Is Government Employment Right for You?

I worked in private businesses for five years before entering the federal government. I had pre-conceived notions about it and thought I may not like it, but I felt I should try it out to see if it was right for me. Several things impressed me from the start including the amount of young, intelligent entry-level staff and the training available in all kinds of disciplines from management to technology to foreign languages.

A few differences were hard for me to accept. The pace was much slower than I was used to. I was also upset to see some young people unhappy in their jobs who used the excuse of having a secure job to convince themselves not to look elsewhere. However, I now realize these issues are not unique to the government and each agency is very different. Actually, even agencies within a major department can have distinct cultures.

I recommend doing your research by talking to people who work in agencies in which you are interested; not just human resources professionals, but people working in a role or team that fits your interests. Know what the place is like before you apply because like businesses, government agencies, departments, all the way down to teams, can be vastly different. Do not limit yourself to thinking that your background will only be applicable to one agency. There are functions that exist across all agencies, some you would expect like IT or finance, but others that might surprise you such as international departments where your skills or background might be just the right fit.

Finally, be sure to weigh your options and plan your future. Spend time thinking about if a government job really the right job for you!

Small or large – what size best fits you?

In the early part of my career I worked for a small company. This had some advantages. I got to know most everyone in the office and developed close relationships with senior staff. There was more work going on than employees to do it so I was exposed to a variety of projects. At the same time, I was given management responsibility for many projects despite my limited experience. This included internal and external projects. If you’re looking to gain experience in many business areas and work closely with senior staff, a small company may be the way to go.

A large company also offers many benefits. At a large firm, I was able to sign up for countless training sessions ranging from finance to work-life balance presentations. Mentors in different business areas and with many kinds of expertise are endless. While it’s not always easy to make happen, working for a big company allows you to move around if you should decide another function better suits your interests. However, this is up to you. Generally you have to be entrepreneurial in a big company in order to make things happen and you cannot rely on others to be your advocates.

What are you looking to get out of your current or next job? This may help you figure out what size best fits you.