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In any given month, ICMA sponsors roughly 200 members in transition (MITs)—managers or assistant managers that have been fired, forced to resign, or otherwise involuntarily separated from local government service. Most times, this temporary status is due to a change in council direction, council turnover, or some type of town or county tension.

Why should managers receiving favorable reviews, positive press and social media coverage, and glowing evaluations from the majority of their council care about those in transition? Because the number of managers that have been an MIT at least once in their careers is rather large. So, while reaching out to an MIT is in keeping with Tenet 3 of the ICMA Code of Ethics (“Demonstrate by word and action the highest standards of ethical conduct and integrity in all public, professional, and personal relationships…”) and reflective of the Golden Rule (“Do unto others…”), take interest in helping MITs if, for no other reason, than you may be next.

When I served on the 2020–2021 Task Force on Members in Transition to update helpful resources for MITs, task force members frequently heard that some of the most helpful assistance and support that MITs had received was from their peers—fellow city/county managers, known and unknown—who understood the dynamics and difficulties of the profession. Reaching out to a colleague when they’ve been fired or forced to resign can be awkward, but it’s a critical time in their professional and personal lives. The following is a list of some of the ways you can help. Peruse the list and choose what works for you and what might be appreciated by an MIT.

1. Introduce yourself. You don’t have to know an MIT personally to help them. Send an email or card saying that they are in your thoughts and to let you know how you can help. ICMA’s Who’s Who member directory should have their updated contact information. If it still lists their prior job’s email address, check back—it will be updated soon.

2. Make sure the MIT contacts ICMA (if they haven’t already) to alert them that their employment status has changed or will change and to update their contact information. Please don’t assume the MIT has already made contact as he or she may be struggling to keep their head above water in a wave that feels more like a typhoon. They should contact Rosalyn Ceasar, senior program manager at ICMA, at rceasar@icma.org.

MITs will be advised that their ICMA membership is with the individual, not the agency, and that ICMA offers several free benefits reserved for professional managers in MIT status. These include a full waiver of ICMA dues for up to three years, a waiver of registration fees for the ICMA Annual Conference (in-person or virtual), and a monthly conference call with dozens of MITs on topics such as interviewing, marketing yourself, personal strategic planning, tips for working with search firms, and more. ICMA has also launched Equilibrium, a free, members-only program to help members, including MITs, manage life’s many personal and professional challenges.

3. Reach out to the MIT (and put it in your calendar to follow up periodically to see how they are doing). Drop a quick note to say you’re thinking of them or call them to “pick their brain” on an issue. Several MITs have commented about how quiet it got when their phone stopped ringing, yet they were hesitant to reach out so as to not be a burden.

4. Remind the MIT that they are more than a job or a nametag. They have interests and goals and value far beyond work and they should use this time to take care of themselves and their loved ones.

5. Get the MIT out of the house for some fun if they don’t live too far away. Meeting up for something like a barbeque, sports game, bike ride, book lecture, or even just a cup of coffee can be helpful, especially when their previous social circles consisted mostly of coworkers. It’s also a good time to remind them to give themselves a well-deserved break. Managers work 24/7, 365 days a year, holidays and vacations included.

6. Invite the MIT to a future lunch meeting with other managers. It’s important for them to get back in the saddle when they are ready.

7. Introduce the MIT to some of your own resources and networks, like a city manager in an area where they may be thinking about relocating or an executive search firm you know. This may not get them an interview, but it may move them up in the pile while also opening doors to interim assignments.

8. Connect with the MIT on Zoom if they are out of your area. Use your typical afternoon coffee break for a quick catch-up. Not sure what to say? Remember, listening can be more helpful than anything.

9. Help the MIT review their updated resume, assemble and critique their list of accomplishments, prepare for a mock interview (in person or online), or practice a cold call when they are ready to re-enter the job market. This “readiness” may take time. (Remind them to order their personal business cards to use during their transitional time.)

10. Ask the MIT to sit on a panel, such as a hiring panel, an RFP selection team, or leadership development group, for their insight and to keep them engaged in the profession.

11. Forward the MIT the link to ICMA’s new guide for members in transition. The guide, The Member’s Guide to a Career That Has Ups, Downs, and Detours: An ICMA Member in Transition Guide (icma.org/MITguide), was released in March 2022, so it’s quite possible they haven’t read it yet. Take a look yourself: Page 25 provides additional hints for providing peer support and an important section on prevention.

12. Suggest that the MIT contact an ICMA senior advisor for free confidential chats and support. These “pro bono” retired city and county managers can provide wise, confidential counsel nearby or across the time zones. They also learn of opportunities “off the radar” for permanent and interim work. The senior advisor page on the ICMA website (icma.org/icma-senior-advisor-program) has contact information for more than 100 volunteer senior advisors in 25 states.

13. Consider the MIT for short-term assignments, whether in-person or remote, to help you keep some of your important projects moving forward while allowing the MIT to stay engaged in the profession.

14. Share job leads and opportunities with the MIT as you hear about them.

15. Recruit other managers to “check in” and assist, but not in an intrusive way. Remember: many of us have been there once (or more than once) and chances are we could be there again.

Nikki Giovanni, winner of the 2017 Maya Angelou Lifetime Achievement Award and seven-time recipient of the NAACP Image Award for her poetry, said “A lot of people resist transition and never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.”

We must remind the MITs (and ourselves) that transitions in our profession are commonplace and it’s up to us to make the best of them. If you have other suggestions how peers can assist MITs, please email rceasar@icma.org and together we will continue to grow the ways that we can support MITs.

Learn more about ICMA's resources for members in transition here.

CATHY SWANSON-RIVENBARK, ICMA-CM, AICP, CEcD, is currently an MIT and founder of Best Practice Cities, LLC (swansonrivenbark@ outlook.com).

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