It’s the perfect overcast, rainy day in Portland to launch a new column. While everyone in the Pacific Northwest is tuned to something called NBC Sports (which is not the real NBC but rather a cable channel found somewhere near the Oxygen Network and Dodgeball Network), now is the perfect time to either rob a house or write a column. Being that I am scared of shadows, I decided on the latter.
I’ll use this column to offer career advice, highlight the best of the internet, and apologize to my wife, children, and dog (Michael Jordan) for loudly clapping while they rock out to “Let It Be” from Frozen.
Allow Myself to Introduce Myself
Kent is a senior management analyst for the City of Tigard, OR and co-founder of ELGL. His duties for Tigard include risk management, franchise management, state and federal affairs, and special projects. He moved to West Linn with his wife, Kristen six years ago. Prior to moving to Oregon, Kent lived in Richmond, Virginia and worked as a senior legislative analyst for the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission. Kent graduated from Elon University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Masters of Public Administration.
Local Government Confidential
Now that we’ve got the introductions out of the way, let’s get started with the column and hope we make it past the next paragraph. We’ll begin with a few reader questions.
Q. In December, I moved to Portland without a job, bank account, or hoodie. I am interested in finding a job in local government. Provide a few names for who I should meet with for informational interviews.
When I moved to Portland in January 2007, I didn’t know anyone (except for my wife and the apartment supervisor) and I didn’t have a job so I can sympathize anyone starting new in Portland. I visited Portland once before I moving to something called Clackamas County. We moved here when she had the opportunity of a lifetime. The chance to follow in the footsteps of someone who embezzled $1.4 million dollars. Obviously, the bar was set low in topping that performance.
(As an aside, avoid being unemployed and friendless in Portland during the months of January and February. March is fine because you can stay inside and watch a ton of basketball while forgetting those evil thoughts that you might be the one person in the world who is unemployable.)
It is important to note that not all informational interviews are created equal. Half the battle is knowing the right people to interview. The right people aren’t necessary the ones who will give you a job but they will turn you on to leads and introduce you to others in the profession.
My first informational interview was with Randy Ealy, former Estacada city manager and current Beaverton Chief Administrative Officer. Randy was the ideal information interview for several reasons.
- He paid for my Pepsi. (I was still in my weird, less productive non-coffee phase.)
- He didn’t offer a job but did offer advice on who to meet with in local government. He also showed genuine interest in helping with my job search. It’s amazing how few people fall into this category.
- To this day, Randy is an important part of my personal and professional network. He serves on the ELGL advisory board and is often a resource when I am gathering information on what other cities are doing on a particular issue.
Now that we filled up Randy’s email inbox and voicemail with requests for informational interviews, I’ll offer a few other recommendations:
Anyone from the City of Hillsboro
Hillsboro is the model of innovative government in the Portland area. Michael Brown (city manager) and Steve Greagor (assistant city manager) are two people to add to your list.
Jessica has felt your pain. She moved to Portland in 2009 without a personal and professional network. Mac has a distinguished background working as a public information officer for Boston’s “Big Dig,” and now managing the successful Prichard Communications.
Erik Kvarsten, Gresham City Manager
There’s one simple reason you should include Erik on your informational interview list. He’s a UNC basketball fan. And, of course, he is the reigning award winner of the League of Oregon Cities Herman Kehril Award and is one of my starting five of city managers in Oregon. (I’ll save the other four for another time. Suspenseful, huh.)
Q. ELGL loves talking about Twitter. What’s in it for me if create an account?
Simply put, you should be active on LinkedIn and Twitter in order to build your professional network. Twitter is not Facebook. Twitter is focused on sharing news and information; Facebook is focused on sharing pictures from the Nickelback concert that you went to last night.
I’ll give you a head start on building your Twitter feed by sharing a list that includes ELGL members on Twitter. Our favorite example of an ELGL member realizing the benefit of Twitter comes from Emily Leuning.
Now that you know Twitter is important and Emily is a genius, what else should you know.
- Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Learn how to tweet by following those who are good at it. Examples: Bruce Katz, Erik Fabian, Governing Magazine, Julie Underwood, and Otis White.
- This one time at band camp.…..Become an engaged Twitter user without sharing your social security number or your love of the Subway Flatizza. You can re-tweet (which is sharing someone else’s tweet) or favorite (which is liking someone else’s tweet) as an easy way of being an engaged and active member on Twitter.
- Your next boss…..Recruiting firms look at Twitter feeds when they are doing due diligence on a candidate. By sharing relevant local government related articles or by sharing lessons learned from a conference, you begin to make a positive impression on your Twitter followers. Remember you can share non-work related information on the Portland Timbers, One Direction, and Frozen, but make sure to throw in a few work related items.
