By Guest Blogger Lindsey Teel, Policy Advisor, Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor
If you asked me about my future career plans when I was younger, I would have told you I wanted to be a sociology professor. This was my goal because as a person with a disability, albeit a disability that may be hard to detect, I often felt like an outsider and found it easier to analyze social dynamics rather than actually participate in social life. Thus, I majored in the study of human interaction. Following college, I applied to graduate schools to continue my career pursuits, submitting a personal statement that described how I had overcome a visual impairment and become a better person because of it. However, since I graduated in December and had to wait to begin graduate school the next fall, I followed my best friend to Washington, D.C. to intern for our hometown Congressman in the interim.
Even though my Capitol Hill intern coordinator didn’t know what to do with me (I struggled to complete visual-centric tasks such as preparing binders for Members of Congress), I still felt like Cinderella walking through the marble hallways of the House of Representatives amidst such well-known, powerful people. I enjoyed it so much that after returning home to Texas and beginning my graduate program, I often dreamed of returning to the Nation’s Capital and assuming my destiny as a person who would change the world, making it a more equitable place for people with disabilities and other marginalized groups. Upon completion of my Master’s degree, I took off to D.C. for a second internship in my Congressman’s office and began my search for a “real job.”
One day during my first week back in D.C., I went to a restaurant after work with my friends and had the opportunity to talk with a staffer who worked in a different Member’s office. He said he would be leaving his job soon and that I should apply for it, so I did. A month later, I started the entry-level Hill staffer job, quickly learning that I would either sink or swim. I essentially had to wear three hats: performing constituent services duties like flag and tour requests, managing and responding to all of the Congressman’s mail, and supervising student interns. These were no easy tasks; the pay was low and the hours were long. But, I developed several transferrable skill sets during the course of my time on the Hill, and felt ready to transition to a more complex role, hopefully in the field of disability advocacy.
Read More about My Job Search: A Story of Solidarity in the Disability Community