Taxing times for non-traditional student

Bridget Kleismit talks with Debra Wilburn, assistant director in Wright State University’s Career Services office during her exit interview for her internship with the Internal Revenue Service.

Bridget Kleismit talks with Debra Wilburn, assistant director in Wright State University’s Career Services office during her exit interview for her internship with the Internal Revenue Service.

French fries and rose petals.

Bridget Kleismit found them under the chair in her $30/night hotel room–her on-again, off-again home as an out-of-state intern.

The room was dirty.

Her neighbors fought, often yelling obscenities after midnight.

She later found out the hotel was used for welfare overflow.

Dirty room be damned, Kleismit was not going to be deterred from her dream: a full-time job as a revenue agent with the Internal Revenue Service.

“Bridget’s story demonstrates real success,” said Debra Wilburn, assistant director in Wright State University’s Career Services office. “It’s about building success. It’s not magic. It takes dedication.”

Dedication Kleismit has in spades.

Kleismit, the professional and middle-aged mom, toughed out less-than-desirable temporary living conditions two hours from home for 15 weeks.

In order to take advantage of a government internship with no job guaranteed, she worked four 10-hour days, commuted home to Clark County each weekend and carried eight credit hours at Wright State.

Kleismit found she could cook several dinners for her husband at a time, keeping him fed through the week while fending off the fleas on the road.

Kleismit’s road began in 2009 when she found herself in a tough spot.

She had been working for 12 years at Gordon Food Services as a buyer for the maintenance department. It paid the bills up until a fire happened at the plant. The aftermath for Kleismit was an allergic reaction to unknown chemicals.

It quickly became time for her to wrap up a bachelor’s she’d been pursuing for 26 years, much of that time spent at Wright State.

Suddenly Kleismit’s part-time college endeavor spanning its third decade needed to come to a close. She needed to find a new career.

Kleismit’s college odyssey began in 1985 at Sinclair Community College, later taking her to Florida and back to the Miami Valley for work.

Back home, Kleismit decided she needed to go back to school and began working toward an associate in accounting from Edison State.

Her love for accounting grew with every class, and her dream of working for the IRS was born.

Kleismit got the job at GFS one class short of getting the degree.

For 12 years it didn’t matter, but she felt she’d lost an opportunity.

“My dream was to work for the IRS as an internal revenue agent, doing taxes,” said Kleismit. “I always wanted to do taxes for them. I didn’t even know there were other positions.(with the IRS)”

Little did she know her dreams might soon become a reality when she began searching for an internship last year.

Most internships these days pay nothing, and many internships in Washington require the intern to pay thousands out of pocket.

“I didn’t have that kind of money,” said Kleismit.

Faced with long odds, Kleismit took a chance and threw her name in the hopper for a fully funded internship with the IRS.

She submitted two essays, a resume and a GPA near 3.5 from Wright State and waited.

Months went by.

Finally she got word and got the internship.

She lucked out with the travel too. The middle-aged mom living outside Enon would report to an office in northern Kentucky and not one near northern Virginia.

The internship paid for room and board and a small stipend for food and necessities.

In a matter of weeks, Kleismit was working for the feds.

Brought in as a personnel security intern, she hit the ground running.

“My first month was hard,” said Kleismit.

“They talked in codes, CAG’s and CAH’s and I’d be taking notes, and by the time I caught up they’d already be on to something else. I learned by having to type up their notes.”

The internship began in September and ended last month. Determined to knock out her bachelor’s by March, Kleismit got credit for the internship and took two classes online.

The experience left a lasting impression on her, but the strongest impression may have been left with her superiors at the IRS.

“One thing that I did that really seemed to impress was when I showed how flexible I could be with running a corporate training session on conflict management,” said Kleismit.

She had to cut down a four-hour training session to just 35 minutes on short notice.

“When I was done, the managers wanted me to come back to teach other training courses,” said Kleismit

More often Kleismit was the student.

During her three-month stint, she was immersed in projects. “They gave me a lot of projects. I probably had 10 projects to work on in my first week.”

Each step of the way, Kleismit says she impressed with her professional polish. She says she owes it to her classroom training in organizational leadership. She’s on track to earn her bachelor’s degree this spring.

“With my presentation and speaking skills that I learned at Wright State, they thought I was executive level when I walked in the door at the IRS,” said Kleismit.

“The skills I used and learned at Wright State made it so I could get up in front of those meetings and talk.”

Kleismit may have just talked her way into a new career.

She says the IRS has made it clear it doesn’t want her to get away.

Kleismit says the agency is set to post a block of jobs this month that her superiors say she’s qualified for.

“All those night classes I took all those years finally added up to something.”

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