There must be a draw to civil service if people are willing to wade through USAJobs, submit multiple applications, and then grow old waiting to hear a response or make it through the hiring process. No other company can have a hiring process as slow and as maddening as the federal government. While there are success stories, my life around the beltway for over 16 years has given me an ear for hearing challenging hiring stories time and again.
For one friend, despite already fulfilling the role in an agency as a defense contractor and doing the work of both contractor and the open civilian billet, it still took over 10 months to close the deal and onboard the candidate. Let that sink in for a second. That means, despite having the education, experience, and necessary clearance already in place, it can still take about 10 months to hire that candidate.
Or for another friend of mine, their initial interview and job offer process only took about a month due to connections, but then either due to clearance transfers or a missing signature from someone somewhere in the long process, the actual start date has taken over six months to confirm. In fact, they have a confirmation of job but no start date or further instructions still.
10 Reasons People Want a Job with the Federal Government
Lives can drastically change in the time that it takes for the federal government to finally onboard a potential candidate. So, there has to be a draw somewhere if people are willing to stick out the hiring process.
If stability is your driving force and you are a little more risk adverse, the idea of working for the federal government can seem appealing. Frankly, if you are into job hopping, federal employment is not where you should be. The defense contractor life will be more your speed.
2. Predictable Schedule.
Some assignments and agencies don’t adhere to this, of course, but if you set your hours, you are allowed to stick to them. Of course, that means you have to stick to them – something that’s been a little harder to manage during a lockdown. However, for people who want to make sure their evening activities are rarely impacted by work, working as a federal employer provides a steady schedule.
3. Firing? They Can’t Do That to Me!
I mean, that’s technically not true. But there is a lot more job security to the federal employee life than a contractor enjoys. Not only do federal employees not have to track their employment and a contract’s period of performance, the reality is that if they are an honest and reliable employee, their job stability is high.
4. Health Benefits.
I’m sure there are other insurance companies out there that deliver great benefits, but often times, employees have to pay high premiums in order to have them available. With such a large employer, the premium cost is more distributed. For some, that can be the difference between paying over $10,000 out of pocket medical expenses in a year under a different insurance provider with a contractor. Then in a few years, under the Federal Employment Program (FEP) Blue Cross/Blue Shield only pay a few hundred dollars for the exact same medical procedure. If your health is a constant concern, the federal government provides a strong health insurance option.
5. Paid Time Off is Actually Vacation Time.
And speaking of health, we all know how important it is to have the vacation time you need or sick days to take care of medical appointments. While some contractors have taken to spaces like Reddit to complain about working through their paid time off, they couldn’t help but notice how their federal employee friends were able to completely turn off email while on vacation. Rest is important. Not every agency operates like that, but with a little more job stability, most federal employees are able to relax when they step away from their work.
6. Probably a Guaranteed Pension.
I say probably because nothing in life is guaranteed. And as things progress and more cuts are made to the federal employee budget, pension is often proposed for the chopping block. But the pension is a draw for some candidates. While you have to stick it out and need to watch any breaks in service, after 20 years, you do have the flexibility to take an early retirement, depending on your age. Retirement accounts are great, but the possibility of a pension in addition to what’s personally saved up can seem like a huge boon to the later life years. It can give some federal employees the flexibility to start a business later in life, change careers, or slow down in life in general. It takes a lot of loyal years, but the tradeoff in the end can be worth it.
7. Steady Pay.
This can be a blessing and a curse – depending on the year. In leaner years, you may not get a huge raise or even a cost of living increase, but you still have steady work while contractors are out there hustling to land their next gig in a dry contract environment. When the land is flowing with contracts, federal employees may covet their contractor neighbor salaries, but as the political environment shakes up proposal seasons, the steady pay of the federal life can be quite appealing.
8. Job hopping with the same employer.
The federal government is large. It may take a while to transfer agencies, but you have the ability to find a new boss, without switching employers. So, all of your benefits and tenure stay the same – which is key if you want that pension. So, don’t have to fill out all of the new employee paperwork, and you don’t look like a perpetual job hopper.
9. You are the boss.
Well, not every civil servant is, but essentially, contractors are supporting you and your agency. The federal government drives the requirements and provides the subject matter expertise. So, for some agencies, the pay may be less than what the contractor is pulling in, but you are the one driving the requirements or selecting the winning contractor.
10. Serving the people.
Congress loves to debate how much waste is in the federal government. They freeze pay. The general public often talks about draining the swamp, but when it comes down to it, a civil servant gets the chance to drive projects or complete work that serves the American people. And while there may be a lot of bad or boring days, at the end of all of them, the point is to provide a service to the people. And most federal employees feel pretty good to be able to do that – regardless of shutdowns.