Many students aspire to help others, commit to a cause, or give back to society, but they know little about how to approach those goals in a career. What careers are available? How do you find a good fit? How do you land a great job in public service?
In June 2010, Heather Krasna, Director of Career Services at the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington, released her first book “Jobs That Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service.” Krasna says this is the first book of its kind that covers both the nonprofit and government sectors. She offers tips on landing great jobs that help people, protect the environment, improve international relations, ensure security, and more.
I had an opportunity to chat with Krasna about her new book.
Can you tell me a little bit about your background?
I have been doing higher education career services for almost 12 years. I wanted to share my experience with a wider network and have been hoping to write a book for a long time. Eventually, I secured my book contract through a contact on LinkedIn.
How do you define a public service job?
There are a lot of ways to define it, but it is basically any career that helps make a difference or makes society a better place. I define it mostly as government and non-profit agencies in my book, but it can be for-profit corporations, too.
Can you walk me through how the book is laid out and how the reader is supposed to interact with it?
The chapters are in the order of the steps you would probably take if you were job searching. The first chapters are a lot of career assessment exercises . . . looking at yourself, finding what you’re interested in, your values and what you’re good at. The next few chapters reveal what types of jobs are available. You are looking at the world, finding the jobs and learning where can you get more information. I highlight various people who work in these jobs and profile a typical day. The final three chapters are about how to go get the job. I discuss resumes, cover letters, interviewing, networking and more. I also give specific tips for government jobs because the process is quite different from others. It really walks through the whole process.
Get involved and volunteer as much as you can, especially in leadership roles at a local non-profit or government agency. A lot of them will have internship programs. If they don’t have any set up, they will often arrange one at your request.
Start to get involved with professional associations. Also, know what kinds of technical skills are expected and take classes that help meet those requirements.
One other little tip is that in government and non-profit jobs, some of the workforce is aging. My advice is to be sensitive to generational differences.
Why should people consider a career in public service?
Public service jobs are for people who are passionate about or have a particular interest in an issue or cause. That is the number one reason to pursue a career. Second, these are some of the most secure jobs in this economy. Third, they often have a fast promotion track. As I said, much of the workforce is aging so look for promotion opportunities. Lastly, many nonprofits have a more relaxed culture than you may get in some corporations, which can be a great fit for recent grads.
This is the first book that talks about and complies resources for all types of public service jobs. It’s the biggest overview. Many books are just government or just non-profit. I think it will open people’s eyes to a lot of careers they may not have been aware of and also give people the skills they need to feel confident approaching a public service career. Reading this book will hopefully give people a leg up.
Pick up a copy
The book is thorough, easy-to-use and gives a wide overview of all types of public service opportunities. Any student considering a career in public service should pick up a copy!
The book is available at all major bookstores and on Amazon.com. For more information visit heatherkrasna.com. And, you can sign up for her mailing list to receive a free download of over 400 links to public service career resources.
Cassie is a May 2009 University of Wisconsin-Madison Ag Journalism graduate. She recently joined SPARK Advertising in Neenah, Wis. as a public relations specialist. Find Cassie on Twitter, BrazenCareerist, and LinkedIn.