Tag: Career Advice

Building the Future Public Sector Workforce

Building the Future Public Sector Workforce

NxtGov and Innovative Pathways to Public Service invite you to help inspire students and young adults into public sector careers.

By Danielle Metzinger, NxtGov’s Deputy Director

Did you know more than 20% of all jobs in the six-county Sacramento region are in the public sector? That’s 1 out of every 5 jobs in our region! And with the public sector facing a wave of retirements at all levels, our region has an opportunity to bring in a new generation of skilled public servants.

NxtGov is proud to partner with Innovative Pathways to Public Service (IPPS) in their work to inspire young adults to consider public service and create accessible, inclusive pathways into public sector careers in the Sacramento region.

In support of IPPS, I’d like to invite our NxtGov community to learn more about their work and attend their upcoming leadership summit Building the Future Public Sector Workforce on August 29.

This free, half-day summit will bring together government leaders, educators, and nonprofit/industry partners to reflect on a region-wide study of public sector employment. This study includes the counties of Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado, Sutter, Yuba, and Yolo.

During the summit, participants will hear from speakers and panels on the opportunities to mitigate barriers and bring youth and young adults into public sector careers. All levels of government in the region will be represented at this event!

Learn more about the Summit and register today.

NxtGov’s partnership with IPPS has brought about dynamic projects like our Millennials in Public Service video series and ongoing consultation opportunities for our Public Recruitment Committee, and I know even more exciting work is on the horizon. I hope you’ll be part of the effort to build the future public sector workforce and lend your perspective to the workforce challenges government faces every day. Now is the time to come together and help build the future public workforce for our region and beyond.


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Paths to Service Profile featuring Laura Carr

Paths to Service Profile featuring Laura Carr

Name: Laura Carr

Job Title: Air Pollution Specialist

Recommended Reading: Walkable City by Jeff Speck

What was your path into public service?

Lots of my family have had careers in the public sector, so I grew up with public service in the back of my mind as an option that was not only viable but attractive, presenting an opportunity to help people and leverage the power of government for good. Two environmental studies classes in high school posed big, concerning questions about the state of the planet, and a B.A. in environmental policy provided both a framework to grapple with them and further confirmation for me that policy work in the public sector was the best pressure point to try to address them. I volunteered part-time at a Caltrans district office to get experience working for the State, and then committed fully to that millennial rite of passage, the unpaid internship, at the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research in Sacramento. The internship evolved into a paid position, which I held for more than a year before opting to go back to school for a brief ten-month stint to earn an M.S. in economics. Four months after completing my Master’s, I got the job I’d been envisioning since college at the California Air Resources Board (CARB). I’m hoping for and planning on a full career in public service. The work is fulfilling, the colleagues are inspiring, and I’m excited to see what lies ahead.

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

At CARB, I’m part of the air quality planning staff, focusing on the San Joaquin Valley. The planning effort to clean the air and meet national air quality standards involves putting together usually quite lengthy documents laying out the strategy to cut emissions. Earlier this year, I helped write and compile a thousand-page plan for the Valley that had been in the works for well over two years—longer than I’ve been with the agency. Now that the plan is finished, we’re moving into the implementation phase, making sure everything is progressing as laid out in the plan. It’s a big task with lots of moving parts, but it’s a team effort, which makes it doable and rewarding.

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

Know that you might not hear back about a job you’ve applied for; sometimes that courtesy isn’t provided, but don’t let it get you down. Relatedly, be patient, be persistent, and don’t despair if you don’t get the first position, or even the first dozen positions, that you apply for. Applying for jobs with the state is at least partly a numbers game, and finding the right fit is liable to take time on the order of months rather than weeks.

What’s it like living and working in Sacramento?

Great! It lives up beautifully to its City of Trees designation, has an eminently walkable downtown (see recommended reading), and it’s invigorating to be surrounded by so many other people who’ve chosen a path of public service.


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Why Big Brother Should Be the Model for Your Professional Narrative

Why Big Brother Should Be the Model for Your Professional Narrative

Your narrative isn’t some natural story waiting to be discovered — it’s something you develop.

By Arthur Shemitz, NxtGov Member Liaison

The start of summer is the best-worst time of the year: the annual return of Big Brother, the trashy real-time reality-competition show that locks a dozen or so strangers in a house/soundstage for an entire summer to fight, make out, and vote each other out. This season, I’ll be watching with an eye toward my next job interview.

