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Josh’s Job Search Interviews Olivia Clark, TriMet

Posted on October 1, 2012


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As part of ELGL’s expanded offerings, we introduce you to our newest feature, “Josh’s Job Search.” (See related article: New Blog Feature: Josh’s Job Search) Josh will be conducting informational interviews with key figures in the region. If you have suggestions for him, send him an email at [email protected]

An Informational Interview with Olivia Clark

TriMet Executive Director, Government Affairs

TriMet’s executive director of government affairs is responsible for intergovernmental relations, long-range funding and implementation of the needs of local, regional, state and federal legislative and administrative officials.

Olivia’s Recent Work Experience

Josh (J): Tell me about the path that led to your current position.

Olivia (O): Currently, I work in intergovernmental relations; I’ve worked at the local government level, the state level, and now at the regional level.

In 2002, I was working for Gov. Kitzhaber and knew his term was coming to an end so I began considering my next career move. I was looking around and I got a call from somebody at TriMet recommending that I take a look at the government affairs position that was open. I also considered the Port of Portland and a couple of other opportunities.

When it came down to making a decision, I asked myself what motivates me when I wake up in the morning and what kind of job would make me happy.

J: What other factors did you consider?

O: It’s been ten years so I don’t remember each of them but a few considerations were:

  • to feel like I was really making a contribution to society,
  • to be able to express myself freely,
  • to be well compensated, at least as my peers are, and
  • to work in a collegial environment, like a teamwork kind of environment.

J: I find those fascinating because I think one of the things that people can overlook when they’re doing their job search are the values that are important to them.

O: Definitely, because you’re giving your life force away to do something so you better make sure that you’re enjoying it and that it is fulfilling your needs too.

 J: Exactly, especially if are searching for a career and not just a job.

O: One of my mottos has always been follow what fascinates you. If there is something that fascinates you then you’ll do a good job at it because you’re really interested and passionate about it.

J: What skills and personal qualities contribute most to your success in the field?

O: That’s a good question. I’m very candid and personable. I’m interested in learning new things. I’m curious about how things work. I think having a sense of curiosity about things is really valuable and propels you forward.

I think having a curiosity about the world and a curiosity about issues, people, whatever really propels people forward and keeps them fresh. I think that is a really important value, staying curious about how things work, who people are, what is going on, what is going on in the world around you and staying current. A sense of curiosity in how things work is good for problem-solving. A lot of jobs involve problem-solving.

J: What’s the best method for finding a job in your field?

O: I think you’re doing the right thing, which is networking. Talking to people is really important.  Just make as many personal contacts as possible. I don’t think most people find a job through the internet. I just think it’s through personal contacts.

J: How many minutes into an interview does it take you to decide if a candidate can do that job?

O: It’s like speed dating. You get a hit on someone right away. I don’t think it takes very long to know if that is somebody you want to be around or you want representing you or want to work with. Most employers are looking for someone who can get along with other people and someone who is a problem solver.

In other words, they’re going to get stuff done. They’re going to do whatever it takes. They’re going to solve my problems. It’s kind of an extreme way to put it, but I think those two things are really important. Can you get along with other people? Will you fit in the team? Will people like you? Are you fun to be around? Are you easy to be around? Are you going to cause me any problems? And secondly, can you do the job? Can you solve problems for me? Can you do what is required?

J: Any advice on answering the “what is your greatest weakness” question during an interview?

O: I think you need to be strategic and straight-forward because I think there is always a silver lining to that weakness.

J: Does post-interview follow-up really matter?

O: Yes. I think it helps. A little letter back, maybe a short note “thank you”, “really enjoyed it”, “here’s what I liked most”, or whatever… I think a little touch back is nice. There is a saying in life, “a duck might be somebody’s mother”. Everybody is a potential connection to someone else, a potential reference, even though you may not work with them. I think every contact is important. Somebody in the future may have your resume and show it to someone else. Even if they don’t hire you, you just never know. You want to treat everyone well.

J: What was the first job you ever had?

O: I worked for the city’s recreation program after working for my dad. When I was in college I had campus jobs such as driving a campus bus to take kids places and typing newsletters. I learned that hard work was necessary if I was going to be able to afford school and my other needs.  When I got to graduate school I was a graduate teaching fellow which paid for my tuition at the University of Oregon.  I worked other odd jobs while in graduate school including training to be an umpire within the Eugene School District.

J: You are a graduate of the University of Oregon?

O: Yes, I earned my Master’s degree from the University of Oregon.

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