When Steve Ressler began his federal career, he often looked around his office at the Homeland Security Department and felt like the odd man out.
“I was young at work, and I looked around my office and there weren’t a lot of people that looked like me,” he said. “I was 24 at the time and I think the closest person to my age was in their early 40s. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but you’re kind of looking for peers.”
New to government, he often lacked the background knowledge he needed to inform a specific project he was working on, and turned to Google to find a few of the answers.
It’s a story that might sound familiar to many young federal employees.
Ressler founded both Young Government Leaders and Gov Loop with a similar idea in mind: he wanted to create a community of government employees who could learn from each other and share knowledge and experiences with their peers.
“There’s just some natural concerns you have at 24, whether you were 24 in 2015 or 24 in 1992,” Ressler said. “The concerns of young, rising leaders are stuff any new entrant to work has when they’re trying to figure out work — how do I find great work, how do I have an impact, how do I understand the bureaucracy, how do I navigate through the bureaucracy?”
Young Government Leaders, which Ressler first started as a happy hour group for younger federal employees, now has more than 9,000 members and 12 chapters across the United States. Gov Loop is an online social network for more than 200,000 employees in local, state and federal agencies.
For Ressler, it’s all about harnessing the excitement up and coming government leaders have toward their agencies’ missions — and creating opportunities for them to connect with their peers.
“It’s important for any affinity group to have time to connect and get inspired from each other,” he said. “There’s a real risk among these rising government leaders that they’re going to come in and leave and disenfranchise. If we can connect folks in government that are rising in their career to other folks like them and get them inspired and excited to stay in public service, that’s a game changer.”