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How to Get Involved in Local Government: How to Earn a Public Role and What to Expect

By GovPilot

So, you’re feeling a calling to get involved in your local community. Whether you’re looking to volunteer through your local government or looking to make a switch to a public sector career, you deserve a pat on the back!

While getting involved in local government presents unique challenges much different than the private sector, making an effort to improve the quality of life in your community takes a willful and caring person. Public service is a noble calling!

Here’s everything you need to know about finding your way into a role in local government, and what to expect when getting involved. 

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Why Should You Get Involved In Local Government?

While the majority of the American people and media’s interests lie in federal politics, government entities at the local and state level also have a substantial impact on the day to day lives of constituents in each neighborhood around the country. By being willing to spend your time on local government, you’re putting in the direct effort to improve the lives of people in your community.

Depending on how you want to get involved, you can assist in countless ways in local government like making infrastructure projects happen, educating and training constituents on important news and concepts, connecting with constituents on the issues, and volunteering / working on collaborative objectives to make positive changes on various efforts.

How to Begin Working in Local Government? 

With a passion to make a change and a love for your community, you’re bound to do well in a municipal or county government role. Plus, demand for public sector workers is high!

Here’s some helpful tips for finding the right job for you in local government: 

1. Look Online for Available Local Government Job Listings

Recruiters for local governments nationwide typically tend to use the same few outlets for digital public sector job postings. Oftentimes, work opportunities are shared directly to a municipal or city website via government human resources software.

Platforms like Google job postings, Indeed, or more specifically GovernmentJobs.com also make it easy to find job listings in the field and area of your choice. 

2. Take Some Time to Consider What Type of Government Role is Right for You

Local government workers are in high demand as older workers retire. That said, like any career choice, your degree, experience, and personal interests are critical variables in determining which local government department you belong in and whether or not you can get involved in local politics as an elected official (if you see a political carrer in your future!) 

Take the time to get an understanding of the local government jobs available, the different departments with openings and what their roles and responsibilities in your community entail. Most importantly, for any job role (government or otherwise!) dig deep and consider what you want out of a career.

GovTip: Government tech worker recruitment is at an all time high. If you want a promising public sector career, focusing on the government technology route is a wise one!

3. Consider College or Online Courses to Break Into Your Government Department of Choice

Even if your county or municipality is desperate for a tech team to implement a modern government IT strategy, you’re not going to land an IT job without the proper education. The key takeaway here is that even beyond a degree in public policy, a college degree or online course certification in the subject matter at hand will drastically increase your chances of breaking into a role in your local government. 

4. Build Connections and Your Resume By Volunteering in Local Government or Joining a Fellowship

Getting involved in your local government via a volunteer opportunity or fellowship before taking on a public sector career is a great way to test the waters in a public work environment before making it a career, get highly relevant government experience, and build out your network of public sector relationships. The experience and connections you’ll earn will make it much easier to find and land a local government job role in the city department or agency of your choice. 

Explore the next section for more advice on volunteering through your local government. 

5. Be Selective in Which Local Government / Department You Choose to Work In

Like any career, asking questions in a job interview is as important for the candidate as it is for the organization that’s hiring. You’ll want to ask questions about the government department’s budget, technology, and workflows to get a feel for what your day-to-day will look like and how modern their local government digital infrastructure is. 

Consider asking the following questions during your interview:

  • Does your local government use government software to automate tedious manual, paper-based workflows?

Many local governments have adopted government management software in recent years to save government workers time previously spent working on boring administrative tasks. If you want to spend your time working through big problems in your community, you’ll want to make sure they are using modern digital infrastructure. 

  • What does this government department’s annual budget look like?

Obviously, more money makes it much easier to execute government objectives. Get a feel for what the annual budget looks like for the government department you’re applying for to understand how easy it will be to take action once hired. Are there cost savings or government revenue sources to be had by updating or modernizing processes?

Learn more about How Local Governments Budget to familiarize yourself with the public sector.

  • Is there a lot of turnover within this local government & government department?

If a local government has low employee retention, typically it means that internal challenges are making people choose to work elsewhere. Get to the bottom of whether or not employees are sticking around, and if they're leaving, find out why. 

Check out our guide to Local Government Employee Retention for a look into the best qualities a local government should have to retain government workers by keeping them happy. 

How to Volunteer in Your Local Government & Community? 

  • Why Choose to Volunteer With Your Local Government? 

