Name: Danielle Metzinger
Job Title: Strategic Goal Program Manager (Civil service classification: Staff Services Manager I Specialist) at the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans)
Recommended Reading: We Don’t Make Widgets by Ken Miller
Song stuck in your head right now: “Thank U, Next” by Ariana Grande
Danielle Metzinger is a Strategic Goal Program Manager for the California Department of Transportation and serves as Deputy Director of NxtGov. She was one of the founding members of NxtGov and has served multiple roles in the organization including Membership Lead and Director of the Ambassador Program. Danielle received her Bachelor’s in Psychology from William Jessup University and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Organization Development from University of San Francisco.
What was your path into public service?
I was drawn to public service because I wanted to do something that matters. After working in the nonprofit and private sectors, I realized my deepest motivation was to meaningfully serve others and to advance the common good as much I can with my career. State government is a way to serve on a large-scale and put things in motion that will make lasting impact on those in need. I was also drawn to public service because of the job stability and flexibility it affords employees. As a millennial, I saw the devastating impact of the Great Recession on my community and the value of stable employment. I learned from public servant friends how much variety and flexibility was available and saw myself building a civil service career.
I sought guidance from friends who worked in civil service and took the better part of my final semester of college to take civil service exams and apply for as many jobs as I qualified for. My diligence and tenacity paid off and I was able to land a position and start my civil service career as a Staff Services Analyst (an entry-level analytical position) within a month of graduating college.
I remain in public service because of the incredible people I’ve been able to work with and the fascinating projects I get the chance to contribute to. I have amazing mentors and friends through my public service career that have forever shattered the negative stereotype of the “state worker” and keep me motivated to accomplish my absolute best for the people of California. I’ve also received support for continuing my education and increasing my skills so I can reach my potential. I’m also able to work on large scale projects across different functions and organizations within government which I find tremendously rewarding and interesting.
What do you do in your current position, and what is something you are working on right now?
In my current position at CalTrans I bring leaders together to focus on the organization’s top priority – its impact on the safety and health of CalTrans employees and the public. I’ve been inspired by CalTrans’ commitment to safety in every aspect and function of the organization, and the work CalTrans does to promote and plan for active transportation such as walking, biking, and transit. I’m fortunate to work for an organization which is focused on the future and improving fundamentals like access and safety in transportation to facilitate a better life for all people in California and bolster our country’s economy.
What cautionary tip would you give to someone looking for a job in Civil Service?
Don’t sell yourself short! The civil service process, and even the language used in job descriptions, can be intimidating even to the most intelligent and accomplished prospective civil servant. Your experience (whether paid or not) is valuable and it all “counts” when it comes to qualifying for a civil service position. Consider the full range of your education and experience when taking an exam and applying for a position.
What was your strategy for applying to public service positions? In hindsight, would you change your approach?
My strategy for applying to my first public service position was to apply for any position that I had passed an exam for and was near where I lived. With the high amount of applicants in the system and without possessing any public service experience, I understood this is a competitive process and I would need to focus on increasing my chances of landing an interview. Essentially I applied to as many jobs as I qualified for. Coupled with that, I always made sure to tailor each application to the position and carefully follow any directions for the application (for example, including a specific number on the application, attaching a resume, etc.) and include a tailored cover letter. These efforts helped me secure my first position which was an excellent foundation for my public service career.
In hindsight, I realized I would often include extraneous items (such as my civil service exam results) that weren’t required and I could have left out without it hurting my chances. Paying careful attention to the application requirements is paramount. Don’t feel like you need to include anything and everything!