies or employees.

I settled into the new job, got to know my new colleagues, re-engaged with old colleagues, joined committees, and started feeling like things were coming together. Projects started getting handed to me and things started into a groove. <sigh> I should have known better.

Up to the Friday before the government shutdown of 2013 I was being reassured by many people with very lengthy careers that it wasn’t going to happen. The day before the furlough the tone changed and people started talking about taking plants home.

Now, please don’t get me wrong….While stressful and disorienting, the furlough  does not make my top 5 most challenging events I’ve encountered in my career. I’m not sure it even would make the top 20.  We had a strong community of federal employees who supported each other and informed each other during this event. 

Through all of its challenges, it’s good to be back in my federal family. I have an amazing job. I am enjoying this opportunity immensely. On a daily basis, I am among wonderful professionals supporting the field. With this said, it is noticeable that these times are different. The atmosphere with the sequestration and shutdown is unlike  what I’d seen from the seasons of 1993-1997, the years from 1998-2006, or 2009-2010 in the federal government.

2013 has been different. It wasn’t what I expected as I searched for stability. Luckily, I am where I need to be. It’s working out just fine.