I Quit My Federal Job


I have written in the past about my male classmate who was pursuing a Master’s degree in Social Work with the goal of becoming the Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services. I had never dreamed that big before. Not only had I not considered that my degree could help me run an entire government agency, I had not fully considered the benefits of working in a federal government agency when I quit my federal job in my last undergraduate semester.

I was the mother of a toddler, s full-time student, and a part-time federal employee during my undergraduate years. I had worked nearly 6 years in the Federal Student Employee program when I quit my job to complete the internship required for graduation. I could not fathom how I could work during the day and go to school during the day and attend an internship during the day. In my mind a social worker worked with nonprofit organizations and not in the federal government. In my mind I had secured the perfect internship in crisis pregnancy counseling/prevention and did not want to give that up. Not only did I not ask the right questions of myself I didn’t ask questions of anyone else at all. I made the decision totally on my own and informed my supervisor of my resignation plans. Of course hindsight is 20/20 and I now know that I should have talked with my employment supervisor and college advisor and asked for recommendations on how to stay in my federal position and secure a different internship site with different hours of operation. Not only did I not think about potential positions within the agency where I was working but I also hadn’t considered agencies like USAID or Health and Human Services. If I had remained in the Federal Student Employment program I likely could have had a permanent position in the federal government right after graduation, taken advantage of really nice benefits including tuition assistance for graduate school and possibly loan forgiveness and been able to retire in my prime. I don’t regret my decision at all. In fact, I still believe I was right to do what I did. Although I made a life altering decision without full knowledge to completely weigh the pros and cons, I know that community work was the best path for me. I have a desire to do international work in the future and am currently training nationally but at the time I didn’t have someone showing me the world outside of my area code. I couldn’t see any other solution because I had never seen any other solution. I didn’t have social work role models. In fact, my only role models with college degrees were my teachers and college professors. My high school teachers couldn’t tell specifically me how to become a successful social worker or explain all the career options to me. My college professors only saw me during class time. Without a strong professional network I stumbled my way through and learned many things by trial and error.

My path has helped me guide many social work students and students in other “helping” professions in avoiding similar pitfalls. Sign up for my Get Hired or Note To Self Strategy Sessions for assistance with job hunting or academic pursuits.

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Nicki Sanders, Chief Visionary Officer of Packaged For Success, helps both youth and adults discover their personal power, dream big, and achieve success on their own terms. Ms. Sanders is an experienced trainer, group facilitator, and program manager who holds a Master’s degree in Social Work. Ms. Sanders has over fifteen years of direct experience with diverse populations in residential, school-based, and community based agencies.

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