Young feds in government: Make of it what you will
Government service lends itself to a young person’s desire to help his or her fellow citizens, but how much a person gains from government employment depends on what he or she makes of the experience.
That’s the view of Chris Crawford, a 26-year-old computer scientist at the Defense Department. He came to government work through a scholarship program and said he takes the initiative to make and build important contacts.
“The best way to put it is that the ball is really in your court,” Crawford said. “Your experience with [professional development and mentoring] programs tends to be what you make out of it.”
Robert Carey, DOD's deputy CIO, expressed a similar perspective. “Opportunities are what [young people] want to make them in public service,” Carey said. He added that if young feds want to excel, federal managers are willing to help them.
Although formal training and development programs are important at federal agencies, Crawford said some of his best mentoring experiences have been the informal relationships he has established outside recognized programs.
He credits his outgoing personality and said he considers himself fortunate to have had those learning opportunities. He added that he has never had a problem speaking to a higher-level official at DOD and noted that the department hosts networking events and online forums that give young feds the chance to join the broader DOD community.
However, about 10 young people with whom Crawford worked have left the government in the past couple of years for various reasons, he said.
He participated in DOD’s Information Assurance Scholarship Program while earning a master’s degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo. The program pays for students to attend graduate school in exchange for a two-year commitment to government service.
As he nears the end of his required two years at DOD, Crawford said he sees a future for himself in the government but doesn’t want to rule out other possibilities yet.
Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.