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Congrats Graduate! Now What?

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By John Greet
August 4, 2015

Congratulations! You’ve earned your graduate degree in public administration or public policy. Now what?

Existing Employees

If you are very fortunate, you are already working in the field for an organization where your new degree will help you to either do your current job, advance in your organization or both. If so, you most likely already have your eye on a specific promotional opportunity and now you are more qualified for consideration. Statistically speaking you now have far fewer people in your organization with whom to compete for both management and executive-level opportunities.

If you are seeking to promote within the organization, you should play up the strengths that you and your new degree can bring to the position. During interviews, emphasize these strengths, be as specific as possible and, concurrently, illustrate how these newly acquired strengths complement the existing skillsets you are already demonstrating.

The new position you seek may have some challenges. Research them. Describe for your interviewers how your new degree, coupled with your existing knowledge and experience, will help you resolve those challenges.

Looking Elsewhere

Perhaps you are currently working in the field but are looking to move to a different organization. Your degree can make you a more desirable candidate to new employers. Keep in mind that you may well be competing for consideration with internal candidates from the organization you are courting.

What is the best way to offset being an outsider? Do your research. Study the organization you are looking to join and delve deeper than just the pay and benefits. Read recent news reports to see whether the organization is experiencing some significant challenges that they hope to address by hiring the right person to this position. If so, in your interview, illustrate how you are the best candidate to help them with their challenges and how your recent education can help you to do so.

Just Starting or Starting Over

If you are among the fortunate few who have been able to matriculate directly from high school to undergraduate to graduate studies and have mainly worked only to earn spending money or to help offset your tuition, good for you! Unfortunately, unless you spent some of your time in a volunteer internship program, you have most likely obtained very little in the way of real-world experience in the field. This will prove a challenge for you as you start submitting your resume to prospective employers.

It is a rare employer, public or private, who will hire an applicant for a management or executive level position with little or no practical experience in the field. If you are this graduate, you will most likely have to set your sights a bit lower on the organizational flowchart. Despite your lack of practical experience, you should be able to describe that you have acquired effective supervisory skills throughout your formal education experience.

If, like me, you are already a retiree and seeking to leverage your considerable experience and new degree to re-enter the workforce, you may experience mixed signals from employers. Some will be very impressed with your overall background, but seek an applicant who plans to be around for 10 years or more. As a current retiree that may not fit your timetable. Other employers may not be so concerned with your potential for longevity in the organization but prefer to select internal applicants whom they have already employed for a number of years. Either way, be patient and determined. There are many opportunities out there and many employers looking for an applicant with the right mix of education and experience.

Regardless of the type of graduate you are, congratulations! You have increased your chances for either employment or advancement in the public sector considerably.


Author: John B. Greet is a retired police sergeant from Southern California, currently residing in the Pacific Northwest. He holds a master’s in public administration and a Bachelor of Science in business management.

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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