Job hunting in local government can suck. Someone once counseled me that for every job I secured, I would need to complete upwards of 10 to 15 applications (and that might be conservative!). The processes are too long, there is too much mystery in the selection process or those panel interviews are set up to be so adversarial. Worse, the applications for each government are unique though similar enough to be standardized and require significant time to complete. In short, there are lot of reasons that job hunting can be a four-letter word and something to be avoided whenever possible.
With the adage in local government that you need to be willing to move on to move up, potential applicants need to stay abreast of the job market. Passive job hunting is a strategy many of us use to keep a toe in the job market as this involves either subscribing for push notifications or trolling a favorite job board occasionally.
If you’re remotely interested in a next step job, a dream location, or community, it’s important to know what’s out there and who might be hiring. I use myriad strategies to passively survey the job market – word of mouth, google alerts, job ads from headhunters, ELGL’s members-only Facebook group, and ICMA’s e-blast from their job board.
I think it’s important to stay abreast of the job market because of the ever potential “grass is greener” (show me a work and life fit worth moving me out of where I currently am!) and to evaluate my skills for future moves. It’s the second reason that I think being a passive candidate is important – what are employers looking for and in what combination or depth. I read job descriptions for future moves and positioning myself. In my view, tracking the profession against your goals is a necessity for aspiring managers.
In my experience, unless your situation is dire and you desperately feel the need to move on it may be easier to just sit tight than to go through a month’s long local government job search. Often the need to reach that 10:1 (or more) ratio of applications to success means many applicants adopt a shotgun approach – something that is a self-fulfilling prophecy as you apply for jobs that aren’t terribly interesting or where you aren’t a good match. I see that all the time as a hiring manager and it’s pretty obvious when someone “just wants a job”.
As someone who’s been passively tracking the profession and occasionally pulling the trigger in order to move up, I think that it’s critical to stay engaged. Passive review can lead to active recruitment so it pays to keep on top of your skills and what’s out there.
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I’ve spent almost 15 years in local government. I graduated from Syracuse with a BA in History and Sociology and USC with a MPA. I live in Steamboat Springs, CO and have lived/worked in San Diego, Fort Collins and Steamboat Springs. I didn’t invent the #Cityhallselfie but I may have invented #Cityhallselfieday