Carissa Bradley
Carissa Bradley
CivicSpark Climate Fellow

Why I'm Choosing a Career in Public Service and Think Others Should Too

Public service manifests itself in many different forms. Some find themselves getting involved in their child’s PTA, volunteering at their local food bank, deciding to run for their local city council, or joining our armed forces. For me, I joined CivicSpark, an AmeriCorp public service program that has brought me here to Sierra Business Council. For the next 11 months, I will be serving as a CivicSpark Climate Fellow managing projects to build capacity for local governments in the Sierra Nevada. Some of my projects include working with Nevada County to implement their recently approved Energy Action Plan and working with the City of Portola to become more fire safe.

CB ASUN Pic for blogThis opportunity to serve the Sierra is extra special to me because this is my home. I grew up in the small town of Loyalton, California nestled in the Sierra Valley. My family has been in the valley for seven generations so to say our roots are deep would be an understatement. When it came time to explore colleges, I wanted to stay where I could enjoy the crisp mountain air and world class views so I joined the Wolf Pack. I graduated this past May with my Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science with a minor in Public Administration from the University of Nevada, Reno.

Little did I know that the University of Nevada would be a place where my passion for public service could thrive. I have always been involved in my community, be it through volunteering events or student organizations, but getting involved during my college years took that involvement to the next level. I joined the Associated Students of the University of Nevada (ASUN) and saw the impact that serving one’s community can have. ASUN represents the interests of 18,000 undergraduate students while advocating at the local, state, and federal level. I was fortunate to be elected to many positions throughout my time where I advocated for the advancement of women, the environment and affordable housing needs. Through these experiences, I began to see the bigger picture of serving others. Service became my way of life and integrated itself in the way I approach solving problems and interact with my peers. It gave my life, and work, a deeper meaning. Meaningful work is why I have chosen a career in public service and why I encourage others to consider one as well.

Many people are afraid to go into public service or non-profit work for fear of not being paid enough. I would argue that public sector jobs have a number of key advantages that are often overlooked that go much deeper than one’s paycheck. Here are five reasons why I think everyone should consider a job in public service:

  1. COMM SierraValley CB 2019Meaningful work. The first of these reasons is that public work provides a deeper sense of meaning in one’s work. There are many problems facing our world and communities that require smart people who can find, test and implement solutions. Tackling problems like climate change, affordable housing, multimodal transportation, or forest management provides the satisfaction that a positive impact is being made to move the needle and public work is making it happen.

  2. Exposure to multiple practice areas. Another reason to explore work in public service positions is that often there is more exposure to multiple practice areas. People in these jobs can usually find themselves wearing multiple hats and becoming familiar with a variety of duties and skills that they might not have gained elsewhere.

  3. Better Work-Life Balance. Public service jobs tend to have more flexible hours and a 9-5 schedule whereas our private industry colleagues may have more pressure to meet billable hours or increase their profit margins. Work in the public sector is more focused on serving the community and ensuring the success of programs and services with an added appreciation for the staff working to make it happen.

  4. Deeper Connection to Community. While serving in one’s community, employees gain more access to the people who live there which leads to a greater appreciation for not only one’s work, but the work of those around the community. We need more appreciation for one another in this world and working in the public sector can provide this.

  5. Advancing the Public Good. Serving underserved or underrepresented groups, people, or causes offers a sense of accomplishment that often only comes from aligning one’s work with one’s values. I would argue that working to achieve societal change or advancing important issues goes further than a paycheck. A study written about in The New York Times backs me up, reporting that “Lawyers With Lowest Pay Report More Happiness” citing that advancing the public good gave them a higher feeling of satisfaction. This is not only the case for lawyers, this is true across many jobs in the public sector. 

Now, I know that not everyone can work in public or non-profit jobs, but I truly believe a position that can propel your passions is worth exploring at any stage in life. Working towards underserved causes has given me immense happiness and sense of purpose that has propelled me in the early stages of my career. I am so excited to begin this journey as a Fellow with Sierra Business Council to expand regional resilience, build climate action capacity for local governments, and serve our Sierra Nevada.