- I’m tech savvy and I know it…..One particular recruiting firm expressed to me that they determine whether a candidate is tech savvy and up on changing technologies by whether a candidate has a LinkedIn and Twitter account. The days of avoiding having a social media presence are over and what once might have been a positive is now a liability.
Now that you’re all hyped about Twitter and how great it is, you can learn how and why it was created in the book, Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship. You’ll be surprised by the number of lessons from the book that could carry over to local government.
I am not a big recreational reader. Don’t get me wrong I can read, but I just choose to watch a ton of reality shows like Southern Charm and the Bachelor. Anyway, I have a “friend” who was asked during an interview to discuss their favorite books. Can you save me the time in having to read books and tell me a good answer to that question.
Let’s all breathe a sigh of relief that these questions are anonymous. Not to sound like your parents but you should be reading at least a book a month. This simple act will improve your writing skills, increase your creativity, and allow you to honestly answer this question.
Before I give my book recommendations, read the ELGL column,“Book Smart” where Scott Lazenby (Lake Oswego city manager) and Erik Kvarsten (Gresham city manager) named their favorite books.
Here’s my top reads:
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon – After reading the book, I am puzzled on whether Amazon is the next Wal-Mart or whether they have a unique passion for saving you money while minimizing their profit.
The Go-Giver – I read the book upon the recommendation of Anthony Petchel, OMSI. You can read it from front to back during your lunch hour. You’ll come away from the book refocused on making a positive impact in life and your career. As a bonus, Bob Burg was featured in our “On the Public Record” profile and he is very engaging on Twitter.
365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily – This book is a life changer. Including it on the list allows me to rant about writing “thank you” notes. Similar to avoiding social media, failure to write thank you notes is a missed opportunity.
In the long, storied three year history of ELGL, we’ve presented in front of a number of groups from Clackamas County employees to 3CMA. At each presentation, we highlight that the most important takeaway from our presentation is developing a habit of writing thank you notes.
That said, Clay Pearson, Russell Bither-Terry, Ben Kittelson, and Rafael Baptista are the only ones that I’ve seen follow up with a thank you note. Maybe I am old school (I did turn 36 this week) but a hand written note is an easy way to stand out among your professional network.
To prove that I am not old and cranky, or at least not both, I present as evidence this recent New York Times article, The Found Art of Thank-You Notes.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – Steve Jobs was not someone you’d want your daughter to marry or someone you’d want to take care of your pet. Ignoring his complex personality for a minute, you can learn the importance of attention to detail by reading about the reasoning beyond the look and feel of the iPod.
It’ll be interesting to watch Job’s legacy grow over time. He left us with a product line that has become ingrained into our everyday lives. He created a virtual babysitter with the iPad and ruined the need to pay a penny for 20 CDs from Columbia House or BMG Record.
Q. Do you have any interests unrelated to local government or your family? I mean, really, do you ever kick back with a friendly game of hopscotch or spend a Saturday morning comparing fertilizers at Home Depot.
Interesting, but odd question. I am a little scared of responding with too much personal information (just locked my doors and pulled down the curtains). But, I will provide you a number of gems from the World Wide Web. To whomever created the internet, I can’t thank you enough.
Where’s Waldo? Where’s the Natural Light can?
Chuckles from McDonald’s.
Most Interesting Thing About Baseball
Tweet of the Week
Sitting in restaurant for an hour or so. Guy who makes balloon animals working the floor. Would gladly pay him $50 to stop. Just. Stop.
— jeffpearlman (@jeffpearlman) April 2, 2014
Play on Playa: More Evidence ESPN Is Horrible
Why you should root against Kentucky in the Final Four?
So, I know you asked for non-family related interests but I am ignoring that part for a second. I went to breakfast with my parents and my kids last weekend. When it came time to order (I was already four cups of coffee deep), when I heard someone order “one pancake.” Anything else? Nope, just one pancake. It’s cute that one of my kids did that, right? Well, it wasn’t my 4-year old daughter or my 2-year old daughter, it was my dad and I have proof of the one lonely pancake.
Who orders just one pancake? That’s the equivalent of ordering one drumstick, one slider, or one piece of Pirate’s Booty. Why do I find this so amusing, it reminds me of the famous scene with Chris Rock in I’m Gonna Get You Sucka.
Q. Is this column over yet? Why not?
Not quite. I would be remiss if I didn’t plug this week’s forum with Ben Petrick, ex-MLB player and author of “40,000 to 1.” Ben’s story emphasizes the need to hug our children, enjoy success while we have it, enjoy our health while we have it, and the need to turn challenges into opportunities. The following video tells Ben’s story. (Hopefully, my wife isn’t still reading this column because I’ll share with you that she was crying less than two minutes into the ESPN profile.