Advice for the newbies
I was trailing through our new twitter followers the other evening (@welovelocalgov by the way) when I noticed that a surprising number of them were recent entrants to the National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP).
Obviously, I was delighted to see that so many new entrants to local government were a) making use, if only in a small way, of social media and b) that they were taking the time to follow the ramblings of myself and my colleagues.
With this in mind I thought it might be nice to write a post specifically for them and not being able to come up with anything more original here is my top ten tips for any new graduate:
1) Talk to people. When I first started in local government I was scared of ALL managers. In actual fact I have discovered that if you show an interest almost every person in the authority will happily sit down with you for half an hour and chat through what they do.
2) Work out where the money comes from. Councils are pretty complex and if you want to have a career in local government it will really help you if you understand how the council is funded. (Clue: it’s not as simple as understanding council tax!)
3) Work out where the money goes. Understanding how the council sets a budget and how each service manager then works out, and monitors, their own budget is such a central part of being a manager that it is best to get this sorted as soon as possible. There are so many managers who don’t know how to manage their own budget, let alone how the council’s overall budget works, and it definitely holds them back.
4) Take every opportunity to get out and about in your local area. Visit satellite offices, libraries, health centres and the waste depot. If you can; try and take public transport or explore the area near the different offices. It’s the single best way to get a sense of the business of the council and the local area.
5) Meet the people you serve. Do not forget that you are there to provide services to members of the local community. Even if your job has nothing to do with the local community remember why you are doing the job and take every chance to go and find out what the public think about the job you, and your council, are doing.
6) Just because you don’t understand something going on in your council do not assume this is because you haven’t got it yet. Often, things are the way they’ve always been and challenging the status quo can be the best thing you could do.
7) Equally, don’t assume that everything happening in your council is somehow from the 20th century. I’ve seen far too many graduates who come in with the attitude that everything in the council ‘must’ be outdated and therefore ‘must’ be changed.
8) Innovate. Local councils are big organisations and big organisations don’t do change well. However, if you, as a new entrant to the sector can’t come up with some great new ideas for service delivery then we have no hope. Don’t be afraid to come up with new ideas, try them, and then do your best to make them succeed.
9) Work out the good places to eat locally. Not only is it a good idea to get out of the office occasionally but visiting a few different local places can be a good way to get a sense of the area you work in.
10) Enjoy it. Local Government is an awesome place to work and you will find your career, whatever part of the local government family you end up working in, to be as fulfilling as you let it be.
Oh, and if you want to write about your experiences please just drop us a line!
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