Job Tips and Vibe Checks: FES in DC 2020
Authored by Mads O’Brien (MESc candidate, Class of 2020)
I recently returned from FESinDC, an annual job trek orchestrated by the Career Development Office (CDO), where over 80 current F&ES students descended upon the US capital for two days of visiting potential employers. The site visits change every year based upon student preferences, but this year’s organizations included 18 nonprofits, think tanks, consulting firms, and government agencies.
Personally, I chose to attend FESinDC because while I’m not moving to DC after graduation, I’m interested in working within a U.S. federal agency. This job trek gave me the opportunity to hear inside scoops from personnel (all FES alumni) about what happens in their regional offices all over the country, not just at the D.C. headquarters. Definitely easier than flying to a California office for an informational interview!
A few things made FESinDC really worth it for me. At each employer I visited, four to seven F&ES alumni shared their personal trajectories from Yale to where they are now. They shared advice on many non-traditional paths for entering their sector that I likely never would’ve found through my own research. I also visited two organizations that I had never considered working for. To future student attendees: I recommend going outside your comfort zone and visiting a few orgs you aren’t familiar with; this exercise helped clarify what I think I want vs. what’s really important to me in a workplace. While each day was busy, I had time between site visits to daydream and journal to myself about takeaways from each meeting. Traveling between sites with other FESers made schlepping around DC more fun, too. (Especially when following folks who knew the metro system better than me!) Finally, nothing beats visiting an organization’s office in-person, where you can sense what the culture or “vibe” of an org truly is.
After two days of site visits, the F&ES Alumni Association hosted a reception Friday night for current students and area alumni. My conversations there ranged from talking applicant advice one-on-one with an alum from a prior site visit, to chatting with recent grads about how life in New Haven has changed. Even these informal conversations allowed me to “link a face to a name” with a handful of new people, who I’m sure would happily respond to career questions from me in the future.
During our site visit at the US Forest Service, Gary Barrett ’96 M.F., Senior Policy Advisor at USFS and President of the Alumni Board, said that above all else, FES trains you to become a leader. As graduation looms closer, and self-doubts of “have I really gained mastery in a subject?” begin to creep in, I left DC feeling reassured—I truly agreed with Gary’s statement. As demonstrated by the alumni I met on this trip, FES has equipped me with the ability to adapt and lead wherever I end up.