Paths to Public Service Featuring Nathalie Nguyen

Paths to Public Service Featuring Nathalie Nguyen

Name: Nathalie Nguyen
Job Title: Council Specialist, Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council
Recommended Reading: George Orwell’s 1987 or any book of the Harry Potter Series
Spirit Animal: Sea Otters
Song stuck in your head right now OR Song you wish you didn’t like: Baby Shark Doo- Doo

What was your path into public service?

When I graduated college, I had dreams of going to law school and working in a corporate firm. Before I made that journey, I ended up applying for a fellowship with a push from a mentor. The decision landed me in Sacramento interning at the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. I was only supposed to stay in Sacramento for a year, but 4 years later I’ve made it my home.

During the fellowship I knew nothing about the State application process. I had a mentor who told me that I should apply because he knew the state needed young people to come in and create change. Innovation was highly sought after in the State, and the idea that I could receive a paycheck while making a difference was a highly motivating factor for me.  

After graduation, 35 applications, and 7 interviews I landed a job with the Department of Social Services as an analyst working on issues surrounding foster care. I had no idea what I stepped into because I had no experience with or knew anyone in foster care, but I did know that I was willing to learn and be a part of the conversation. I was most excited about the chance to provide input to policies that affected our youth.

When I was at Social Services, one of the projects that I am proudest of was a social media campaign working to recruit younger demographics to become caregivers, foster parents, and mentors to young adults and children in care. I spearheaded the project, working with a communications company to formulate a message that would resonate with an average person who never thought of themselves as being a caregiver, analyzed social media analytics, and managed various social platforms we used to insert and project our campaign messages. The project made me realize that the State was moving in the direction of innovation, social media, and technology.  

The biggest reason I have stayed in public service (besides the retirement) is the ability to help and advocate for those who otherwise cannot. This is the greatest privilege I feel has been given to me in public service, and I feel blessed everyday to be in this platform. I never take it for granted that this opportunity has landed on my lap.  

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

I currently work for the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council as the Council Specialist. The Council is comprised of 19 members and includes State agency representatives, stakeholder appointed members, and partners. I staff all 19 members and the 4 other Council staff. In this role, I plan and execute Council meetings, which happen quarterly and are open to the public. My responsibilities include logistics; coordinating with panels, staff, the public, presenters; and anything else that is needed to execute a successful Council meeting.

In between Council meetings, I work behind the scenes to ensure the Council’s work is continuing when it is not outward facing to the public. This involves working with the Council member’s key staff on day-to-day projects. Together we work to ensure that various state agencies representing the Council are meeting state mandates and have policies in place that are consistent with helping efforts to end homelessness.

The job is rewarding because I feel like I am making a difference in what feels like the State’s biggest problem currently. The crisis is never ending, but I am happy to be contributing to an important cause and conversation. Everyday is a challenge, but a good one.

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

Expect to be patient. The State unfortunately is slow when it comes to processing applications and can often take months. Some departments will process applications, schedule the interview and exam, but may not make their decision until weeks later. If you aren’t in a hurry to get a job with the State, the right fit will come with patience and time on your side.

What resources/advice/practice did you find most helpful when applying for jobs in public service?

I always encourage people that they should apply to jobs that interest them or have a passion for. Never apply for a job just to have a job. Life is more rewarding when your job doesn’t feel like a chore.

Take the time to look around the various state websites. Sometimes it’s just a simple google. Read about the work they are doing on their website. Does their mission align with yours? Do their values align with yours? Do they advocate for platforms that you truly believe in?

Once you take the time to research the department, visit their job recruitment page. More than likely they are hiring and if not, put it on your list and check back frequently.

If you can or know someone who works there – maybe take the time to schedule an informational interview to find out if the working environment is a good fit for you. Even if you don’t know anyone, don’t be afraid to ask during your interview what the working environment is like, what the team hat you will be working with is like, and what type of manager the person believes they are. Interviews and job applications aren’t just about finding a job, but also ensuring that both parties are the right fit for each other.

If you have resources outside of the web, use them. It’s a simple ask if anyone is hiring when you meet someone whose work aligns with yours. They can refer you to jobs or keep you in mind when they come up.

The very most important thing in looking for a public service job: PATIENCE. Be patient. The right job and right fit will come along when the time is right.


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DISCLAIMER: This is an unofficial organization that is not connected to any one government entity.

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