Got my first job! Working as a staff assistant for Congresswoman Donna Shalala

Stephanie Fernandez Feature

Name: Diana Garcia

Hometown: Pembroke Pines, Florida

Degree/Major: I am a junior working toward a bachelor’s in international relations and philosophy

Where are you working? Title? I work as a staff assistant at the U.S. House of Representatives in the District Office of Congresswoman Donna Shalala (FL-27).

How did you get your job? I began interning at Congresswoman Donna Shalala’s district office in January as part of an Honors College course. I was taking “How to Change the World” with Professor Rosado, and we were required to complete an internship as part of the course. After finishing my internship, I was asked to join the team permanently.

What was your greatest fear going into your first job, and how did you face it or overcome it? My greatest fear going into this job was that I would not have had enough prior professional experience. Luckily, my Honors College classes at FIU prepared me for this role more than I had initially realized. The Honors College’s focus on interdisciplinary learning, writing and research have been my biggest asset in this new role.

What surprised you the most about your first job? What surprised me the most about my first job is how important people and communication skills are. I went into the role worried about my ability to complete certain tasks and found that one of my greatest assets is the ability to listen and communicate.

What advice do you have for those beginning the job search process? Do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help! Honors College Career Services advisor Isabel Green and professor Ralph Rosado were so vital in this process for me. As a friend once said to me: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” So don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and experience new things.

What does a day on the job look like? Every day is different but as the office’s staff sssistant my role is to support all members of the staff in any way I can. This usually means working closely with our district director, caseworkers, and outreach coordinators to make sure that we support Florida District 27 and our constituents in the best and most efficient way we can.

How does your job connect back to your coursework? As an Honors College student double majoring in international relations and philosophy, I’m constantly challenged to think critically and problem solve. Working in a congressional office requires me to use my knowledge of politics, social issues and organization daily.

How was your transition from school to work? How do you balance your time? As I am only a junior at FIU, I’ve learned the key to balancing school and work is staying organized. I try to manage my time as efficiently as I can, as well as, always try to finish projects ahead of the deadline in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed. It is so important to take time outside of school and work to relax and support our mental and physical health.

What’s been the coolest thing about your job so far? My favorite part of the job is getting to hear from and interact with our constituents. It’s really cool to be able to see someone come in with a problem or concern and see the office be able to help them find a solution. I really love the office I work in and am lucky to be surrounded by such supportive colleagues.

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