Ask Ellie & Jill: Best Approach for Finding Local Government Job

Posted on March 1, 2016

Submit your questions to Ellie & Jill using the anonymous form at or by emailing [email protected].

From PoliSci Bachelor:

Thank you for taking time to answer people’s questions and begin a series of open discussions. I have a question that perhaps many younger people thinking of entering the world of local government would be interested in.  With currently only a B.A. In political science, do career opportunities exists in local government? If so, how does one best approach landing a job in local government? I would greatly appreciate your insight.

We gave PoliSci Bachelor’s message a great deal of thought.  Here is our answer:

We would argue that regardless of your degree, career opportunities exist in local government. Certainly a degree in political science shows additional commitment to the field, as does any previous work experience, volunteer leadership or community involvement.

The local government workforce is rapidly evolving. Once a place with a very overt typical career profession ladder, that is no longer necessarily the case. As the wave of baby boomers who have led local government for decades step in to well-earned retirements, a new generation of leaders is coming forward. Some have years of experience and leadership in the field, some are from non-traditional arenas like media, technology, non-profits and the private sector.

If you are looking to land a job in the local government, here is our advice:

1. Keep a broad perspective on potential entry level positions in the field. Most people look immediately for jobs that are actually more middle management. The reality is that those positions are few and far between and they often go to those with a few years of experience. Include in your search for your first local government position areas with great, but often overlooked, opportunities to get y our foot in the door. Try public parks and recreation departments (especially park districts) which are full of entry level positions in areas like budgeting, personnel, planning, marketing and business services. Many jurisdictions offer shorter term but valuable opportunities like management interns and fellows. One of the most rapidly growing areas of local government, communication and civic engagement, is one well suited to entry level millennials with a knack for social media and technology.

2. Part time opportunities allow you to get to know an organization and five them a chance to learn more about you. Many a full time local government employee started out part time and proved themselves as a star their organization couldn’t let go elsewhere.

3. Use your resources and extend your network. Get involved in the field and in the community. Join ELGL if you haven’t already and get personally connected to the ELGL network in your state. Volunteer for a professional development event like an annual conference hosted by a local government professional organization in your state. Link up with alumni of public administration graduate programs in your area. Find a way to serve on a local community committee. Building a strong professional network is your best shot at finding the right spot in local government.

We can’t wait for the rest of the ELGL crowd to weigh in with their thoughts and advice.  Remember to tag @ELGL50 and use #ELGLAnswers to make tracking ELGL Ask Ellie & Jill posts easy to follow.

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