Finding a PWE – Be Proactive!

My PWE wraps up this week. Though I am sad to leave my position at town hall, I am grateful to have benefited from working alongside skilled people and gaining practical experience in local government management. Between finishing final papers, preparing presentations, and sheltering in place, I’ve been reflecting about how my experience started. As a final blog post, I am sharing more about how I chose a PWE and the lessons I learned along the way.

While I previously worked in government, I never served at the local level. Given UNC’s highly ranked local government program, a local municipality seemed like a good choice for a PWE. I also interacted each week with a classroom full of Leslie Knopes. As if I needed more convincing, their passion persuaded me that local government would be a great place to work alongside other individuals committed to improving their communities. A few months prior to starting my PWE, I met with an MPA alum for coffee. I wanted to hear about his experience as a graduate of the UNC MPA program living and working in my area. This individual had extensive experience working in private and public positions and multiple levels of government. He explained that he had worked in many rewarding positions but emphasized that “local government is where you can really make a difference.”

Searching for and completing the PWE has been a learning process. The MPA staff shared a list of alumni in my area shortly after my acceptance to the program. Over the next few months, I met with multiple UNC MPA graduates and received some useful advice about surviving the program, finding a PWE, and pursuing a career in public administration. In one of those meetings, an individual recommended someone else who could be helpful in my PWE search. One email later I secured a PWE, just weeks before the spring term started!

I learned two lessons along the way: take advantage of UNC MPA resources and be willing to expand your network. One of the most beneficial resources has been the MPA program staff. (Shout out to Susan Austin, Allison Binkley, and Kristin Pawlowski!) From sharing the list of alumni, to helping tweak my resume, to guiding me through the PWE contract, they offered invaluable assistance throughout the process. I began sending emails immediately after receiving the alumni list, many of whom were gracious enough to meet with me over coffee. During the meetings, I asked for advice and for recommendations of other people I should contact. I also reached out to former coworkers who were incredibly helpful in providing guidance and support. After the meetings, I followed up with a note or email thanking each person for taking the time to share their advice. Those meetings were an important source of information and eventually led to my finding a PWE. Being proactive is not always easy, but (at least for me) it produced great results!