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Kelly Chen chats with alum Khaki LaRiviere

Khaki LaRiviere graduated from William & Mary in 2014 with a major in Public Policy and a minor in Economics. She is now an Analyst of Homeland Security and Justice in the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), where she conducts research on federal departments on border security, immigration, justice, and law enforcement issues. Her work is project-based, with varying time constraints but following the same general timeline: Congress will request an audit, and the GAO will assemble a mission team and initiate the work. The team will design an audit method, conduct research, request documentation, and draft a report. The team then sends a draft report to the audited agencies for comment, and provides an informational copy of the draft to Congress. The ultimate goal of the process is to keep agencies accountable and to ensure that taxpayer money is being used effectively. 

What I found to be most interesting during my talk with Khaki was her observations on the particulars of working in government at local, state, and federal levels, as evidenced by both her past work experience and her current work at the GAO. At the local level, Khaki worked on public safety, commerce, and labor issues impacting localities in Virginia. As staff to the Virginia Governor, most recently as a Policy Advisor, Khaki assisted in developing legislation to remove barriers faced by entrepreneurs under the age of 25 and restructure the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP). At the GAO, she was recently involved in writing a report on workforce diversity in the intelligence community. Through Khaki’s work, she understands that relationships between local, state, and federal agencies are complex as they differ by mission and in their ability to oversee and access data systems, among other things.

“For federal jobs, it may be challenging to get your foot in the door,” Khaki said. Generally, the process for applying for a position and receiving an offer may take several months or more. Her best advice for William & Mary students interested in a career in federal government is to network. “Internships and connections are crucial,” she said. She recommends that students get involved in student government or other related activities where they can gain experience addressing student body challenges, attending Career Center activities, and taking courses related to government and policy. She also emphasized the importance of developing strong writing skills, as it is essential for government products to be concise and to begin with the bottom-line message. Students should develop concise written products, along with formal research products, to have readily available as writing samples when applying for government positions, she said. She also noted that professors in her undergraduate and graduate programs at William & Mary and Virginia Tech have been critical for her career success from internships to employment.

Finally, Khaki mentioned that students should take advantage of William & Mary resources and programs, including the Virginia General Assembly session internship program and networking events. She noted that databases helpful for finding open positions include jobs.virginia.gov for Virginia government employment and USAJOBS for federal employment. Both databases reflect current opportunities, including internships as well as part-time and full-time employment.