Thursday, July 16, 2009

A year underground

It has been almost a year since I signed off on my wildly popular "requisitive blog of a PCV" and entered into the anonymous life of a graduate student/environmental policy guru, and advocate for the wild hopes of future Peace Corps volunteers. Well, anonymous might be stretch since I did a brief moment in the spotlight thanks to the Seattle Times front page, but overall it has been a low key year. I returned to life in Seattle, found a wonderful, buttery aroma filled apartment above a French bakery with my roommate from my previous time in Seattle, who had herself just completed 2 years of Peace Corps in Togo, West Africa. Policy research, writing, and statistics quickly overtook most of my life, while recruiting new Peace Corps volunteers absorbed another good chunk. What was left over went to happy hours with friends and trying to plan for the future.
Oh, that ever present future that arrived so quickly. A year ago I could not have even come close to imagining the series of events that brought me to today, not to mention the still unknows that will make up the next few weeks. It all begin with a chance to take a silly little test. The Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF), an unlikely shot to get fast tracked into the US Government. Once my graduate school had nominated students from our program to compete for the PMF, the next step was to take a day-long standardized test consisting of writing, analytical thinking, and of all things, a personality inventory. So bright and early on the morning of Inauguration Day, I arrived at the US Federal Building in downtown Seattle, dressed in a suit and ready with my bottle of water, Luna bar, and as many pre-sharpened #2 pencils as I could find. My competition for the program appeared equally prepared, but as we were shuffled from our large conference room to a side-room off the cafeteria due to a Federal Employee Inauguration viewing party, my confidence started to wane. These people looked as if they meant business, flying to Seattle from Colorado, Nevada and who knows where else to take this test. I was just there to see what could happen.

Months went by, and as the day when I thought the results might come in approached, I began stalking the website hourly, hoping to find clues as to when I might get an email. Finally, I saw a new update, results would posted within 24 hours. The email arrived. No thick or thin envelopes, just one little email that would tell me my future. I clicked, barely able to absorb what I quickly saw printed there on my screen. Congratulations. It still gives me goose bumps and brings tears of gratitude to my eyes as I sit here in a coffee shop, just blocks from the White House, the World Bank, and my new office, the Dept. of Interior.

But I am getting ahead of myself. After becoming a PMF finalists, there is still the not insignificant matter of obtaining a position. Next step was a chaotic trip out to DC to attend the notorious PMF career fair, where hundreds of well groomed, highly educated, policy school grads battle it out for hundreds of positions at nearly every federal agency. Nine interviews in two days and I was exhausted, but was pleased to have received an offer of employement at the Dept of Energy.  However, turns out not everything is as it seems.

Without going into details that I can barely understand, the Energy position fell through because of Veterans Preference, the point system in the federal government, and the veteran status of the 2nd runner up for the job. I was disheartened, but not for long. As often happens in my life, the unlikely path turns out to be the right one. I was contacted by the Office of Policy Analysis at the Dept of Interior, had two interviews, and was offered a position. So here I am, getting ready to meet my new boss.

Stay tuned as I look for a place to live, explore what DC has to offer, and get my bearings in this strange, crazy life.

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