Becky King, Garland (TX), Director of Organizational Development, wrote this article in response to why she was attracted to a career in public service. The article originally appeared on the City of Garland’s intranet page. This is exact type of communication that we need to promote our profession. Who’s next?
Contributed by Becky King, February 1, 2014
Often times when interviewing potential job candidates for vacant positions in OD, I hear a familiar comment — one that, when given, is almost always delivered with sincerity regardless of how many predictable responses were previously given. It is the sentiment that the applicant is interested in this position because of “a calling” — an internal pull towards a career in public service. Perhaps I buy its sincerity because it is a response I identify with and gave myself in my early years; and yes, I was sincere.
As a high school senior from a small East Texas city, I knew very little about college; I was the first from my immediate family to attend. The one thing that was clear, is that you had to pick a major when you took your SATs, and the response you gave would set your life on a definitive path. Although I toyed with Architecture as a possible profession, by my Senior year of high school, it was clear the future that most interested me was government, or public service. It was the elective topic I would choose for school research projects; it was the storyline of movies that inspired me. It was Goldie Hawn’s speech at the end of Protocol that “I’m the ‘people’, You’re ‘The People’, “We are The People.'” (Yes, I just admitted that to the entire organization). Despite coming of age in the ’80s with its denouncement of “Big Government,” to me, a job as a public servant was something to be admired. And this belief remained with me throughout my college studies.
While I waffled on terms of practicality (I didn’t really know what types of jobs were available in Government outside a Capitol beltway), I looked at the prospect of working for a profit-driven organization as something I could not stomach — or at least, something I couldn’t see devoting my entire life’s work to. Eventually, degrees in hand, I embarked on my first real job search — a search which landed me here at The City of Garland.
Municipal government wasn’t perhaps as glamorous as the public service jobs I had envisioned when I dreamt of working in the White House, the State Department, the FBI, the military…. But it quickly revealed its rewards, and I have been happy to make it my life’s profession for the past twenty years. If government is to be about The People, I’ve come to appreciate that there is no level of government more connected to “its People” than that of a municipal government.
The services a City provides are not played out in some far-off land or in some distant government agency whose activities must pass through multiple layers of other entities or jurisdictions before ever actually reaching a person — a customer. The services a City provides are carried out around the corner, on the next block, with direct access to the customer, and with immediate, tangible evidence or feedback of the results…a life saved, a street paved, a ball field lit, a neighborhood engaged. For me, it is rewarding. And for me, it is not just a job, it is a career…it is a calling.
“Looking for the Good” (an open letter to the naysayers)