What did you say? A prank on an unsuspecting baseball player lasted more than a month. Watch the video and you will never feel stupid again.
@wtneary: This is handle for Walter Neary’s Twitter account. His tweets are wide ranging from topics on open government to digital journalism.
Janice D’Aloia: At this week’s Utah GFOA Conference, Janice helped spread the word about ELGL. Her work paid off. We’ve had a number of contacts due to her outreach efforts.
Kirsten Silveira: Is Kirsten the “Michael Jordan” of ELGL? She played through sickness to assemble today’s Morning Buzz.
KU Public Mngmt Cntr, KUPublicAdm, and Kyler Ludwig: These three Twitter accounts provided interesting and engaging updates from the 65th Annual Kansas City & County Management Conference. Our favorite tweet from the conference.
— Kyler Ludwig (@Ludwig2028) April 17, 2014
You didn’t think I’d return after my new found stardom from the Launch Yourself podcast with Melissa Anzman? For a few minutes, I considered cashing out my riches, buying an RV, and traveling around to a different SEC football game each Saturday.
But Kent, football season is months away. You are right, but in the months, in between, I would have lived the dream and attended a different council meeting every week.
My dream was interrupted abruptly by a horrible smelling diaper and off-key rendition of “Let It Go.” So, here we go with the 3rd edition of the “Local Government Confidential.”
This week we join you from the “too good to be true” coastal town of Seabrook, WA. Every time you step out the door you feel like you are on the set of “Dawson’s Creek” minus Joey Potter. The grass is perfectly manicured (probably painted like they do at my alma mater, Elon University), the seagulls avoid leaving droppings on every inch of the sidewalk, and my kids magically behave. There is something too good to be true about this place. While I haven’t cracked the code yet, I am on the case. I have been opening random doors everywhere in search of the production studio.
In the previous three columns, we learned that informational interviews can be good (depending on who you are interviewing), professional associations should avoid creating a little kids table, and Michael Jordan is partially responsible for launching ELGL. Our cover story today sells you on the idea that serving on boards and committees in your community and professional associations are great career moves.
Scratchin’ the Public Service Itch
April 20, 2014
How do you gain experience if most jobs require prior experience? Whether you are searching for your next management position or whether you are searching for your first local government position, “prior experience required” can be a challenging phrase.
There are proactive steps (that do not involve embellishing your resume) that you can take to gain that valuable experience. The most under-utilized strategy, and the focus of this column, is gaining experience through volunteering for boards and committees in your community and professional associations.
Every local government has multiple advisory boards looking for willing volunteers. The same is true of non-profits. Not wanting to be left behind, ELGL has an advisory board for each of our four chapters. Whether an ELGL advisory board or city advisory board, serving on a board has many benefits including increasing your professional network and developing new skills.
I know that some of our readers are similar to kids who grow immune to their parents yelling at them, so I am augmenting this lecture with new voices:
Dave Dyk, Umpqua Bank VP/Information Security Officer and former member of Gresham Finance Committee
Fred Olson, former deputy chief of staff for Gov. Chris Gregoire and member of Washington State Employees Credit Union, Board of Directors
Jessica Williams, Prichard Communications Account Director and Portland Chapter of the American Marketing Association, co-chair of the communications committee
Kristin Akervall, gDiapers, Sales Operations Specialist and member of Wilsonville Development Committee
Michael Enloe, TriMet In-Street Facilities Designer and member of Tigard Planning Commitee
Tegan Enloe, DKS Associates, Project Manager & Transportation Engineer and member of Washington County Planning Commission
Todd Prager, president and CEO of Todd Prager and Associates and member of Lake Oswego Planning Committee
Each of these folks has cracked (horrible pun) the chicken and egg experience dilemma, and they are going to share the solution. You will learn from each how they supplemented experience in their day job with meaningful work experience on a board.
Before I pass the microphone, I will share my experience.
What Makes Kent an Expert on the Topic?
First, Kent must be abundantly clear that Kent loves talking in the third person. There is a small part of me that is jealous of my two-year old who is allowed by social norms to utter phrases in third person (which at this point in her life, is considered cute). Examples: Josie want toast, Josie want a (TV) show, Josie want proposed FY 14-15 budget document, and on and on.
