Penn students who have interned in the public sector discussed the value of bonding and the ability to move between the public and private sectors at a SNF Paideia program round table held Thursday afternoon.
The event, titled “Gen Z and Public Service”, drew 24 participants and featured five panelists: Seniors from Kaitlyn Rentala College and Emily Kanter, Junior from Oliver Stern College, Wharton Senior Javion Joyner and sophomore engineering student Kevin Zhou. The panel was moderated by Deirdre Martinez, director of the Penn in Washington program.
Lia Howard, director of student counseling and wellness for the Paideia program, said the event was planned around a book recently published by Rentala titled “The Pivotal of the Public Sector: How Gen Z Will Lead a Public Service Renaissance. “The book discusses Rentala’s perspective on how the public sector talent pool can be improved.
The panelists began by discussing their experience of transitioning between internships in the private and public sectors. Rentala, who worked at a consulting firm in Washington, DC last summer, said the hiring process for this role took place much earlier in the year than for her TechCongress internship under the program. Penn in Washington in spring 2020.
Rentala and the other panelists said it is common for public sector jobs to recruit later in the year and closer to the start of the internship, noting that political jobs rely more on networking and “cold calling” potential employers than private sector jobs. Kanter, who interned with gender equality advocacy group Girls Inc., said public sector job openings often depend on funding and grants received in the short term, such as with short-term grants. non-profit organizations.
Stern said any experience you gain in the public sector “gives you a head start” when it is later brought into the private sector. Zhou accepted, say it benefited him as an engineer who learned public communication skills during an internship at the Miami Department of Innovation and Technology and then got to talk to “ordinary people” about the implications of complex technological issues.
“Twenty-five percent of students see the government as one of the three areas of interest they want to go in the past graduation. And yet, only two percent do so after graduation, ”Rentala said of her book’s hypothesis.
She said the campus civil service recruiting events can be improved to attract more students, compared to consultant recruiting events, which she has seen attracting thousands of students to a ballroom.
The panelists sought to dispel what they described as misconceptions about the public sector, including refusal to change minds and bureaucracy. Stern said the responsibilities of public sector internships tend to be less restricted than those of private sector internships. As an intern at the State Department this semester, he said he quickly moved from administrative work to larger projects, meeting with the Assistant Secretary of State once a week.
“The only job you need a CV for in DC is the first one. After that, it’s just your reputation, ”Martinez said.
Martinez encouraged the students to pursue varied internships rather than those of the bigger brand in order to gain institutional knowledge and a better idea of the impact they wish to have.
Panelists also stressed the importance of using My Penn, the University alumni network. Martinez noted that the Penn in Washington the weekly email includes internship opportunities, and Rentala has encouraged students to sign up for email lists for the US House and Senate internship bulletins.
Howard said the Paideia program, established in March 2019, is looking forward to hosting other events to educate students about the public sector both on an intimate and larger scale.
Ted Davis, a sophomore at the university, said he attended the event because he wanted to question how people view careers and what is a useful path after graduation of the diploma.
“It’s good to see that there are students who are interested in [the public sector] and interested in talking about it in a way that other parts of campus certainly don’t, ”Davis said.