As a native Washingtonian, educated in the DC public school system, an African American woman, and a graduate of a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), I am honored to serve today as one of the U.S. Department of State’s HR Recruitment Outreach Specialists. In this capacity, I travel throughout the United States, sharing information about DOS opportunities at HBCUs, and targeted African American Professional Associations, including African American Fraternities and Sororities to identify and attract potential candidates to DOS careers and programs, and build a pipeline of diverse candidates for current and future careers. These interactions are exciting because I get to meet some of the best and brightest future leaders of this country. They are also nostalgic, because as I travel and meet young people around the country, I am reminded of my own journey to the Department.
I was raised by my grandparents who instilled in me the importance of education and public service. I learned about federal government in high school. One of my high school electives was “Preparing to Take the Civil Service Test,” and during my senior year, a career counselor recommended I apply for a “worker trainee” position, one of the student programs at the U.S. Department of State. This paid internship based on financial needs gave me an opportunity to gain federal government experience in high school and throughout college, while working during the summer, holidays, and breaks.
As a first generation college student, I attended an HBCU in 1977, and became a proud graduate of 1981, with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Administration and Management. Attending an HBCU where people looked like me, and shared some of the same values cultural experiences, provided a safe space to grow, learn, and express myself. My HBCU experience was invaluable and prepared me for a lengthy career during which I have had many opportunities to both expand that cultural knowledge and use it to connect with other people.
After graduating, I worked for almost a decade in the private sector, and then I decided to apply for a position in the Federal Government. I thought back to my internship experience at the Department of State and wanted to pick up where I left off in that exciting professional environment. Armed with a college degree and inspired by my grandparents’ encouragement to engage in public service, I took an entry-level position at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Public Affairs (PA). I started out as a Public Affairs Assistant, did exciting work, learned a great deal, and then applied for a career position as a Public Affairs Specialist.
In PA I had the opportunity to help inform and engage Americans about the United States’ foreign affairs and development work around the world. I worked on grassroots programs to connect the American people with the State Department and its work. And in support of my job, I even took my first plane ride at the age of 42. Fast forward to today – I have quite a few travel miles under my belt and some amazing experiences, including traveling internationally to South Africa and Colombia. Over the years and on my travels, I have seen and supported different parts of our diplomacy in action. Whether on the frontlines of serving Americans who are traveling overseas or promoting educational programs in a particular country or supporting high-level U.S. government delegations traveling abroad, watching my colleagues in action and working alongside them has reinforced my view of the important work the Department does all over the world. Working in PA, gave me a unique opportunity to witness and support these efforts as a Civil Servant.
I had no idea back then that my internship would lead me on such an enriching journey. In fact, my experiences inspire me to, today, encourage young people from all over the country to consider student internships at the Department. Tested, tried, and true, an internship is an excellent way to become connected with the Federal Government. In my current work as a recruiter, I particularly emphasize the importance of young Americans of all nationalities and cultures getting involved in public service. I recognize now that my background and culture gives me a unique vantage point and that is an important contribution to the Department. Our nation’s diversity is our strength. And as I share information about the Department and the career opportunities available, I encourage young people to bring that diversity to the Department because it is an asset to us as we interact and work to build bridges with the rest of the world.
Last month, Secretary Tillerson addressed an incoming class of Civil Service employees, where he emphasized the importance of public service and said the following about diversity among our ranks: “I think this really enriches our organization when we have the kind of diversity representation and representation around the country, because we really do project the face of America here at the State Department, and so we represent the face of the American people.” As an African American woman and an HBCU graduate whose decades long career is a reflection of what happens when diversity is valued, I couldn’t agree more. And I couldn’t be more honored to be a recruiter on the frontlines of the effort to ensure the Department reflects America in all of its diversity.
About the Author: Debbie Faltz serves as a Recruiter in the Bureau of Human Resources at the U.S. Department of State.
Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.com.
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