Exchange Matters / July 12, 2023

Career Connections: Landing a Job in the Federal Government

By Sarah Sterner, Career Connections Intern, Global Ties U.S. 

Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Liz Allen (front row, fifth from right) with Career Connections DC participants, speakers, and other representatives from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Photo by the U.S. Department of State.

What does it take to land a job in the federal government? To find out, more than 100 U.S. citizen ExchangeAlumni participated in the Career Connections DC: Careers in the Federal Government seminar, which took place on Friday, June 23, 2023 at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC. The alumni came from far and near, hailing from ​more than 15 different U.S. Government-funded exchange programs. The daylong seminar explored various federal government careers and included skill-building breakout sessions, interactive panels, and a career fair with over a dozen federal agencies, fellowships, and graduate programs in the DC area. This was the largest Career Connections seminar since its launch in 2019–marking a full return to in-person activities since the pandemic. 

Participants connect at the networking reception at the Hive Hotel. Photo by the U.S. Department of State.

The gathering kicked off with a networking reception on Thursday, June 22 at the Hive Hotel. Over 50 U.S. ExchangeAlumni from across the country interacted and connected with each other, Department of State officials, and Global Ties U.S. staff before diving into a full day of programming the following day.

The main day of the conference took place in the National Museum of American Diplomacy and the U.S. Department of State’s Marshall Center, where Nini Forino, Director of the Office of Alumni Affairs, and Katherine Brown, Ph.D., Global Ties U.S. President and CEO, welcomed participants and thanked U.S. ExchangeAlumni for supporting a strong global network. As Katherine noted, “Exchanges humanize international affairs and ExchangeAlumni are some of our country’s greatest ambassadors.” Nini reiterated the importance of public service and continued alumni engagement in communities at home and abroad, stating, “Our goal is to keep you connected. This is not an end today, we hope it is just the start.”  

Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Liz Allen addresses participants during the Fireside Chat. Photo by the U.S. Department of State.

The opening reception gave way to the highlight from the day: the Fireside Chat with Liz Allen, recently appointed Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, and Ryanna Miller, U.S. ExchangeAlumni (Gilman Scholar), and Co-Founder and Chair of Diplomatic Perspective. They delved into citizen and public diplomacy and how to foster environments that encourage diverse participation and retention. Under Secretary Allen left participants with this message, “It is my hope that you will leave here today not only with new job opportunities and resources but also with a new network of like-minded alumni, energized and empowered to find your place in public service.”

U.S. ExchangeAlumni engage in the Federal Career Panel. Photo by the U.S. Department of State.

The morning continued with a Federal Career Panel discussion with three U.S. ExchangeAlumni and current U.S. Department of State employees who highlighted the ways in which their exchange experiences helped shape their individual pathways into the civil and foreign service. Panelists Kesha Bickel, Chief of Staff for the Executive Office of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (Gilman Scholar), Amy Simms, Foreign Service Officer (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer), and Ben Deese, American Citizens Services and Crisis Management Officer in the Bureau of Consular Affairs (Critical Language Scholarship Alumni and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer), addressed topics such as career transitions and leveraging a background in exchange programs toward furthering their career trajectories in the federal government. Amy encouraged participants to “think about how that [exchange] experience has changed you and grown who you are,” and highlighted the importance of bringing your background and personal experiences to every job opportunity. In discussing their career trajectories, the panelists noted, “There is no start and end process for any job. Think about how your experiences have changed you and prepared you for the job, and you’ll be fine. You’re going to build skills throughout your career.”

The remainder of the day was dedicated to skill-building breakout sessions and closed out with a federal career fair. Breakout sessions included topics such as job pathways in the civil and foreign service, grant writing 101, mentorship and network building, and non-competitive eligibility (NCE). Throughout the day, ExchangeAlumni also had the opportunity to take professional headshots and have their resumes reviewed by career advisors. The federal career fair included representatives from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Labor (DOL), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Security Agency (NSA), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, Peace Corps, and AmeriCorps VISTA. One ExchangeAlumni attendee commented, “I came away from Career Connections feeling a lot more knowledgeable, empowered, and supported by my peers!”

U.S. ExchangeAlumni can look forward to Career Connections seminars in San Francisco (September 23-24) and Charlotte, NC (November 2-4). 

U.S. ExchangeAlumni network during the Career Connections DC Career Fair. Photo by Global Ties U.S.


Career Connections are sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and implemented by Global Ties U.S. in partnership with the Office of Alumni Affairs in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.