Joining the Partnership for Public Service turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made in my professional life
Photo above: Meroe Park at the 2019 Service to America Medals gala. Photo by Lawrence Jackson.
By Meroe Park
When I retired from public service in June 2017, the last time I had worked outside of government was as a newly matriculated college student waiting to get my security clearance. So when I walked out the doors of the CIA a little over two years ago, I knew that I was entering a new professional landscape and wondered whether all that I had learned as a federal employee could be useful “outside.”
My fears were reinforced by others, who, despite admiring my time as a public servant, did not see obvious places for me to use my skills and experiences. People were skeptical about my ability to be innovative, agile and adaptable. I feared whether I would fit in anywhere outside of government.
At the same time, I had some strongly held goals for my next full-time job. There were two attributes I prioritized above all others: mission and people. These two attributes guided my search; I relentlessly applied them as filters as I considered possibilities.
As someone who worked for 27 years at an organization where mission was king, I knew that this was going to be important for me in terms of job satisfaction. Mission is about doing something that matters; something that makes a difference. And I also knew that I wanted to work with exceptional, dedicated people. When I retired, leaving the people—my work family—was the most difficult part of the separation.
Enter the Partnership for Public Service.
Of all the possibilities, the Partnership was an ideal mix of mission and people. I was convinced about the importance of the mission straight away. After all, there are no other nonprofits with the sole purpose of making the government more effective, with the corollary goal of supporting the federal workforce. This was a mission I wanted to get up for every morning.
Even more impressive were the people who comprised the Partnership. Their passion and dedication to their mission permeated the organization; these felt like public servants to me, just in a different guise.
For those of you who haven’t experienced it first hand, working at the Partnership feels like public service. We develop programs to inspire the next generation of federal employees. We build skills among federal leaders so that they can motivate others who work around them. We encourage innovative approaches to solving problems and build private-public networks to bring new ideas to the way government does business. We celebrate the contributions of federal employees. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
As I move on to my next adventure, I find that I am deeply nostalgic about my time at the Partnership. My fears about “fitting in” outside of government turned out to be unfounded; the Partnership felt like home within months of my arrival.
And I learned so much. I strengthened my appreciation for the many functions of the executive branch, something I did not understand having served primarily in the national security realm. I also learned from our many private sector partners that they have so much to contribute to the public good and are seeking ways to do so.
But perhaps the most important takeaway was about the public servants themselves. They are even more resilient and dedicated than I imagined. And they are innovative, agile and adaptable if leaders give them the opportunities and the encouragement.
One thing I know for sure is that I will absolutely miss the people. I never thought I would find another work family, but I did.