Student Success Story: Robert Weddle and the WRP Program

The Workforce Recruitment (WRP) Program helps students with disabilities obtain internships within the Federal Government. UMUC will participate in this program again for the 2017-2018 year, and interested students can register until Tuesday, October 17, 2017 to be considered for summer 2018 internships.

UMUC graduate student Robert Weddle participated in the 2016 WRP program and was selected to pursue an internship with the Department of Defense (DoD) Defense Threat Reduction Agency. He was just hired by this agency for a full-time position as a result of his internship and was willing to share his experiences:

Q: What kind of work were you doing prior to becoming a UMUC student?
A: I was unemployed before discovering and getting accepted into the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP). I retired from active duty with the Army in September 2012, started working shortly after for the Department of Veteran Affairs, but had to resign due to personal reasons in July of 2015. I immediately moved to Annapolis, MD to live with a longtime friend.

Q: Why did you decide an internship was important in helping you achieve your career goals?
A: The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) gave me an opportunity to take my training, education, and experience to obtain employment that not only fit my skill sets, but also my degree while accommodating my physical limitations.

Q: After you applied to the WRP Program, what happened next?
A: I found the WRP process to be very accommodating. The majority of the process is self-paced, and as long as you meet the requirements and deadlines, you will be okay. The very first thing to  do is complete the online application on the WRP website. To do this, you have to gather a variety of documents such as your resume, Schedule A Letter, and if a veteran, your disability letter from the Veteran Affairs, DD Form 214, then submit these via the WRP website. A Schedule A letter is written by a licensed medical professional, vocational rehabilitation specialist, or another agency that issues or provides disability benefits. A sample Schedule A letter and more information about these letters can be found on the WRP website.

Q: What was the hiring process like with the DoD hiring manager? When did you hear from a federal agency?
A: If contacted, you will be scheduled for a telephone interview appointment with a supervisor from any of the numerous federal agencies. This interviewer is chosen randomly, and his/her job is to write a synopsis about you and add that to your Department of Labor profile, which federal recruiters will look through for candidates. The interviewer will tell you about themselves, explain the process, and ask you questions about yourself, your education, your experience, what locations you would like to work in, and with what agencies. He/she will then ask if you have any limitations related to your disability, and then the interview is complete. For me, the interview took about 15-20 minutes.

I was finally contacted for an internship approximately five-to-six months after this interview. This is later than normal due to the 2017 federal hiring freeze. Within a two-week period, I was contacted by numerous agencies with 12 different internship offers across the federal government and had to decide on one as soon as possible. I had some that wanted me to come in for an interview and compete against others, and I had some that selected me just based off my resume. In the end, I made my decision and chose an agency within the DoD’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA).  I was slotted as a Program Assistant with a paid internship. I was also granted a security clearance and got to work a flexible schedule choosing my own hours hours as long as they met the requirements.

Q: What advice do you have for candidates apply to the WRP?
A: My recommendations to anyone who apply  is to be prepared. Rehearse your 30-second elevator pitch, and highlight the specific qualifications you want to address with the interviewer. Also, have at least three specific agencies and work locations in mind. For example, I said I wanted to work in the Department of Homeland Security in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (O&I) in Washington, D.C.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about what you’re doing in your internship?
A: Unfortunately, because of the nature of what I do, I can’t say too much. The DTRA is charged with all aspects that deal with weapons of mass destruction. Initially my internship had me slotted to complete my 14 weeks with DTRA’s Intelligence and Strategic Planning Office, but a week later, due to my performance, they asked if I wanted to extend an additional 14 weeks. A couple of months later, I was offered a permanent position doing the same exact thing to fill an unexpected opening, and I accepted this opportunity.

Q: What are your long-term career goals?
A: My long-term career goal is to continue to be promoted annually in accordance with my hiring agreement. I want to strive to be above average in all areas of evaluation. One day, I hope to become a senior executive or even a director of a government agency.

Q: Is there anything else that you’d like to share about your internship or experience with the WRP?
A: First and foremost, always remember nobody owes you anything. Go earn it! Think of an internship as a 14-week interview. Demonstrate discipline and integrity, and always do the right thing. Attitude is everything!

I live by this and it has never failed me, and it is to always good to be proactive not reactive. Once you know what agency you are going to work with, contact them and ask them things like:

  • What is the dress code?
  • Are there any mandatory trainings that you can complete from home and bring the certificates on your first day?
  • Download and complete forms like your I-9, tax paperwork and so forth.
  • Ask if there are any standard operating procedures you can read up on beforehand?
  • Do your own research; learn all you can about your agency to include, its history and mission.
  • Drive your commute during the hours you’ll be driving to get a feel for traffic and commute times.

On your first day, arrive earlier than normal, dress accordingly and have everything you could possible need: pens, paper, birth certificate, social security card, driver’s license, resume, transcripts, DD 214, insurance cards, all pertinent info for dependents such as social security numbers, birthdates, addresses, contact numbers emails, etc. No one expects you to know everything, so ask questions. If you do not know an answer to a question, exhaust all your resources and research it. Listen more than you talk!

Finally, I would like to share that the WRP internship lead me to the career opportunity I am in now and helped me get  hired for a permanent position within the DTRA. I am very happy! I want to thank UMUC’s Career Services team for all of your assistance.

If you have any questions about the WRP program, please refer to their website as well as the resources available about the WRP in CareerQuest. You can also reach out to Kristin Schrader, Assistant Director of InternPLUS and Military Career Programs at UMUC by making an advisor appointment in CareerQuest.

Kristin Schrader is the assistant director of InternPLUS and Military Career Programs at University of Maryland University College. She has a background in human resources and has worked in career services at four universities. Most recently, she was the lead trainer in Europe for the Department of Labor Employment Workshop teaching transitioning U.S. servicemembers about the civilian job search. She is very passionate about helping others obtain their professional goals.