Typically, opportunities to volunteer in local government are highly dependent on your community’s specific needs. By choosing to volunteer, you’ll be assisting your community in areas where budgets and hiring limitations are preventing progress from happening. You’ll be taking on ownership of your community to make positive and lasting changes while simultaneously meeting kind hearted people.

  • What Are Popular Volunteering Opportunities Within Local Government?

As mentioned, opportunities to volunteer vary from town to town. That being said, here are some common capacities in which volunteers are needed by the public sector:

1. Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)

As powerful and destructive storms become more commonplace than ever before, local governments are scrambling to protect their constituents and mitigate damage to community infrastructure. CERT volunteers are a critical component in preventing the tragic loss of community members, public buildings, commercial property, and residential housing. 

In volunteering in a CERT, you’ll be regularly hosting educational seminars for community members on how to respond in an emergency situation, and how to mitigate against the types of storms that pose the largest threat to your neighborhood. In the wake of a powerful storm, you’ll also be one of the first responders sent out to assess the damage and save people and animals caught in the storm. 

Looking to learn more about joining a CERT and disaster preparedness, read on: 

2. Assisting in Local Park Maintenance

Whether you’re in a city, a suburb, or a rural part of the country, chances are your local park system is an important part of your community. Local governments all over the country from Spokane to NYC are actively seeking parks and recreation volunteers to assist in (and potentially lead park clean ups. In many places, you can approach your local government to request your own volunteer project to make an improvement in your community. Need inspiration? Explore the guide to Transforming Your Community With 15 Minute Cities & Urban Transformation.

To find local park volunteering opportunities near you, do a quick Google search along the lines of, “Seattle park volunteer opportunities.”

Consider which aspects of the day-to-day in the parks and recreation department are right for you in the Modern Parks & Recreation Department Strategy guide.  

3. To Greet Visitors

In your city's hottest attractions, there are surely visiting tourists that are unfamiliar with the neighborhood and looking for guidance on the best things to do. If you love your community, volunteer to help visitors get the best experience possible while visiting your town. On a personal level, you’ll be greeting and assisting visitors as a friendly face. At a large scale, you’ll be helping your community by improving visitors’ experiences and boosting the tourism in your wonderful city!

Check your local government’s website or take a look on Google or Indeed for “volunteer greeter opportunities” to find a position at a point of interest nearby. 

How to Find Out Which Volunteer Opportunities Are Available in Your Community? 

The easiest way to keep an eye out for rewarding volunteer opportunities with your local government is to regularly check your local government’s website and social media pages. Most local governments will actively share open volunteer (and paid) roles on the websites and platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and NextDoor.  

Getting Involved In Local Government - In Conclusion

Whether you’re just trying to volunteer in your community or choosing a public sector career, getting involved in your local government will be a rewarding experience for you and have a lasting impact on your community. Consider which departments are in need of employees and volunteers, and decide on something that you’ve got the right experience and passion for. And, if your local government hasn’t gone digital yet, encourage leadership to embrace government management software to improve workflows and automate tasks to make sure you’re using your thinking power to make the largest impact possible. 

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Working & Volunteering in Local Government FAQs

1. Why work or volunteer in local government?

If you’re up for a challenge and inspired to make a difference, getting involved in local government will be a rewarding experience for you. You’ll be working amongst people that chose to dedicate their time to improving your community, and wield the power to improve the quality of life for people in your neighborhood.

2. How to find volunteer opportunities in your community?

Visiting your local government’s website is a good way to see what volunteer opportunities are available in your community. If you’re not finding anything listed there, check back in a few weeks to see if anything new is available, or take to Google with a “volunteer opportunities near me” search. 

3. How to find work opportunities in your local government? 

Local governments typically post their job listings to their website too. Check your local government site or a platform like Indeed or Google job listings to find jobs in your field and area. 

4. How can I help to make my community and local government better?

Report a concern software makes it easy to report local non-emergency issues directly to your city government, from pot holes to litter to noise complaints and beyond. If you want to get involved in local politics but don't know where to start, take some time to reflect on ways your community can improve, and use the complaint management system to bring these issues to the attention of city leadership.

Making your community better means making constituents lives better. Consider also looking into providing resources and services that will specifically improve upward mobility in your area to give citizens more financial freedom.  

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Tags: Government Efficiency, Digital Transformation, Blog, Civic Engagement