Path to Public Service Profile featuring Matthew Smith

Path to Public Service Profile featuring Matthew Smith

Name: Matthew Smith

Job Title: Business Continuity Coordinator

Recommended Reading:  How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Song stuck in your head right now: “Free (with Drew Love)” by Louis The Child


What was your path into public service?

If I’m being honest, I actually kind of stumbled upon public service. I went to college at UC San Diego and when I graduated I truly had no intention of pursuing a career in the public sector. I planned to work as a sports reporter at a San Diego news station. All of my plans changed when my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I had a choice: stay in San Diego and pursue my career or return home to Sacramento and spend as much time with my father while I still could. To me it was a no-brainer. I was driving up Interstate-80 the next week. I was able to spend several quality months with my father before he passed, and I’ll never once regret making the choice that I did. 

With that being said, I still needed a job! Sacramento is home to many California state agencies and it only made sense to pursue a job with one. Week after week I sent out applications in the mail. At the time it was paper only, and let me just say that I’m so happy the state chose to allow online applications. I had a great process down: print out all the jobs I qualified for, fill out the applications all week, and send out a mass of papers on Friday. My local post office soon began to greet me by name when I walked in. I had a few interviews here and there, but not much luck until I had an interview at the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, or CalSTRS. I interviewed for two positions at CalSTRS, and although I didn’t get the first one, I made enough of an impression to get the second one.  

That was five years ago in April, and I’ve grown to love working for the State. What keeps me motivated is the wonderful people I’ve met along the way. I’ve been blessed to have truly caring and inspirational people around me. At CalSTRS, our mission to serve California’s teachers is integral to everything we do and I love working for an agency with such defined, meaningful goals. Through NxtGov I’ve met people outside my agency that are just as caring and inspirational, and I’ve come to realize that people are naturally passionate when they have a clear goal in sight and are working to achieve it. Working with such great people and the ability to develop myself both professionally and personally will keep me in public service for a long time. 

What do you do in your current position, and what is something you are working on right now? 

At CalSTRS I work in a very small field, Business Continuity. It’s not well known or advertised, but state agencies are mandated to have plans in place for emergencies that may occur. Business Continuity is the ability for an organization to continue critical business processes during or immediately following an emergency incident of any kind. CalSTRS’ ability to function is critical to the lives of California’s teachers and if even a day is missed there are severe consequences. It’s my job to make sure an event doesn’t disrupt business by identifying and developing plans for CalSTRS’ most critical business functions. 

What cautionary tip would you give to someone looking for a job in state service? 

I would say don’t get discouraged during the whole process.  Being rejected for a position or denied an opportunity to interview can be so difficult and destructive for one’s confidence. It can make one jaded or even discourage them from continuing to apply. I think landing the job is a combination of skill and timing. Continuously work to improve your skill set and the timing will take care of itself. Whatever you do, don’t lose hope! Once you get that interview, make sure you’re connecting on a personal level with those you’re interviewing with. Sometimes the connection a hiring manager feels to you will overcome your lack of technical knowledge. 

How do you get the most out of working in public service?

Just like in life, it’s all about how much you put in it. You should be looking to develop yourself every day. Never settle or get too relaxed! Keep challenging yourself to take on new projects, develop new skills, and learn new techniques. Take as many training classes as possible. Listen to podcasts or read books to gain more knowledge of areas you want to improve in. Build as large a social network as you can, and provide value to others rather than just yourself. Have mentors and friends in other business areas to give you knowledge of the work they do. Volunteer in your community helping out in areas you’re passionate about. In general: be the best version of yourself you can be and make sure to enjoy life along the way! 


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