A few weeks ago Rachel Burnham of the BDOlocalgov team had a lot of us talking about what it meant to be young* and working in local government today. Between Twitter and coffee it was decided that there was enough interest from enough young ‘uns to get together to have a chat about how we could better support and connect with one another.
So, last night a fresh faced horde of enthusiastic and engaged young local government professionals descended on Smith Square – and it was all rather fantastic. Huge thanks to Rachel and Rebecca Cox for organising it so quickly!
It was an opportunity for us to hear some pearls of wisdom from Graeme McDonald of SOLACE about progressing our careers in local government. I must admit his main tips; make your own luck, say no as rarely as possible and bear in mind that you never know where the person you are speaking to right now might end up – so be nice!, were useful, but could have been applicable to work in any sector or indeed any aspect of your life.
But perhaps that’s the point? Why should the ways to develop a career in local government be different to any other part of the public or indeed the private sector? I think for too long we have had an inferiority complex in local government – we aren’t in central government making the ‘big decisions’, we are not in the dizzying glamour that is the private sector and we don’t go home with that warm feeling inside from a day of selfless sacrifice in the voluntary sector …
When asked what had kept him in local government, Graeme McDonald answered that it was nice to come home after work, turn on the news and see that nearly everything being talked about related to the work of local government in some way. It had made him feel that what he was doing was worthwhile and it had an important direct impact on his friends’, family’s and community’s lives. This perspective certainly helped me look at what we deliver in a different way.
Earlier yesterday, I had been watching a webinar on how austerity would force change for local government. Panel members included Peter Fleming, Chairman of the LGA’s Improvement and Innovation Board and Sue Smith, Chief Executive of Cherwell District Council and South Northamptonshire Council, who were clear that rather than this being a difficult time for bright young things to forge a career in local government, it was in fact their time to shine. Innovation, creativity and excellence are needed more than ever in local government and I hope that a network of passionate and committed young people who are full of ideas can emerge from last night’s kick off event. Sue Smith admitted that innovative thinkers hadn’t always been supported to develop careers in local government and whilst this is changing it is still important that those of us who dare to be different can support one another.
It’s my belief that potentially for many, there’s never been a better time to work in local government – and it’ll be even easier if we work together to make change happen.
*how young is defined is entirely open to interpretation … :)