Tyler Bontemps, 2011

Visit with Tyler and other alumni in Washington, D.C.

 

1) Where do you work? Briefly, what does it entail?

I work for Congressman William Enyart of the Illinois 12th district. My official title is Legislative Correspondent and Legislative Assistant. I am responsible for all constituent correspondence addressed to Congressman Enyart and research this correspondence with committees of the House and Senate and the Congressional Research Service.

Principle resource to Congressman Enyart on assigned legislative subjects: Transportation & Infrastructure, Budget, Taxes, Housing & Urban Development appropriations, Postal Reform, Indian Affairs, Banking, Finance and Small Business. Responsible for staying current on these matters in order to brief the Congressman prior to House action on a related bill.

 

2)  What aspects of your job do you enjoy most? Find most challenging?

The most enjoyment I get from my job is when we successfully help someone from home. Whether a constituent is receiving their social security benefits or helping a veteran; Stopping the bank from foreclosing a home or getting a family to our office on a DC vacation. I love being in a position to help people from the very place I call home.

The most challenging is aspect of my job is talking with people from home who have been negatively impacted by the partisanship climate in DC and empathizing with their situation.  Unfortunate example  would be sequester signed into law and furloughs affecting federal workers in our area, crippling their ability to afford mortgages or car payments, let alone put extra food on the table. As a freshman member and a minority party, there is little clout for immediate action.

I also find it frustrating that most the people with an institutional knowledge and history of government leave to go work for lobbying firms. I understand that lobbyist can serve a valuable purpose in helping interest groups or businesses understand the intricacies of government committees, but the impact of the revolving door flat out depresses me. If government were to operate at its highest capacity, it would pay valuable employees higher wages- making it worthwhile to stay and work for the people. You could keep knowledgeable, savvy individuals from going and working for PACs and Firms to circumvent the very laws put in place for the common man.

 

3)  How does your job relate to what you studied at Illinois Wesleyan?

My job has a direct connection to what I studied at Illinois Wesleyan, with concentration on American Government. My Senior Seminar observed specific religious demographics and voting in Presidential elections. Having campaigned in a Presidential year, I was able to assess the system from the inside out. The benefits to having a liberal arts education is being somewhat forced to study topics you might not enjoy, but will inevitably make you well read. It forces you to pay attention to how outside variables can directly influence or sway legislative outcomes.

 

4)  Has your job given you any insight into what you would like to do with the rest of your career?

Absolutely, I was fortunate to first be an administrative assistant at a consulting firm before being a hill staffer. I was able to use the extensive knowledge in trucking and logistics with the political science degree. I could not have been happier to meet that threshold.

 

5)  What advice, if any, would you give to Political Science majors looking for a job upon graduation?

Leaving Illinois showed me the importance of networking and relationships. We tend undermine the significance of relationships that we have nurtured our entire lives because we do not often remind ourselves of the amount of time it took to build trust and respect. So when you uproot and settle in a different city it takes months to meet people who are “decision makers.” The people who hire and fire need to gain your trust to be a potential employee.

I also say go live off very little now, while you have very little to lose. My first roommates were all law school and masters graduates who had accumulated massive debt and were now merely over qualified workers in a field that does not pay well the first few years. Unless you have a specific plan of action after graduate school (i.e. work for a huge consulting firm for the big bucks), I would wait and assess the saturated market of underpaid/overqualified applicants. The worst that can happen is you gain some work experience before attending a postgraduate program.