For sure, Deval Patrick has a killer resume. Governor of Massachusetts. General counsel of Coca-Cola. Harvard Law grad. Great communicator. Hobbies include cooking and gardening.
He’ll have no trouble finding a job after his second term ends in January, but can he find his bliss?
Patrick, according to close associates, is starting to think about life after public office and what he might do next. And who can really blame him? With so many bad days at the office — marijuana licensing gone to pot, a missing 5-year-old boy under state care, and a broken health care website — I, too, would be itching to update my LinkedIn profile.
The 57-year-old lawyer doesn’t want to go back to practicing law. Been there, done that. He’s not really interested in running a foundation or becoming president of a university. He wants a break from politics, and managing academia would probably be too close to home — all those tenured professors refusing to fall into line.
Patrick does want to make money, and the private sector is where he wants to be. He’d like to run a company, much the way he has been the chief executive of the Commonwealth, overseeing a $32 billion budget and about 45,000 employees in the executive branch.
According to confidantes, the governor is enamored with our innovation economy, from clean tech to biotech. One of Patrick’s legacies will be the state’s 10-year, $1 billion life sciences initiative, and I’m sure there would be no shortage of opportunities if he wanted to work in that sector. One tip: If you interview for a tech job, don’t mention last year’s software tax debacle.
He could become a venture capitalist, seeding and building the next Biogen Idec or EMC. But if he is really eyeing a White House run after 2016, voters might be wary of that label.
What else could Patrick do? He’s a great orator, and I bet he could take on Tony Robbins as a motivational speaker any day. The camera also loves our governor, who cooks like a chef and grows his own garlic. Might he be the next Food Network star?
But it’s complicated for a sitting governor thinking about the next chapter. Patrick may have to file a disclosure form if the relationship with a prospective employer would create the appearance of a conflict of interest. (So much for the blackjack croupier gig.)
Associates are adamant that Patrick will wait until he leaves office to launch a formal job search because he’s determined to finish what he started. Not all our governors have felt that way; there was a stretch when it seemed liked everyone wanted to leave us mid-tenure to pursue other opportunities.
Jane Swift, who completed Paul Cellucci’s term after he became ambassador to Canada in 2001, said she wasn’t shy about telling people she wanted to do something related to education. But her job hunting didn’t begin in earnest until later because of those cumbersome disclosure requirements.
“It was almost impossible to get into serious discussions until you were out of office,” recalled Swift, 49, who was Cellucci’s lieutenant governor. “It was awkward.”
Swift eventually landed a position at Arcadia Partners, a for-profit education industry venture firm. She remains in education today, as the chief executive of Middlebury Interactive Languages in Vermont. In retrospect, she said, delaying her search didn’t hurt her chances.
“When you’re a former governor, you’re always former governor, and people tend to return your phone calls,” said Swift.
Other former governors have gone on to a variety of careers. Ed King did public relations. Bill Weld dabbled in private equity, wrote novels, and practiced law. Independently wealthy Mitt Romney ran for president twice.
If you saw the recent “Mitt” documentary on Romney’s failed 2012 presidential campaign, there might be some confusion about what Mike Dukakis does these days. In one scene, Romney tells donors that presidential nominees who lose the general election “become a loser for life.” To drive home the point, he makes an “L” shape with his fingers and holds it in front of his forehead.
“Mike Dukakis, you know, he can’t get a job mowing lawns,” Romney says in the movie.
Well, actually, Dukakis, 80, has been a professor at Northeastern University, teaching public policy, since 1991.
“I couldn’t really understand that,” the Duke said of the “Mitt” diss. “Teaching is work.”
So what will work for Patrick? Wait for it.