See, I’m concerned by the question that traditionally starts the interview: “tell me about yourself.” It’s classically frustrating: seemingly freeform and inviting, yet in reality vague and confounding. How do I give you the highlights of my 20-odd years of life in a couple minutes? Can’t you ask me something more specific?

Sometimes it feels as if there is a right answer just out of reach. The question invites us to share our professional narrative in some concise and neatly packaged form. Answering it can feel as if we’re trying to gaze into the future towards the Wikipedia page that someone will hopefully write about us someday, screenshot the opening paragraph, and paste it neatly into the interview.

When I’m asked the question, I talk about how I fell in love with public policy in college through student government and my summer internship at my county Board of Supervisors. In my career I’ve worked for two State of California departments where I’ve developed expertise in project management and legislative affairs. I approach every policy problem like a jigsaw puzzle that I’m thrilled to solve, and I am grateful every day to work as a public servant.

The story I tell is neat, linear, and confident. It can produce the illusion that I purposefully set and followed a plan for myself.

But in reality, it is carefully assembled from a history that more closely resembles a jumbled mess of crayon drawings.

What you don’t hear in my narrative is all the things I left out. The primary motivation behind my first student government campaign was that I thought it would be really exciting to design campaign posters. For two years of college, I inexplicably thought I wanted to go into marketing. 

As I grew less interested in marketing and more interested in government, I focused less on poster design and more on my successful track record of policy implementation. When I grew passionate about retirement programs, I emphasized my experience working with budgets and the tax code.

This is where we return to Big Brother.

Big Brother airs in real time, producing three episodes per week based on its contestants’ contemporaneous activities. Unlike peer shows such as Survivor, the show doesn’t have the liberty of crafting the season’s story after all the footage is recorded. Instead, the editors might build up one player as a summer-long villain only to see them voted out halfway through the season, forcing them to pivot and focus on other characters.

This is how our careers work too. You can think one thing is absolutely the path you’ll go down, only to realize it’s something else entirely. You may begin telling a certain story about yourself, but realize after a few years that you don’t want that to be your story any more.

It can be tempting to think of our careers as something more like Westworld or The Good Place, following a master narrative carefully planned out from the first episode. But like Big Brother, our narratives are how we reconstruct a cohesive story from inconsistent plot development. The show adapts the story it’s been telling to match the real-time conditions in the game, and disregards the previous stories that don’t align with its current narrative. 

When you see a job that interests you, even if it doesn’t align fully with the story you’ve been telling yourself so far, you should ask yourself: how do I craft the narrative that will get me there? For me, it was empowering to realize that a narrative is not an objective and natural thing, but rather a selective recounting of my experience. It’s not that there’s one correct version of my story out there just waiting to be discovered. Instead, it’s a tool that I can shape to meet my needs.

Please don’t watch Big Brother this summer — it’s a terrible show and you should resist falling into its clutches — but as you ponder next steps in your career, take a moment to learn from its lessons.


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Statement of Qualifications Workshops

Statement of Qualifications Workshops

By Courtney King, NxtGov Member

In May I had the opportunity to provide two workshops on the Statement of Qualifications writing process organized by NxtGov’s Professional Development team and hosted by the Department of General Services (DGS). If you were in attendance, thank you! It was awesome to meet you.

I currently work in Talent Acquisition for the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), but these presentations were informed more from my position as a former college writing instructor. Before I came to state service, I taught English language and writing courses at universities across America as well as in China. My focus in these courses was on making writing more accessible for people who had feared it in the past. In Demystifying SOQs Part A (Slides | Handout), I tried to address the SOQ writing task as I would a writing prompt in my classroom: by analyzing the audience, author, and purpose. All writing tasks are more manageable if we know why we’re writing and who we’re writing for.

The SOQ can be a particularly challenging assignment because it feels like yet another generic hoop for busy applicants, but this document serves a very specific purpose in the larger picture of your application. When we can reframe our approach and put ourselves in the shoes of our hiring managers, we can be more successful in communicating our fit for the position. With a better understanding of why hiring managers require this document and what they’re looking for, applicants can approach the task with more confidence (and with confidence comes better writing).