Here’s my brief pitch for volunteering on a board or committee in your community. I currently serve on two boards: Clackamas County Budget Committee and West Linn Wilsonville School District Long Range Planning Committee. (I can sense your deep-seeded jealously coming through the computer.) Each serve a different purpose.
Serving on the Clackamas County Budget Committee has provided valuable experience in governmental budgeting. I had minimal experience, at the beginning of my term, and in the last two years, I have gained a deeper understanding and an increased ability to articulately discuss the subject. My experience has been helpful in my day job with the City of Tigard, and has broadened my network of local government professionals.
(Side note: It is great being on the other side of the table. You don’t feel bad eating the snacks and drinking the coffee. You get a name plate in front of your seat at the table. You can ask staff to look into issues for you. I digress before I find myself filing to run for every elected position in Clackamas County.)
The planning world is a different beast in Oregon especially for those who did not grow up around it. I had the opportunity to develop a deeper knowledge in urban planning in graduate school but I chose instead to learn about state government. This left me with one relevant planning experience in my life – planning for a DJ instead of a band at my wedding.
That’s partially why I find myself serving on the West Linn Wilsonville School District Long Range Planning Committee. (Go ahead, say that fast ten times.) The WLWV LPR, as we call it, provides broad planning experience and context for issues that I may deal with my career. In the past year, the WLWV LPR has discussed an amendment to Metro’s urban growth boundary, where to locate future schools in the district, and a bond summit to gather community input.
I have come to understand school districts are a close relative to cities and counties. Specifically, in my experience, Mike Jones, a West Linn city councilor, serves on the WLWV LRP. Jeanna Troha, Wilsonville assistant city manager, was a participant at the recent bond summit. Greg McKenzie, the strategic plan consultant for ELGL, is a frequent participant in WLWV events.
An unexpected benefit in serving on the LRP is getting the inside scoop on where my kids will be going to school. I am waiting to ask whether I will be allowed to install a tracking device on my daughters when they enter elementary school. That might be one of those things where it’s better to ask for forgiveness later.
What have I learned from the two experiences? Volunteering on a board or committee is not easy. I miss story time with my kids once a month. I expend vacation time during budget committee deliberations because the meetings are held during the work day. On the flip side, I have improved my time management skills, I have gained the ability to quickly grasp a new subject matter, and I’ve learned to work in a group setting where interests might not be closely aligned.
Kent, We Need More Convincing
You’re just like my family, always challenging my assertions and questioning my advice. This time I have arrived well equipped to strengthen my argument with the help of a few friends. You will hear three main reasons for volunteering on a board: a sense of civic duty, practical experience, and networking opportunities.
Your Civic Duty: Scratching an Itch for Public Service
The meaning of life is to make a difference. Leave the world in better shape than you found it. How we make a difference varies greatly. A recent study found a decrease in the percentage of adults who believe working for government is the main way to accomplish it.
(Brief digression: not everyone believes life is about helping others. In “Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruits” by Kevin Rouse, numerous Wall Street professionals thumb their nose at public service, and especially, John Kennedy’s axiom, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.)
“I was interested in the role to stretch my knowledge, but I have found that I really enjoy feeling like my position is contributing to overall goals of the city. It scratches my itch for feeling a connection to a worthwhile mission and caring individuals.”
There are a lot of itches to be scratched in government. Visit any government website and you will find a list of volunteer opportunities longer than your kids’ Christmas list.
Dave Dyk, who is a Portland State University MPA graduate, has built a successful private sector career but remains committed to public service. To get his local government fix, Dave volunteered for the City of Gresham (OR) Finance Committee.
Dave describes his experience,
“I had the opportunity to serve on the Finance Committee for the City of Gresham (my hometown), which was very fulfilling personally and enabled me to re-connect with my local government background even though it offered me little in the way of professional benefit.”
Experience, Experience, Experience
Giving back to your community is a noble reason for volunteering. Realistically though a majority of volunteers also are seeking to gain valuable work experience.
Todd Prager, member of the Lake Oswego Planning Committee, has strengthened his resume from his experience on the committee:
“While volunteering for the Lake Oswego Planning Commission, I have been exposed to a much greater breadth of planning issues than in my more specialized professional work. This has allowed me to stretch my skill set, and better understand how my professional planning work ties in to the big picture.”
