Career Compass

Career Compassis a monthly column from ICMA focused on career issues for local government professional staff.  It is written by Dr. Frank Benest, ICMA's senior advisor for Next Generation Initiatives. If you have a career question you would like addressed in a future Career Compass, e-mail or contact Frank directly at

Nov 27

Career Compass No. 35: Leadership Lessons from My Teenage Daughter

Posted on November 27, 2013 at 12:18 PM by Amber Ahlo

In this issue of Career Compass, Dr. Benest shares some leadership lessons learned from parenting a teen.

I am writing a different kind of Career Compass column today. I have a 15-year-old daughter, Leila, who is the love of my life but she and I are struggling as we navigate her teen years. Leila tends to ignore my advice and regularly informs me that “I don’t get it.” I’m trying to learn from some of our more contentious interactions and reflect on how I can better exert positive influence. After one of our recent disagreements, it occurred to me that there are some basic leadership lessons that Leila is teaching me and that might be worth sharing.

Aug 29

Career Compass No. 34: Making Presentations Like a Pro

Posted on August 29, 2013 at 3:35 PM by Amber Ahlo

In this issue of Career Compass, Dr. Benest gives us a blueprint to talk like TED.

I’m a newly promoted recreation manager in a city Community Services Department. As part of my new role, I am being called upon to make verbal reports and other kinds of presentations to the Recreation and Parks Commission, community associations, and user groups such as the Little League Board.

In my first two presentations, I thought that I prepared well and wrote out my remarks to make sure I covered everything. However, I did not feel comfortable and it was evident that I was not effective in making my case. In fact, in one situation, the commission heard my report, took testimony from a few people with some minor concerns, and then postponed its decision even though there was enough information to take action.

For me to be a success as a manager, I recognize that I must improve my presentation skills. Do you have any advice?

Jul 30

Career Compass No. 33: Making the Move Up and Out--What's the Fit?

Posted on July 30, 2013 at 5:06 PM by Amber Ahlo

In this issue of Career Compass, Dr. Benest shows us when a bird's wings are strong enough for leaving the nest.

I’m a middle manager in a county organization who leads a program unit in a large public works department. I’ve been with the county for seven years and have developed a very positive relationship with my division manager, my staff, and my peers. I am well-regarded, generally like the work and the people, and know how to get things done within my department and the organization. I feel comfortable and valuable.

Recently, I have heard of a public works division manager position soon to come open in a city within the region. It may be a good move up and I think I would be competitive. However, I wonder if it would be the right move. I am particularly concerned if it be a right “fit” given the good experience that I’ve had with my current county organization.

Can you offer some advice as I consider this new opportunity?