It’s Public Service Recognition Week. (I’m sure it’s marked on your calendar). Like most days or weeks of commemoration, it’s easy to let the week slide by. Depending upon the size of mission of your agency, the week may include a celebratory event or engagement, or you might get a celebratory email or thank-you note from the head of your agency (woo hoo!). Or you might be reading this article and thinking ‘what in the heck is Public Service Recognition Week and why should I care?’
Public service gets a bad rap right now. Unemployment is currently at record lows, but so is something else – public trust in the government. According to the Pew Research Center, just 17% of Americans today say they trust the government to do what is right “just about always” or “most of the time.”
With that kind of enthusiasm, it’s easy to assume that when given the choice between a commercial sector job that’s completely removed from Washington and a federal government or government contracting position, a job candidate will always choose the commercial sector position. But, think again – there are good reasons to consider a job supporting Uncle Sam. Here are just a few.
1. They Have the Best Missions.
This can be repeated so often it sounds trite, but it’s true. And just think about it – private sector companies like Oracle, Microsoft and Amazon Web Services aren’t tussling over the JEDI cloud computing contract just for the $10 billion (I mean, the $10 billion helps, but consider the bottom lines of these companies the the contract duration). Contracts with the federal government face major competition because they’re focused on developing solutions to real problems. It’s only in very recent history that the commercial sector could even begin to compete with the federal government on innovation. When it comes to advanced computing solutions, cybersecurity best practices and technology development, government contracting companies and agencies are still incubators of innovation. And in addition to developing solutions that bring in dollars, government employees always know they’re solving America’s problems.
2. They Have Better Hours.
I know this isn’t a popular opinion in an era when you earn brownie points for talking about how busy you are and the fact that you respond to 11 PM emails from your boss – but we all need balance. There are exceptions, but in general, government positions offer better hours than their commercial sector counterparts. If you work in a SCIF, you know this to be true – they will actually lock you out of your office if you try to stay late (when I was in the Pentagon I didn’t work in a SCIF but I still tried not to be the last person out of the office because I didn’t want to deal with closing up the room for the night). Obviously there are exceptions to this rule (apologies to the OPS guy on his fourth 12-hour shift of the week, four floors underground).
Much is currently being made of the arrival of Amazon’s HQ2 offices in Northern Virginia. And it will tighten the labor pool in an already painfully tight market. But the reality is that while Amazon is an amazing employer, I don’t know anyone who works there and does a 40-hour work week. (I’m sure there are some). To everything, there is a season. If you’re in a season where you need to be able to walk out the door by 4:30 PM most days, you will have a statistically better chance of doing with the government than you will with a start up.
3. They have better benefits.
Benefits aren’t really sexy to talk about right now. You can go into a bar in Clarendon and start bragging about your nap pods and how your boss serves you mimosas every Friday, but you can’t really saddle up to the bar and start talking about how stacked your TSP account is and how your health insurance premiums are only $20 a pay period for some sweet, Cadillac coverage. But eventually we all turn 30 and our knees start to crack and we realize that it’s nice to not have to think about whether or not we want to have that suspicious mole looked at or pay the rent.
The traditional perks you think of when you consider federal government employment – a pension, job security, supporting the government – they’re not the top reasons people are choosing government work today. But if you’re considering job opportunities, consider the breadth of the opportunities. Whether you’re in direct federal service or choosing to serve the government as a contractor, there are perks that are unique, and even superior to the commercial sector.
What tipped your hat in favor of Uncle Sam? Drop us a comment.