Adding new experiences through your work on a board can add breadth and specifics to your interview responses. We have all been in interviews where we answer the first couple questions with confidence and depth. We, then, struggle to close the interview strong because we find ourselves repeating the same accomplishments for every question. Board experience diversifies your resume and gives you more examples to provide in an interview.
In addition to experience, you are adding new skills through our tenure on a board. Your role on the board allows you an opportunity for public speaking, working in a group, and advocating for your beliefs.
Michael Enloe, TriMet In-Street Facilities Designer believes:
“…being involved with a board teaches you how to work together as a group, forces you to communicate, a skill virtually every one can benefit from, and have your opinions and thoughts be heard and implemented.
Fred Olson, board of directors for the Washington State Employees Credit Union, has benefited from volunteering throughout his career. He started volunteering to make a difference, and more specifically, advocate for bringing a credit union branch to Lacey, WA.
“…understanding different management styles and strengthening his ability to work as part of a team as the skills he gained from his board experience.
Grow Your Network
Serving on a board is an informal method of networking. You are meeting other leaders in a working environment and have a natural platform to learn from them and exchange ideas. Your new relationships may pay off in a number of ways. Jessica Williams, a staff member for the resourceful Mac’s List website:
“Being on the board or volunteering for a committee is a great way to work alongside leaders in the field who can be a reference or even recommend you for a job at their company,”
Building a positive reputation among a professional network can be a key factor in landing your next job. Bill Monahan, Milwaukie city manager, highlighted this point at an ELGL forum in 2012. Everyone lists references that will speak positively about them but the deciding factor in the hiring process in many cases are the informal references checks. Bill warns against “burning any bridges” because in today’s information-now society, word will travel fast of negative encounters you had with a board member or staffer.
“I’ve seen several people get a job through their connections at the American Marketing Association In fact, our most recent (and fantastic) hire at Prichard Communications, Ashley Heinonen sits on the board with me. When I found out she was looking for work, I called her right away.”
The wide spectrum of benefits from gaining experience to finding a job should be enough to convince you to start looking for your opportunity.
Tegan Enloe describes her experience as a commissioner on the Washington County Planning Commission,
“Volunteering for boards and commissions has been one of the most valuable things I have done for my professional development. It gives you hands on training from key leaders in the industry on how to become a leader yourself.”
Hold Up, Wait a Minute
Ready to sign up for every board within a 50 mile radius? We need to disclose a few potential challenges.
Less “You” Time. Be prepared for night meetings. Don’t worry you can record “The Bachelor.”
(Time) Commitment Phobia. In a relationship (personal or professional), commitment can be difficult. Board members are expected to arrive prepared for meetings. Kristin Akervall says:
“The amount of reading required to digest the last few cases the board has ruled on is more than I anticipated. Last week, I spent many, many hours with a whole file box full of reports, charts and maps galore. But, this time investment might also contribute to my feeling of accomplishment after the hearings are over,”
Find the Right Mate Board. You have to work to find the right opportunity. Jessica Williams warns:
“…finding a board/organization that you connect with is challenging.”
Talk with current or past board members or staff with the organization to understand the time requirement, expectations, and challenges.
Bye, Bye Comfort Zone: Be ready to step out of your comfort zone. Jessica Williams suggests:
“…taking a board or volunteer position that you can learn or practice a new skill at…don’t take a position that mirrors your day job or that will just bore you! Do something that excites you and that you’d like to learn about or gain experience in.
Political Appointees: Some professionals think board members to state and federal level board are political appointees. This is true for some of the positions, but the majority of appointments are made based on the expertise
All of these challenges are manageable, and all of our panelists agree the positives far outweigh the negatives. Michael Enloe has seen it first hand and believes:
“While there are always positive and negatives to every situation I feel volunteering it’s hard to find the negatives. Sometimes it can become difficult finding the time to make it to meetings and prepare for public hearings with our busy job and family life, but I feel its time well spent.”
We outlined the opportunities that await for you. Now, it is your turn. Visit the website of your city, county, and school district to discover the opportunities.
Lastly this sums up how kids feel about baseball.