Chris’ Job Search Finds Cole Grisham, Oregon Department of Transportation

Posted on February 16, 2015

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After the wildly popular Josh’s Job Search and Josh’s Job Search 2.0 we looked around for another Josh who wanted to work in local government and do informational interviews but we came up empty. Fear not! We found a Portland State MPA Student who is willing to continue the Josh legacy, however his name is Chris. So with some rebranding we bring you, The Job Search with Chris McKee.

By: Chris McKee — LinkedIn and Twitter

A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with none other than Josh Gregor, the original blogger behind Josh’s Job Search. Despite my name not also being Josh, he generously connected me with his friend Cole Grisham, who agreed to let me interview him.
Cole is a Program Analyst for the Active Transportation Section of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), where he has worked since November last year. He also serves as the Land Use and Transportation Chair of the Friends of Cathedral Park Neighborhood Association (FCPNA). Before that he served in the Navy as a Missile Technician for several years. Afterwards he earned a Master in Urban Planning from the University of Michigan while working with the federal government and metropolitan planning organizations in Michigan. He was able to translate the project management and collaborative planning skills he learned in the Navy into urban planning.
His career reflects a wide variety of interests which are all driven by a passion for public service. For Cole, this is the best aspect of what he does. Sure, his work may be held to a higher standard in the public’s eye, and for good reason. But he believes if you’re honest, do good work, and avoid conflicts of interest there is nothing to worry about. Spoken like a true public servant.
And like a true public servant, he remained modest in naming his accomplishments. It took a little prodding to get him to name a project he was most proud of. However, he did mention working with a team in Detroit to develop a strategic plan to identify and stop blight in the Regent Park neighborhood. The plan identified vacant and dangerous structures in corridors with high pedestrian traffic. His team presented the plan to the City of Detroit and successfully won federal aid programs to fund the demolition of these derelict buildings.
Throughout the interview he also gave me lots of helpful advice on how to seek employment, approaches to public service, and projects I could work on. Here are some of my favorite career-related takeaway points:

  • Your passion is what motivates and drives you, while your interests are where you apply that. While your career may change multiple times, if you’re driven by your passion and you apply it correctly, you’ll be satisfied for the most part.
  • While certain technical skills won’t translate into every job, project management and collaborative planning skills will.
  • Having a good management structure can make the difference between project success and project failure. Without it, your organization will fall apart; no matter how much you like the work you do.
  • Before applying for a job, research the program, the position, and whom you’d be working with. Then approach those you think are the strategic people to talk to, and ask them about the position. Make sure to ask for three or four skills they are looking for and figure out how to address that in your resume.
  • Know your audience. That ranges from looking them up on LinkedIn to knowing the organization you’re going to speak at. That way you can tailor your discussion to them.

Supplemental Reading

Chris’ Job Search Finds Steve Hoyt-McBeth, PBOT Project Manager
Josh’s Job Search Becomes Chris’ Job Search
Discovering Detroit with Cole Grisham and John McCarter

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