Once in a Lifetime Opportunity

September Great Story by Michael Consunji, 2016-17 Greater Los Angeles Climate Fellow

Having graduated with a B.A. in Urban and Environmental Policy and Education from Occidental College, I did not know how I would apply my degree to the jobs I was applying for. For the longest time, I thought that I would pursue a career in international development or non-profit work, but never did I once think I would pursue a career in the public sector. All I knew was that I wanted to enter the field of environmental sustainability, I just did not know in what capacity.

After talking to my dad (a principal civil engineer that has worked with local government agencies for most of his career) about my struggles with hearing back from the entry-level jobs I applied for, he suggested to take a look at job opportunities in the public sector. He mentioned the competitive benefits, high salaries, and job security that came with jobs in the public sector. Those all appealed to me, but the one thing that appealed to me the most was when he described how his work as a public servant instantly affected millions of stakeholders each day. After hearing about how much he accomplished and how influential his work was to the communities he served, I instantly knew that I wanted to enter the public sector to try to solve environmental issues through the development of sustainability policies, programs, and outreach strategies.

Fast forward three months after that conversation, the day I was offered this CivicSpark Fellowship with the City of Santa Monica, Office of Sustainability and the Environment, I felt a range of emotions overcome me. First off, I was extremely happy to be offered such a great opportunity to work for such a forward-thinking and open-minded city such as Santa Monica. Secondly, I was tremendously relieved to finally have secured a job offer that was relevant to my degree for the upcoming year, when many of my peers were still struggling to find employment within their respective fields. In addition, I was feeling quite nervous about the upcoming year because I did not know if I was qualified or even prepared to begin working on such enormous and important agency projects such as Climate Action Plans, Electric Vehicle Action Plans, and Community Choice Aggregates. Furthermore, I was feeling anxious to start my Fellowship in order to kick start my career working on meaningful projects that will help me develop my skillsets as a young professional entering the field of sustainability within the public sector.

I entered into my CivicSpark service year with one goal in mind: work on agency projects in order to become more confident in my abilities and skillsets as a young professional kick starting a career in public policy, planning, and administration with an emphasis on environmental sustainability.  Working with the City of Santa Monica, Office of Sustainability and the Environment will hopefully be an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience to work on meaningful projects that brand Santa Monica as one of the nation’s top leaders in green practices. In addition, Santa Monica is also home to some of the top leaders (shout out to both Garrett Wong, Shannon Parry, and many more!) in the field of sustainability in local government, whom I will be able to collaborate, learn, and network with for the next 11 months.