Ever Wonder What It’s Like to Work in Local Government?

Jordan behind the governor's desk
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Almost as soon as the plane’s wheels hit down on the cracked cement of the landing strip, you can feel the humidity wrap you in its cloak. The trade winds that are rustling the palm leaves are a subtle relief as you walk to baggage claim. The Wiki Wiki shuttle drives past without you; you’re happy to walk. You pass fathers dressed in baggy shorts, tank tops, and slippas yelling “Eh!” after their barefoot children who are scattered everywhere.

There’s really nothing like returning home to Hawai’i.

Jordan came home to the islands after spending two years in Japan with the JET program and the four years before that in Southern California for college.

After being away for so long, she was still invested in her home and wanted to get a job that would allow her to be involved on a large scale.

She now works as a Legislative Aide with the Hawai’i State Legislature.

Ever wonder what it’s like to work in local government?

We took a moment to chat with Jordan to find out.

  • What does a typical day look like for Jordan?

During the legislative session, Jordan attends tons of committee hearings. She is constantly keeping track of any bills that are important to her office and making sure that her boss has the necessary testimony and information on these bills. She spends a lot of time conducting research pertaining to bills or laws and puts this together into informational materials.

 

Jordan and her coworkers showing off the beautiful schedule they created for their boss

Jordan and her coworkers showing off the beautiful schedule they created for their boss

Jordan also works with representatives on constituent communications, newsletters, certificates, and speeches. She sometimes sits in on meetings or attends events with these representatives.

“Every day the tasks are different,” she says, “but one thing is certain; there are always things to be done between my coffee sips.”

  • What interested Jordan in this position / working in government in general?

Jordan was always drawn to the public sector’s potential for doing good on a large scale. When money is appropriated to the right things at the right time, and a good public policy is created, a vast amount of people can be helped.

“I always wanted to work for a government that genuinely worked to help people prosper and stay safe and healthy,” she says.

This interest in government stuck with Jordan through her four years at the University of Redlands, but she wasn’t really sure about what level of government or what part she wanted to work in.

There are so many branches within the federal government and then departments within those branches. Even at the state or county level, local government has so many different elements and jurisdictions.

Because of this, Jordan chose to major in International Relations. She saw it as an “umbrella” major.

“Through this degree, I learned about the interactions of governments on a global level. I chose it because it seemed all encompassing of the things I was interested in; government, history, economics, and cultures.”

  • How did Jordan get a job as a Legislative Aide?

There is an increase in staff positions at the Hawai’i legislature during the legislative session. This means that right before January people are submitting résumés with different offices online or through emails.

Jordan was among these candidates, but she also knew a former University of Redlands classmate who was currently working for the Hawai’i State Legislature. Pete Gibson mentions reaching out to alumni in his post, “7 Secrets to Networking Your Way to a Job AfterCollege,” and that’s just what Jordan did. Jordan reached out to her classmate who was only too happy to pass along her résumé.

After her résumé was reviewed, Jordan was contacted for an interview. About a month after the interview, she was told she got the position and started at the legislature for the 2014 session.

  • What are the challenges about working in government?

There are systems of rules and regulations in place that keep the government operating. Though these are helpful in some ways, they can be pretty frustrating as well. They can often make things move a lot slower than you might expect and sometimes requests may get stuck along the way. You have to be extremely patient to get things approved.

  • What is Jordan’s favorite part about working in government?

Working in the state capitol allows for exposure to people from a variety of different backgrounds and interests. Jordan loves that she is able to learn about different issues from an array of perspectives.

Jordan meeting congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard

Jordan meeting congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard

She really enjoys being in a place where debates occur. It’s one thing to see stories on the news and another to witness what goes on behind the scenes.

  • What advice does Jordan have for college students who are interested in her field?

Writing and communication skills are really important in a lot of government jobs, so Jordan encourages students to really work on harnessing those skills. She also suggests volunteering for a campaign.

Staying on top of current events is also important. Students should read newspapers, blogs, magazines, and relevant books.

Jordan is not exempt from her own advice. She wishes that she’d had more experience volunteering within the government before applying for her job. She was living in Japan participating in the JET program before she returned to Hawai’i and so she was pretty far away from local politics for a while.

In fact, the last time she’d lived in her home state was six years ago. She’d spent the past two years in Japan and the four years before that in California at the University of Redlands.

Upon returning, she felt like she had a lot of catching up to do as far as current local issues, learning about the people who were doing the decision-making, and catching up with public policy issues.

“For example,” she recalls, “I came back to Hawai’i in the midst of the GMO debate, which hadn’t been such a hot topic when I’d left. When I came back there was a lot of catching up to do on that subject as well as many others.”

Still, Jordan was dedicated to getting the position and did the research to bring her back up to speed with what was happening with local politics.

  • Her last piece of advice?

“Watch a lot of West Wing—House of Cards is fun, but I just fell in love with the idealistic side of government in West Wing. So inspiring. ‘Tear’.”

Scheduling selfie!

Scheduling selfie!

Homework time! Interested in working in local government? Take Jordan’s advice and start looking for different political events you can volunteer for. Make sure that you’re keeping up with current local events and know who’s who in your local government offices.

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