Back in the day, my father went to work very early every morning, putting in long hours, “just to make ends meet” and while he really never complained, we all knew (because he told us) that he had always dreamt of becoming a teacher. Frankly, dear old Dad would have been a good one too. But instead of realizing his goal he knuckled down to a career in the printing business, sometimes doing a couple of part-time jobs as well.
Today, you might say things have changed. The more general attitude is that your career should be about more than just paying the bills. Ideally, it should be energizing and provide you with “feel good”, as well as financial, rewards. Here are “The 4 Ps”: four steps to help you set your professional objectives. Whether you already have specific goals or you’re not yet sure exactly what career path to take, the following “4 Ps” can bring focus to your aspirations.
Pinpoint exactly what kind of job would make you excited to wake up every day – the kind of work that will energize and push you to perform at your best. Are you someone who thrives on finding solutions or making things better? Do you work best in a team environment? For someone who’s starting out, making sure passion is a part of your career could be very important. A career in municipal government can quite often meet that need. Serving the public and meeting the needs of others can leave you feeling good about your work knowing that it has a purpose beyond just providing you with a pay check.
As much as loving what you do is important, so is loving where you do it. Your passion may be in planning, but it might be more important for you to work in an organization where you’d be an economic developer rather than working on subdivisions. Limiting the scope of the types of places at which you’d like to work can help you develop a list of potential employers – both for the short term and years down the road. The same is true for geographical location – as much as you may covet a job at, say, an Okanagan town, you might need to be close to your family in Ontario in order to be truly happy. Not to mention the many who followed Horace Greely’s “Go west young man- and actually did go west for an adventure … and now want to return home to the Maritimes to be close to Grandma … ever since the kids came along.
“The people you “rub shoulders with” every day should be a big issue as you consider your career path. It’s important because there are so many people who like what they do but hate who they work with. Why would any municipal manager want to stay long-term in a municipality that has a “crabby” Mayor and dysfunctional council? Or worse a Council that doesn’t understand their role is to lead municipality and not to “run” the operation. To avoid winding up in a negative environment, do a really good job of interviewing them while they are interviewing you. Remember, according to Forbes magazine 89% of job failures are as a result of poor cultural “FIT”. Ask lots of questions about the municipality’s culture and management style before you take a job.
There’s certainly a grain of truth to the belief that a low-paying job at the right place can be a good way to get a foot in the door. I often tell people who ask about a career in municipal government that a great way to get started is in a small rural community in one of Canada’s more than 3000 municipalities. After all, the vast majority have a very small population but they still need capable staff to run the town. But salary is important. According to some studies, depending on your education level, you can leave more than $1 million on the bargaining table over the duration of your career by not negotiating. No matter where you work… in the smallest village or the largest city, it is important to make sure that you will be able to maintain a satisfactory lifestyle on your salary.