Introduction

NYU Wagner sees public service as work that matters, work of public importance—wherever it happens. What does it mean for work to “matter?” At one level, it means that the work of public service has an impact on others, that it touches issues of public concern, that it is motivated more by mission than by money. Public service work also “matters” at another level: those of us who choose public service want our work to “matter” in our lives. We choose public service careers because we want our work to reflect our values; we want careers that satisfy our need to be of service or to transform some part of the world.

Composing Your Career (CYC) is intended for those of us who know we want our work to matter but are still curious about how we will do that. It is a guide, a framework. It offers questions, not answers. It assumes, with a nod to Mary Catherine Bateson[1], that composing a career is a journey over time.

Key to NYU Wagner’s vision is that we will be a transformative experience for our students. We want to be a place that engages your active participation, that attracts students who want not just a credential but an education that continues to challenge and inform over time. We know that the students who get the most from Wagner are those who approach it actively, who create their education with us, not just accept what is given. This, then, is one approach to that possibility.


[1] Bateson, Mary Catherine. Composing a Life. New York: Penguin Books, 1990.

Using this Guide

While this guide is not something you must work your way through in a certain order, it might be helpful to start at the beginning, with the section called: 

Getting Started with the Tracks Exercise will help you focus.

What Employers Look F.O.R. is another critical piece in composing your career. Once you have a sense of the direction(s) in which you may be headed, you'll now need to know that empolyers look for your thorough understanding of: 

• Field
• Organization
• Role

The S.E.E. Strategies combine what you're looking for with what employers are looking for so that you're poised for a successful career by managing your time while in school.  You want to be:

• Smart
• Experienced
• Engaged

The guide will work best for you if you think of it as a framework and not a manual. Make your own choices, using CYC as a jumping off point.