For years and years, public service meant government work. But these days, the definition has broadened to jobs at universities, nonprofits, nongovernmental organizations, some parts of the private sector and practically any other work that improves the world.
A new book, “Jobs That Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service,” (JIST Publishing, $14.95) shows how to launch a career that not only changes the world but provides steady paychecks.
The author, Heather Krasna, 37, has been a career counselor for 12 years. She’s now director of career services at the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington.
The book 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 layoffs or changing careers to follow their dreams. The book also appears as some 270,000 baby boomers, some of whom were inspired by President John F. Kennedy, are nearing retirement from federal jobs, and as the Obama administration encourages young people to consider careers in public service. To encourage young people to consider public service, the federal Office of Personnel management has created a “coolness” task force.
Noting the need for a how-to on public service careers, 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.”
The book came together quickly, she said, because much information was already in her head, the result of years as a career adviser and employer relations specialist plus experience in 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 in New York City. She specializes in distilling information and making human connections — what it takes, Krasna said, to land a job in public service.
The initial 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 subsequent eight chapters resulted from extensive research. Krasna studied hundreds of jobs listed in the Occupational Outlook Handbook compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor. She studied scores of organizations that hire public service professionals. She used LinkedIn, GovLoop, Twitter, Facebook and 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 with 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 takes pains with details. For bullet points of a resume, she urges job seekers to quantify their experience in a certain formula. It results in such lines as, “Effectively tutored up to 20 students per month, greatly improving their test scores.” Krasna also offers guidance about essays necessary for some federal work and tips about negotiating salaries for public service jobs.
For more information, including a list of links for public service job searches, visit Krasna’s website.