I showed up for orientation, took the “Oath” and was assigned to my first position as a GS-01 Clerk Typist making $4.20 per hour (no more than 4 hours per day and 20 hours per week). This was non-negotiable.
I learned so much in this first assignment. I learned about things called “Suspenses” and “Acronyms”. Supsenses are the typically a request for information by a certain (normally a short fuse) date. Acronyms are by definition are a set of initials representing a name, organization, or the like that make a phrase (FOCUS- Follow One Course Until Success, FEAR- False Evidence Appearing Real, AMC- Army Material Command).
I also experienced my first fabulous mentor and first jackass boss. As a new student hire I was assigned to a wonderful mentor who had several years of experience, a ton of knowledge, strong work ethic and super kind personality. She showed me the ropes, taught me all about government terminology, how to prepare correspondence, disposition forms, memorandums, official government filing systems, etc.
Then, the jackass. I picked up on the tasks, the terminology, etc pretty quickly and apparently was doing a good job. What happens when you do something good–you get offered an opportunity to do more. I was asked to do the “Work Order Clerk” job which is pretty important if you want to get something fixed or installed in the government. Work Orders are the forms that are used to request a light bulb be replaced, white board be hung on the wall, office key made, signage be made, electrical outlet be moved. This job had responsibilities that were classified at the GS-04 level. The grade gap didn’t bother me because I knew that in the General Schedule (GS) system you had to perform at a specific grade for a specific period of time to be promoted to the next level. This might be where the term “you have to do your time” came from. More importantly, I knew that if I demonstrated that I could work at a higher level it would benefit when the time was right.
All was well and good until the Jackass started taking advantage of me. I was already doing duties of a position 3 grades higher. I am not sure how it came about but I started getting work that my intuition flagged as “didn’t seem right”. I talked to the Jackass about this and he didn’t have answers to my questions about the inappropriateness of this. I went to talk to our Human Resources (formerly known as civilian personnel) and they invited me to transfer to their office. So I did.
The takeaway here is…grow from the good, trust your intuition and accept opportunities.