Alex Russell and Hazen Jonah featured in Carleton Stories…
By Ty Burke
Photos by Chris Roussakis
Without experience, you can’t get the job. Without the job, you can’t get the experience.
It’s the new graduate’s paradox, and the implications of this classic Catch 22 are only amplified when you’re looking for a job in government. Hiring processes adhere to rigid rules and frequently demand specific types of experience that are difficult or impossible to obtain in the private sector.
Alex Russell was intrigued by the Canada Health Act in his undergrad years, but after graduating, he found work at a bank. It wasn’t giving him the experience he needed to get the job he wanted. Job postings demanded skills like processing Access to Information and Privacy claims and drafting ministerial briefing notes. You just don’t get that kind of experience at TD.
So Russell enrolled in Carleton’s Master of Public Policy and Administration, where co-op work terms would allow him to custom-build his resumé for government hiring processes.
“Banks are important to our economy, “Russell says, “and I liked working there, but I knew wanted a career in health policy. It’s something that’s really important to all Canadians. The relationship between the federal government and the provinces on health care is something that has always fascinated me, and with Health Canada, I’ve really been able to get great experience on exactly what I want to work on.”
Hazen Jonah, a recent graduate of the Master of Arts in Public Administration (now MPPA), used his co-op terms as a springboard to being bridged into indeterminate employment at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.
The former dancer with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet began studying politics and governance at Toronto’s Ryerson University after an injury derailed his dance studies. It piqued an interest in government that led Jonah to move to Ottawa, intent on working for the feds.
The freshly minted policy analyst chose the MAPA program in part for the co-op. But he now sees that the skills he’s acquired are transferable to other levels of government, and international organizations like the United Nations and the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development, a career arc he envisions pursuing.
For Jonah, that transferability is key.
“This program helped me hone soft skills,” he says. “How do you write succinctly and convey a point? I’ve put together ministerial briefing binders and Treasury Board submissions. I’ve analyzed industrial trends, and learned the relationship between departments, between programs and policies. All of this will help me jump to the next stone. With a co-op, you get real-world application of skills you’ve spent your academic career building. And you get your foot in the door.”