I have been honored to have the opportunity this spring to serve as a Policy Intern Analyst at the State of Illinois Office of the Treasury. This position lets me utilize my research skills and, as a result, allows me to be seen as a person first, before being a person with a disability.
I assist with the formation of the policy programs in the office. Legislators pass laws developing and creating roles for various offices and my office figures out how we can accomplish those roles.
The folks at the Treasurer’s office have appreciated the work that I have done and I have had a chance to interact with many of the people that help make the office work on a day to day basis. On numerous occasions, I have met and conversed with State Treasurer Mike Frerich himself, and today I was able to engage in a brief conversation with and meet up with the President of the City Club of Chicago.
With so many opportunities, I’ve had to learn the general “Dos and Don’ts” of working for the government. This is an important concept because public sectors are held to a higher standard of behavior than those in private sector.
These rules begin the moment that I enter the the building. Everyday, I have to go through a security check. As person with Autism, dealing with security personnel of varying personalities can be a frustrating test of personal patience. The important thing to know is you have no say in changing the rules and neither does the security guard. Any complaints about procedures have to be addressed outside of the security checkpoints. I have dealt with this frustration regularly.
Once I enter the office, a new set of rules are in play. One must remember important communication protocols. If the communication is 100% work related, utilize your work email. If there is a question of whether or not the communication is work related, then utilize a personal email to send the message. If people visit and ask you where things are, refer them to the secretary. Never ever directly ignore people. This is imperative, especially in government offices, because one negative impression of government can be a lasting one.
Communication between co-workers is another important matter. In the State Treasurer’s office, I cannot just randomly go from office to office looking for people to talk to. I have to first try and email my supervisor, second reachout other members of the policy team. Then they can give me assignments.
In addition, from what I have experienced at the Thompson Center, where I work, the spaces in the building feel accommodating for people like me. Also, in government there is a need for subject matter expertise.
Subject matter expertise is one of the important ways to market yourself in the professional world. A simple way to describe subject matter expertise is having more knowledge on a topic than most people. Government is a large organization that is organized into various departments. Thus, it employs accountants, policy researchers, communications professionals, janitorial workers and other staff that make the office operations possible. If you are passionate about your field, government might have a place for you.
Knowing the dos and don’t allow me to have a productive work experience at the Treasurer’s office.
Bill Sitter is a No Boundaries Participant and a Policy Analyst for the State of Illinois Treasurer’s Office