“I treated my job search like a full-time job.”
These are the words of IWP student James,* who began his M.A. program this January. He connected with IWP Director of Career Services Derrick Dortch on December 6, 2019, with a goal of finding a job by the end of February 2020. On February 10, having received two job offers from defense contractors, he began work as an analyst for the Department of Defense with ANSER.
Planning a career in national security
During his undergraduate years, James wanted to become an Army officer, focusing on intelligence. Planning ahead, he researched graduate schools and was admitted to a security program at a well-respected D.C.-area school recommended to him by an Army intelligence officer. “I was sold, I got in, and I was happy,” remembers James.
Then, he found out about IWP on an online forum and was intrigued. He researched further. He read the alumni stories and realized that “this was the real deal.” Most importantly for James, though, was the fact that IWP was a small school with a more intimate community. “Growing up, I went to a hundred different schools, and I always ended up liking the smaller schools,” he said.
James applied, got accepted to IWP’s M.A. program in Statecraft and National Security Affairs, and knew that he would need to find a job in D.C. sooner rather than later.
An aggressive job search
Adam Smith of the recruitment team mentioned IWP’s Career Services Office and its director Derrick Dortch. As soon as James found out about this, “I didn’t stop bothering Mr. Dortch… I got his number and started bombarding it.”
After speaking with James, Derrick Dortch recalled: “With that level of commitment and sacrifice, I told him that we would prioritize his job search and work on getting him something to stabilize him and support his family and his educational goals ASAP.”
Derrick and James began having career consultations by phone and in person, and Derrick helped him develop and implement a Career Success Strategy and Action Plan. They targeted his resume towards the national security industry, and Derrick sent James jobs that were most relevant to his skills, experiences, and qualifications. He also began connecting James with some IWP employer and alumni contacts.
Derrick said: “I told him that our goal was to have him a job offer from an employer by the end of 2020 and that if he took the process seriously we could achieve that. James listened and followed every step that I recommended. I have been working with him almost daily since our first conversation.” Once James started getting job interviews, Derrick helped prepare him for them.
“Whatever Mr. Dortch told me to do, I did,” said James. “He told me my resume needed work. I dedicated four hours a day to revising resumes, and that led to taking some online training. I revised resumes again and applied to 80-90 jobs. In a matter of weeks, I was lucky enough to get two offers.”
Derrick commented: “I use the same Career Success Formula and process with every student I work with, but James is a prime example of what can be done when a student is very serious about their career.”
Also helpful in James’s success was his use of the IWP Alumni Networking Program. During his job search, he had meetings with five IWP alumni, two of whom he spoke with at length – “they were very open with me.”
One of these alumni helped get James his current job. This alumnus had forwarded along an open analyst position at ANSER to IWP. When Derrick encouraged James to apply immediately, this alumnus passed along James’s resume to his company. This alumnus spoke with James before he applied, after he received the offer, and after he accepted it. “Without this alumnus, I don’t think I would have gotten the job,” said James. “He didn’t know me, but he really helped me out. All I had to say was that I was from IWP.”
James further commented: “These people are successful – Derrick Dortch, John Lenczowski, and anyone I came across at IWP were at the epitome of their careers, and yet they gave me all this respect and time and effort. It was something I hadn’t experienced before.”
The road ahead will not be easy in the near term, as James works in the national security field by day and pursues his M.A. at night.
However, he feels that: “This is definitely a good career move for me… It has opened a lot of doors.” Meanwhile, although he is brand new at his job, he very much enjoys his work environment and colleagues.
To other students who may be looking to break into this field, he advises: “Listen to Mr. Dortch. Also, network! I wasn’t so comfortable in the beginning, and I was trying to pretend that I belonged. But just network, speak to people, and make new friends. It’s easy when everyone is so friendly and helpful.”
*Name changed for security purposes.