Today I participated in a panel on the transition from the MPA program at Queen's University to the workforce. Three other recent MPA grads were on the panel, which was moderated by Richard McKinnell. We each gave a brief presentation and the class followed up with a series of questions.
My fellow panelists work for the Ontario Public Service. One works in communications for the Minister of Health; one works in policy in the Cabinet Office; and one works as counsel in the Office of Legislative Counsel. As the only panelist who is working in the non-profit sector, I focused my remarks on my experience finding my first job after graduation.
Some advice that I gave to the class:
- Keep your options open and stay broad. I was very focused on working for the federal government generally and joining the foreign service in particular. As a result, I passed on or didn't pursue a number of other policy-related opportunities.
- There are lots of great charities and non-profit organizations out there, especially in Toronto. But there are also a lot of poorly-run non-profits that lack vision, focus, and resources. It is essential to do your homework on the organization, its finances and its people before and during your interview.
- Engage with the network of MPA grads and friends of the program. I spent too much of my job search time submitting resumes online through the public, formal recruitment campaigns and not enough time speaking with current and former executives in the Ontario and federal governments.
- On work-life balance, I noted that I don't know anyone who is very successful in their job, regardless of what sector they are working in, and who works only eight hours per day.
I really enjoyed participating in the Queen's Park session, and similar trips to Ottawa and Washington, when I was an MPA student. It was fun to come back to speak to the class.