I recently was asked to discuss, “Managing Your Career from Start to Finish”, with the graduating class of the University of Western’s Municipal Public Administration program.
To prepare for it, I was asked to reflect on the trajectory of my career and provide some thoughts and tips I might have on launching a municipal career.
It was an interesting task – not one I’d really given much thought to before.
The graduates were surprised to learn, that when I first became interested in a career in municipal government, many municipalities in rural Ontario were managed by husband-and-wife teams. Not good financial management at all but back then it worked.
This is a far cry from the professionalism municipalities deliver today. While constant changes in legislation are frustrating to municipalities, they really have served to improve municipalities over time.
When my local husband-and-wife team announced their impending retirements, I started taking the AMCTO Municipal Administration Courses and going to Council meetings – not only to understand municipal operations better, but also so the Council would get to know me. And it worked!
I applied and my first municipal job was as Clerk/Treasurer/Tax Collector of my local municipality.
So, here’s some strategies that may help you land your first municipal job
Do some homework;
- Research the municipality and the department of interest
- What are the issues? What key projects are they working on?
- Go to a Council meeting in person once things open again so Council and staff will start to get to know you, or watch some online to understand the protocols
- Volunteer to help at municipal/community events
- Look for a summer job in the municipality to get a feel for what it’s like to work there
- Ask if you can job shadow the CAO for a day (at no charge)
- Investigate OMAA Bursary program http://www.omaa.on.ca/en/about-omaa/the-omaa-bursary-program.asp It’s a Bursary program offering $5,000 annually to support the education of future municipal government leaders and promote the role of CAO. The program runs to 2025.
My personal belief is that those launching municipal careers right now have perhaps the best opportunity in recent history, for quick career advancement, because so many municipal employees are eligible for retirement in 2021.
Many are staying on past their retirement dates, however, to help their communities through COVID, but I predict there will be a mass exodus of employees soon as the COVID crisis begins to ease. We’re already seeing an increase in municipal job postings.
As for the trajectory of my career – well, I eventually became the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and helped the municipality through restructuring, worked with the province in issues and project management, and eventually decided to set up a municipal consultancy and develop muniSERV.ca. and muniJOBS.ca
To me, a career in local government is still the most challenging and rewarding work you’ll ever do.
Like I always say, “You can take the girl out of the municipality, but you can never take the municipality out of the girl.”
Susan Shannon, AMCT
Founder & Principal, muniSERV.ca & Shaping Organizational Solutions (SOS)
[email protected] Phone: 855.477.5095