UW News

November 10, 2010

Career Services director at Evans School writes new book: ‘Jobs that Matter’

In high school, Heather Krasna helped form a club that focused on environmental issues. As a University of Michigan student, she helped organize cooperative student housing. Along the way, Krasna realized she wanted a career that would help make the world a better place.

She’s got the career, and now she’s helping others find similar ones.

Krasna is director of career services for the Evans School of Public Affairs and author of a recently published book, Jobs that Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service.

It appears at a time when millions of Americans are looking for public service jobs fresh out of school, seeking new careers in public service because of a layoff or changing careers to follow their dreams. The book also appears as some 270,000 baby boomers, some of whom had been inspired by President John F. Kennedy, are planning to retire from federal jobs.

Public service can be rendered in the public, nonprofit or private sectors, obviously, but to encourage young people to consider professional jobs in government, the Obama administration has directed the Office of Personnel Management to create a “coolness” task force, something that will encourage young people to apply.

Krasna wrote Jobs that Matter in only four months: “I wrote at night, on the bus, on the weekends,” she said. “I was surprised I was able to pull off the writing in a short period of time.”

It came together quickly, she said, because she already had much of the information in her head, the result of 12 years as a career adviser and employer relations specialist. And that doesn’t count an array of internships and volunteer jobs in public service.

Daughter of a political science professor and an English professor in Michigan, Krasna received a master’s degree in nonprofit management from Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy located in New York City. She’s a wizard at distilling information and making human connections — and those things are what it takes, she said, to land a job in public service.

The first chapter of Jobs that Matter takes readers through a series of exercises: defining career dreams, choosing career missions such as children’s issues or civil rights, targeting job functions such as urban planning and deciding work values such as prestige, level of responsibility and tolerance of stress.

The next eight chapters are the result of extensive and concentrated research. Krasna studied the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which is compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor and includes data on hundreds of occupations. She studied scores of public and private sector organizations that hire public service professionals. She used LinkedIn, GovLoop, Twitter, and Facebook, as well as referrals from colleagues and friends, to find and interview dozens of people in public service jobs.

Thematically organized around job types, the chapters range from human services and health to protecting the environment and managing financial resources. They also include 26 profiles of public service professionals. In “Keeping People Safe,” for example, Krasna profiles Ronald S. Neubauer, executive director of the Eastern Missouri Law Enforcement Training Center, who began his career as part of a military police unit in Vietnam.

Krasna also offers tips for landing jobs at specific places such as the United Nations. (The U.N. is really tough: “Because of its relatively high pay and excellent benefits,” Krasna writes, “the United Nations is extremely competitive, and hiring can sometimes be limited for U.S. citizens.”)

The last three chapters of Jobs That Matter focus on the job search itself: developing a resume, networking, navigating the application process, interviewing, negotiating offers and getting promoted. Krasna is painstaking in her attention to details. She offers a parts-of-speech diagram, for example, for bullet points of a resume so the statements indicate how much work the job seeker accomplished, e.g., “Effectively tutored up to 20 students per month, greatly improving their test scores.” She also offers tips about essays necessary for some federal jobs and guidance about negotiating salaries for public service jobs.

So is there another book in store for Krasna? She’s not sure. Writing the book has been somewhat like having a baby, something Krasna did while the book was being edited. So for the time being, she just wants to enjoy the book — and 9-month-old Elizabeth.

For more information, including an additional list of links for public service job searches, visit Krasna’s website.