Jason Blazakis, self-described as "brutally honest," told 45 START interns the truth during his Career Profile Session on June 14: "It's not going to be easy finding jobs."
He did not leave them without hope, however. Blazakis, Director of the Office of Terrorist Designations and Sanctions in the State Department's Bureau of Counterterrorism, also provided the interns with insights and honest information about how to start a career in the government.
Although he originally planned to work as a lawyer, Blazakis got an early start in defense after graduating from the University of Mississippi with a political science degree and English minor. In addition, he attended graduate school part-time, earning two master's degrees: one in government from Johns Hopkins University and one in international affairs from Columbia University. He now has spent more than 10 years with the Department of State in counterterrorism and intelligence.
Blazakis recommended several programs to the interns so the interns, too, could get an early start in government work: the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF), the Pathways program, the Franklin Fellows Program, the Pickering Fellowship and the Boren Fellows.
"I want [the interns] to understand how they can get into the Department of State through these programs," Blazakis said, stressing how these programs help students and young graduates create strong connections within the government.
"The PMF program got me where I am today."
The interns appreciated the opportunity to hear from Blazakis. "All the different programs he mentioned were really helpful," said Rissa Latterman, a Special Projects intern working on Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense (CBRN) research.
Fellow CBRN research intern Ryan Neuhard agreed. "It's good to hear from people who are involved in the kind of work we want to go into. His role is a blend of policy, intelligence and law, so you get a lot of different perspectives from one speaker, which is cool."
In addition to his State Department duties, Blazakis is teaching START's summer course on terrorist finance and the methods deployed to counter terrorist finance.