Careers in Public Service: An interview with Darius Callier from the Office of the Mayor of the City of New York

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Darius Callier

The Wasserman Center will be interviewing professionals working in public service to better understand how their careers have progressed. For our third “Careers in Public Service” interview, we are exploring local government, and met with Darius Callier.

Darius Callier is a Policy Analyst for Project Management in the Office of the Mayor of the City of New York. In this capacity, he works on various initiatives set by the Mayor, including as the Project Manager from the Mayor’s Office of Operations for City’s Initiative to End Veteran’s Homelessness.

How did you get started in this field?
I began my career as a Teaching Fellow and Assistant Teacher at the elementary and high school levels, and Teaching Assistant for an undergraduate study abroad program. My transition into policy was eased through pursuing joint master’s degrees at Georgetown University and the Universidad Nacional de San Martin in Development, Management, and Policy.

My job search after graduate school was very targeted, because I knew I wanted to work for local government during my application process, I engaged in networking, and by the time I applied, my resume had already been seen by three connections I had made in the office. As this was my first job after graduate school, networking greatly helped, although I’d had previous experience in other fields that I knew how to make relevant to this work.

What skills/advanced degrees do you need for this field?
In terms of skills, the interpersonal/networking skills are very important; our office culture is very interpersonal, so these skills are highly valued.

In terms of degrees, a master’s degree in a related field definitely helps, but isn’t necessary. There are almost two routes into the office; one is that, with a relevant Master’s, you can get directly into the Office of the Mayor. However, if you don’t have a Master’s (or if your Master’s is in a non-relevant field), you can start off at one of the city agencies, build your experience, and work up to our office.

What characteristics/personality traits do employers value in your office?
Our office values diversity and the ability to provide a unique perspective, which is something I really appreciate because it really feels like everyone has a space at our table. As I previously said, interpersonal skills are also important in many different ways; we have to be able to work effectively with a range of people, and networking and connecting with others is very valued as well.

What is an average day/week on the job like?
I do a range of different things, so I’m not sure there’s an average day. I’m in project management, so my office implements the mayor’s initiatives. I work totally on homeless policy, so on a given day I might be visiting flagship shelters, talking with our clients, coordinating inspections of the city’s roughly 650 shelter buildings, between five city agencies, and so on.

What is your favorite thing about your work?
Because I work in homelessness, I feel like the work is inherently meaningful, and I can directly see how my work affects people; I like being able to see the results of my work. I also get to make changes that take effect quickly, which I appreciate.

What is the work culture like?
In our office people are ambitious, but also not competitive; people are kind, thoughtful, and supportive. I personally feel like there is a lot of autonomy and trust in my ability to get things done. It is also not very hierarchical, and everyone gets to experience ownership of some domain, which is exciting.

What are the opportunities for advancement?
There are lots of opportunities for advancement; people move up quickly or move onto work within agencies. As a result there is a lot of turnover.

What was your networking strategy?
I was always prepared for networking; before I was hired I ran into the Mayor at an airport and approached him about how I wanted to work for him. That in itself didn’t get me the job; in fact, my resume was probably put through extra scrutiny to avoid appearances of favoritism. However, by the time I had the chance to interact with the Mayor, I was prepared with a graduate school education, relevant professional experiences and information on the specific position I was aiming to enter. You never know when you’ll make an important connection or run into someone who can help, so I can’t stress enough the importance of being prepared for networking all the time. Further, you can get more information than you would think from informal conversations; an off-hand comment can turn out to be useful in an interview, so make sure to pay attention, even when the information seems minor.

What are some challenges in this field?
There isn’t really a template for my job, so sometimes it is difficult to figure out when I should make a call on my own and when I should defer to someone else. Also, like in all politics/policy work, my behavior always reflects on my entire office, even when I’m not at work; this isn’t a problem for me, but the idea of being “always on” is something to be aware of.

What advice do you have for potential applicants?
I would recommend looking at the description for the position you’re applying for and use this to match your experience on your application materials. Know that being “experienced” can mean a range of things, and don’t discount your previous experience – at first, I wasn’t sure my teaching experience was relevant, but it certainly is. Also, if you’re determined to be in the Mayor’s Office, know there are many routes there; many of the city agencies get you great exposure, so consider starting there!

Interested in government and non-profit work? Attend the Government and Non-Profit Expo at George Washington University on February 17th, 2017 from 10am-3pm. Travel to Washington D.C. to meet employers hiring for full-time and internship positions in government, non-profit and public sectors. The fair is held in collaboration with Georgetown University, University of Virginia, University of Richmond, College of William & Mary, Swarthmore College, and Yale University. To RSVP and obtain information about the free bus service for students, please click here.