Hello everyone! So, I’m 9 weeks in at the City of Rocky Mount! Can you believe it? I feel like I just got here and there are only a few weeks left in my internship. Guess time flies when you’re having fun!
During this period, I’ve kept a daily journal of the things I’m doing and observations I have on my experience. Every Friday, I assign each week a theme. This week’s theme is “The Things They Can’t Teach You”, and I want to share why I chose it.
When I arrived here, the city was beginning the process of recruiting VISTA members to the organization. There are three positions related to neighborhood redevelopment, enhancing the programming of the Senior Center here and resource development for the city’s visioning plan. As a former VISTA, I was asked to help with this process. I assisted with developing the job description, strategizing a recruitment plan, reviewing applicants, conducting interviews and ultimately selecting the candidates. I took part in an entire recruitment and selection process, an experience that I am very grateful to have. Doing so not only helped me to apply some of the concepts I learned in Human Resource Management (see, Leisha? I was listening!), but also to gain a deeper understanding of what being a public service leader means to me and the convictions I will stand by as I continue my professional journey.
Remember that journal of observations I was talking about? Well, at least one topic recurs, and that is the recognition that people matter. Whether you are dealing with an employee who needs to see that their work is impactful or a disgruntled citizen, it’s clear that interpersonal skills are essential to being a leader. As I went through the VISTA process, I kept that observation in mind. Even before I met the applicants for the positions, I remembered that these are human beings who deserve respect. During the interview phase, I strove to be patient and kind as people told their stories and explained their qualifications for the job. So often, we get caught up in the need to find the best candidate, we forget that even those who aren’t chosen will have a perception of our organizations they will carry with them, and it makes a difference. Showing some compassion makes a difference.
I’ve learned so much during my time here at the City of Rocky Mount. But one thing (and for me, the most important) I’ve seen is the things that nobody can teach you. Flashing a smile, asking that employee how their sick child is doing, remembering that your coworker’s favorite color is blue and leaving them a note on a teal Post-It. As a leader, no matter how brilliant or skilled you are, none of it matters without the respect of your peers and those you serve, particularly in public service. When citizens are your customers, the need for having good relationships is magnified. There will be times when there are tough decisions to be made, and that is when having the reputation of being fair and sensitive to the needs of others can go a long way.
Being on the other side of a hiring process was an opportunity that I know will be valuable as my professional life progresses. I’ll always remember the feeling of knowing I gave people a positive interview experience, and hopefully left them with a great impression of the City of Rocky Mount as a whole. In the words of Maya Angelou, “”I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”