In Demystifying SOQs Part B (Slides | Handout) we explored the features of the SOQ prompt as a genre. Many candidates lament the time it takes to create their SOQ from scratch (especially if you find out about the job on the final filing date), so we looked at ways we can prepare for upcoming SOQs by doing some of the writing beforehand. Using AntConc, I analyzed 50 SOQ prompts for shared language. Unsurprisingly, experience and abilities are asked for in almost every SOQ prompt.

Why do we care about word frequencies? The jobs you apply for may differ, but you remain you, with all your accomplishments and skills just waiting to be described. This is why creating a repository of the specific work tasks that illustrate key qualifications can significantly speed up our SOQ writing process and add some calmness and control to an otherwise stressful experience. Lastly, we shared some predictable sentence structures we can use to simplify our writing (all available on the handout).

This second talk also afforded me the opportunity to conduct a peer review and talk one-on-one with applicants about their experiences with the state hiring process. It was so inspiring to see the crowd chatting and workshopping their applications, adding so much value with their different perspectives.

Thank you to everyone who shared their lunch with me last month. I hope you all land the state job of your dreams!

Courtney King is a NxtGov member and a Talent Acquisition Analyst at CalSTRS. Connect with her on LinkedIn!


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2019 California Innovation Playbook for Government Change Agents (Cal-IPGCA) Scholarship Award Opportunity for one lucky NxtGov Member!

2019 California Innovation Playbook for Government Change Agents (Cal-IPGCA) Scholarship Award Opportunity for one lucky NxtGov Member!

Registration is now open for Cohort 2019 of the California Innovation Playbook for Government Change Agents (Cal-IPGCA).

NxtGov is excited to announce that registration is open for the Cal-IPGCA Cohort 2019! This program aims to transform government with enterprise innovations that Cal-IPGCA teams and their departmental Champions are deploying right now – Watch for updates! You have the opportunity to join this effort! We are pleased to announce that NxtGov can award one $2,850 scholarship for attendance in this 5- Month program. The program and registration under “LEARN MORE” below will guide you through the details of this 5-month journey.

WHAT IS CAL-IPGCA?

Cal-IPGCA is a leadership and innovation training program unlike any other available to state employees. Six teams are assigned one of six statewide Innovation Priorities/problems to create Moonshot solutions with 10x improvement. Top state and industry leadership host a monthly 2-hour “Change Challenge Forums”, which give insight and guidance to team Innovation

Priorities. Final moonshot presentations are presented to State leaders on the final day of the program. Between the instructional days, offsite video instruction from state leadership on CalHR’s 9 Leadership Values teach personal, professional and innovative team growth.

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?

Cal-IPGCA is designed for line staff who are rising stars with management potential, first line supervisors, middle managers, executives, and executive leadership. Each Cal-IPGCA Cohort creates a multi-generational, multi- cultural and multi-professional environment of change, integrating and synergizing participation across all levels of government classroom and work environments. And the 62 Professional Development Hours for full-time trainees meets the State of California’s biennial leadership training requirements. (GC 19995.4.)

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

There are many more reasons why you should attend or send staff to the Cal-IPGCA Cohort 2019. Here is a link to a Cal-IPGCA Fact Sheet of important features and objectives for consideration. The full program and
 online registration are linked here. For more information, you can connect to Cal- IPGCA’s Training website, KollaborNation. Should you have questions, please email program chair, Rebekah Christensen at rchristensen@orasystems.net.

Join us as a Change Leader and Innovator! This is a training program that will continue to produce results for you, your staff and your organization!

The Cal-IPGCA Association has a key role in this year’s Cohort. We think we are going to break new ground in change leadership and innovation! As an NxtGov member, if you want to learn more about the training program and/or join the Cal-IPGCA Association as a member, come to our Taco ‘Bout a Fiesta celebration on June 6 from 5:30-7:30 PM in Midtown. Here’s the flyer for logistics and registration.

NxtGov is proud to partner with Cal-IPGCA! We value the contribution Cal-IPGCA continues to make in pioneering innovation and change in state service. It takes all of us, working together as partners, to support each other’s efforts to assure real change and innovation occurs. Equally important, we are excited to be able to have a

NxtGov member participate in Cohort 2019.

This scholarship will be awarded by NxtGov no later than June 29. You must be a subscribed member of NxtGov to qualify for the scholarship.

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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