Katie Commerford ’20 is excited to begin work as a program assistant in the Foreign Service Institute in Washington D.C., an opportunity came about through an internship in her final semester of her senior year. She is currently employed by the government contracting agency CTR Management group in Virginia, which assists in the recruitment of Foreign Service Institute employees, and is eager to be placed in a permanent position.
“Due to the worldwide pandemic, I am in the process of waiting to be paired with a branch of the Foreign Service Institute where I will begin as a program assistant,” Commerford explains. “The Foreign Service Institute itself is a sector of the U.S. Department of State where people are trained to work in foreign affairs, mainly as diplomats. Once I begin, my position will entail preparing courses and events to help train the foreign affairs workers in various areas, such as crisis management.”
The English and political science double-major was inspired to pursue the position while completing an internship with the U.S. Department of Defense during her last semester at Worcester State. The internship opportunity was offered through a program called The Washington Center, and Commerford says it was an essential part of preparing for her new career.
“The internship not only gave me valuable networking and career skills, it gave me an experience boost for my resumé, which put me a step ahead as a recent college graduate, where I already had some starting federal experience that positions were looking for,” she says.
But Commerford points out that getting a job immediately after graduation isn’t necessarily a simple task—it takes time and effort.
“Finding a position in my field immediately following graduation involved a lot of strategic planning and time management so I could place my internship for my very final semester and have time to apply for jobs all throughout my last semester rather than waiting until after graduation,” she says.
In starting her career with the Foreign Service Institute, Commerford hopes to gain broader insight into foreign relations that she can apply to a wide scope of domestic policy and advocacy work. For students and alumni with similar goals, she emphasizes the positive impact hands-on experience can have on your job search.
“My advice for Worcester State students and recent alumni looking to work in the federal sector is to emphasize not just your education, but also your experience. While many entry-level positions require bachelor’s degrees, they also often require at least a year of applicable experience. During your college era, prioritizing getting experience, whether it be from an on-campus position or an internship, and learning how to advertise your skills will make all the difference,” she says.