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Rookie Review: An Introduction

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

By Emily Paulson
February 3, 2015

This is the first of a new monthly column. I believe in transparency, so please allow me to introduce myself. I’m a graduate student and new professional in this field, and I think it’s important that you know where I’m coming from and how I got started. I have been interested in public administration all my life, but I can’t say I’d ever used its name before a year ago.

Working as a corporate journalist, I found myself standing in steel-toed boots and neon safety gear in a rail yard last winter. With a communications, training and nonprofit development background, workplace safety had never been something I’d lost sleep over. Then, suddenly, I was surrounded by it. Not only was I wearing safety from head to toe, but I found myself asking questions about it, writing about it and even preaching about it.

They teach you on the railroad that safety is a lifestyle; it’s not something you think about at work and put away before you go home. They were right. I couldn’t ever put it out of my head. This led me to a conversation with a railroad police officer. We ended up chatting for hours about his career in public safety and I knew it was a world I was supposed to be a part of. “It’s where strategy and compassion come together,” he’d told me. That was exactly what I’d been looking for.

I went home and immediately started doing Internet searches on public safety and community outreach jobs. I kept seeing the same phrase over and over—public administration. It made so much sense. After floundering in jobs that were good, but not fulfilling, for the years directly following my undergraduate program, I finally felt professional conviction. Public service was calling my name.

I left that job and started my master’s program in public administration. It’s a lot of work, but I’m loving every minute of it. OK, maybe not on the night before a big assignment is due, but every other minute. I’m focusing on learning the “ins and outs” of the public sector and becoming an expert.

So, this column will be for or about what it’s like to be a student, a novice and a rookie. I’ll cover topics like professional development, networking, theories, career management, and the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed idea of what it means to be a good steward of public responsibility.

I would love to hear from my readers with feedback, pushback or suggestions. This column is written for you, so your involvement is appreciated. You can reach me at [email protected]. Now that you know a little something about me, let’s get down to business.

paulson febThis month, I want to say a little something about the value of self-reflection. I’ve been doing a lot of it over the last year or so, as I’ve switched sectors and career paths. Self-reflection has truly made a huge impact on my quality of life.

As more and more employers encourage staff to take personality tests, they’ve been in debate. Are they helpful? Is it ethical to base hiring decisions on their results? How much can we trust ourselves to take them with candor? These are all good questions. I would argue that their value isn’t in their accuracy, but in their ability to get us thinking.

Personality tests can be great catalysts for self-analysis, especially with regard to professional development. While I’ve never met someone who can be neatly packed into a categorical box, these tests can prompt us to take a good, inward look at ourselves. They give us language to use in understanding and describing our nature and often help us see where someone else is coming from. They can shine a fluorescent light on where our strengths and weaknesses lie, which is so valuable in the workplace.

I brainstorm well, while others need more time for reflection. I do a lot of my best work first thing in the morning, but someone one desk over might not do their best work until three coffees later. Do you know when you do yours?

Maybe you’ve always had a lot of friends, so you assume you’re an extravert, but you actually rely greatly on your quiet time to recharge and get centered. What drives you crazy? What just plain old drives you?

The answers to these questions don’t only come from tests. There is also a bounty of helpful and relevant books on topics like this at your local library. Check some of them out. Don’t be afraid to disagree with some of what you come across. The value is in the time you’re taking to consider what’s being said. Let’s be intentional about getting to know ourselves, so we can bring the best version of that person to work. Take some time to learn about you.


Author: Emily G. Paulson is a graduate student in Hamline University’s public administration program in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is carving out a career in public safety or community outreach and keeps busy volunteering and freelance writing. Contact her at [email protected]

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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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