In our search for perks, cool coworkers, and a career full of excitement, it’s easy to overlook local government.
But Willair St. Vil, of the District’s Department of Human Resources, assures me there’s more to the DC government than meets the eye.
“In about 5 years, 20% of the DC Government’s workforce will be retiring,” begins St. Vil. “In turn, we are already seeing a great need for young, energetic new hires.”
St. Vil’s tenure with DCHR began almost 5 years ago, and in that time he’s trained hundreds of employees and led them through the government’s new hire orientation.
“Every other Monday, I see about 50 new people get hired. That’s over 2,000 people since I’ve been here.”
On the Search for New Talent
“There’s a great need to bring on new talent into local government. That’s why new efforts are underway to reach out to high schools and colleges and let them know there is a place for their graduates in our workforce.”
On Getting the Facts Straight
“I think there is such limited knowledge on what the DC government actually does. You may have gone to an agency and received subpar services or care. But I work with great professionals every day who are passionate about the work they do.
“There is such limited knowledge on what the DC government actually does.”
If you ever have a question about your housing, the Office of Tenant Advocates can help you.
There’s an office on African American Affairs, Asian Affairs, and Latino Affairs. You can walk into any of these offices and get help from a knowledgeable staff member who will go above and beyond to meet your need.”
On Landing a DC Government Job
“There are different ways to go about landing a job in the DC Government. But the best way by far is to apply for a fellowship or program.
There is the Capital City Fellows Program (CCFP) for those who have recently finished their master’s or law degree. And at any given time during the 18-month fellowship, fellows may apply to secure positions.
CCFP is a competitive program. There are about 5 slots and you will have to have your master’s and a GPA at or above 3.5 to be considered.
But since I’ve been here there has only been one fellow who finished the program and chose not to stay. Almost everyone who applied to full-time positions got an offer and accepted the offer.
We have the District Leadership Program, which is designed for juniors or seniors in college as well as grad students.
I’ve managed this program since 2012 and the idea behind it is that once you intern with us, based on performance, we hire you. Last year, after our summer program we had 35 interns and 6 of them started working immediately after the program. The others had yet to finish their degrees.
Our hiring rate is 3 to 1. We typically look at 80 applications and about a third of them get hired.
For this particular program, you need at least a 2.5 GPA and a recommendation from an advisor.
We are looking for strong writers and the interview process evaluates your ability to think logic and reason. when you’re accepted to the program you are given real projects and real work.”
On Job Titles
“If you come in as a fellow, you will most likely be hired as an analyst. Fellows who are hired to do lots of auditing work, data analytics, urban planning, program planning, and analyst work that is housing or community related.
The District has over 70 agencies, and each agency is looking for professionals to balance their budget, help with strategic planning, and more. These agencies must have these basic operational needs in order to function. If you can offer solutions to these needs, there is a job for you.
I’ve heard people say ‘I’m not working for the Department of Corrections because they think they will be working in a jail. But the Department of Corrections needs legal services, HR, planning, learning, and development. The possibilities are endless.
If you come in with an accounting degree or a business degree, you’ll find agencies have a real need for help managing and balancing their budgets.
Data is huge here. Everything has to be measured and reported on. We have key performance indicators we need to set and meet. If you can come in and make sense of all this data, there is a place for you here.”
On Culture and Growth
“If you’re looking for a diverse workplace, the DC government is for you. From the colleagues you work with to the host of different job types we have, I don’t think any other employer can say they have more variety. You can go online and see jobs for recruiting, public information officers, social media coordinators, brand managers, lawyers, communicators, and accounting.
“From the colleagues you work with to the host of different job types we have, I don’t think any other employer can say they have more variety.”
But aside from diversity, these careers bring great reward. How many people can say they see the immediate impact of their work?
The Bikeshare program in DC is a perfect example of hard work you can see. Our fellows at the Department of Transportation worked on this program. They did the research and thought through tiny details like how far each station is from the other and how we recycle and repair these bikes.
There is a flexible work schedule, and from my own observation, I think we’re hiring young people at a faster rate than the federal government. We believe we have a workplace young professionals will thrive in.
Most notably, we’re big on mentoring and coaching here. And our offices are downtown and metro accessible. My office is right near the Verizon Center in Chinatown. I can pop into the Portrait Gallery for lunch and I have a short commute home. Who doesn’t want that?
Photography by Leah Beilhart