Career Strategies for Successful MPA Graduates

“Public service is a stimulating, proud, and lively enterprise. It is not just a way of life; it is a way to live fully.”

Lee H. Hamilton, a former member of the United States House of Representatives who has served on several government advisory boards since the Johnson administration, said this of life as a public servant.

Professionals who start a career in public administration tend to be idealistic, energetic people, ambitious for the good of their community and country.

But as any veteran public servant can tell you, public administration is not a sprint — it is a marathon. Those who aspire to do great things for their community are smart to develop smart career strategies ahead of time.

Why Strategize?

Developing specific strategies for your career can be the key to accomplishing the goals that brought you into public management. A set of overarching career strategies can protect you from being blindsided by corruption and ambivalence. Your career strategies help you leverage your opportunities when a victory causes your star to rise.

Career Strategies for Successful MPA Graduates
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A solid strategy also guides you whenever a fight for public good takes a challenging turn.

Practice Thinking Outside the Box

No matter what your particular role in public administration might be, serving in that role has a way of narrowing your field of vision over time. While real-world work experience is important, the skills you learn while getting your master’s in public administration are what help you see the big picture, a crucial component of nurturing the public good.

Making the Most of Networking Opportunities

Examples of poor networking among public administrators are abundant in our everyday life — just attend one of the more controversial city council meetings. Serving the public well means also learning to work as a team with other managers in your agency and administrators throughout your region. Especially important is your ability to work with those who have different opinions, even those who see you as a junior or hold agendas that oppose yours. Determining to work well with these individuals will amplify your efficacy in office.

Find the Intelligence in Every Individual

The alliances public administrators make within their community are not merely a means of promoting themselves within their office. Far from it, in fact — these relationships are what help public administrators keep their ideals rooted in real issues. No matter what your role is, recognizing intelligence and respecting individuals — especially those who are de facto community leaders or those who are sometimes in the shadows — can cultivate your discernment about what the public truly needs and the best way to make it possible.

Negotiate Successfully

As the senior United States Senator from California, Dianne Feinstein, said: “Winning may not be everything, but losing has little to recommend it.” Negotiation is central to the job of a public servant. A crucial part of public service is developing the skill to broker agreements and compromises between opposing parties. Recognizing the good that all parties hope to achieve, and helping them find a compromise in the short term will help them achieve their goals in the long run. In this situation, all parties win, and nobody loses.

Some people put their life on cruise control once they’ve graduated and found their first and last job. Those who want to advance their career in public service continually make sure to follow strategies that allow them an opportunity to grow. By using critical thinking skills and surrounding yourself with a strong support network, you’ll be ahead of the game. When you learn how to effectively network and negotiate, you ensure you have a full opportunity to enjoy a rewarding career.

To learn more career strategies and read more about success as an MPA graduate, visit University of San Francisco online.

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