FedSmith.com Users Say Working for Government Isn’t ‘Cool’

We asked our users in a recent survey if they thought that President Obama had fulfilled his promise to “make government service cool.” The overwhelming majority of respondents said they did not think working for government was “cool.”

We asked our users in a recent survey if they thought that President Obama had fulfilled his promise to “make government service cool.” For more on this, see “Ask Not What You Can Do For Your Country” vs. Making Government “Cool”.

The overwhelming majority of respondents to the survey said that the president has not made working for government “cool” again. 96% of respondents said working for the government wasn’t “cool,” and 85% of respondents said that working for the government wasn’t the best place to make a difference in the world.

A number of users shared their comments on the topic as well.

User “Mr. Bojangles” said:

I can see virtually no reason for the younger generations to want to work for the government. That was true 20 years ago when I ended up working for the government. It was the employer of last resort then as well. I never thought I would ever work for the government. At that time, when the president was earning $200,000 a year, I thought to myself, why limit my salary to this level when you can go in private industry and earn far more. However, I went to a public school and picked a virtually useless liberal arts field to major in, because everyone said you never use your major, anyways, and corporations LOVE liberal arts graduates. I picked the easiest route, I thought, to $$$$. Well, fast forward to graduation, from a school that provided little in the way of networking, being of parents who had little interest or in the way of connections when it came to networking, and a job fresh out of college that paid 50 cents more than minimum wage. Going nowhere, I was forced to seek out my employer of last resort. That’s okay, I thought, I would use it as a stepping stone to sure riches. Well, my career definitely ‘pigeon-holed’ me and I found I could go nowhere else!!! And, here I sit 20 years later.

The government today consists of folks who simply cannot get a job elsewhere, due to lack of ambition, personal hygiene, or, as with myself POOR networking skills and/or a poor choice of college major. Had I attended a better institution and/or had ‘connections’, I am sure my situation would be far different.

User “Getreal” said, “Working for the government is “cool” if government is the only game in town for the type of work that you want to do. By definition some occupations exist only inside government, so either work for the government or you find another career. That’s certainly how I came into federal service.”

User “Chasseur1814” was critical of OPM:

As a spouse of an University faculty member, and after hosting numerous foreign exchange students I would have to say that all the twenty somethings I have contact with express a keen distrust of government and none would be interested in pursuing a career in government service. Nor why should they want to work in a bureaucracy that has none of the benefits of the private sector, and all the attractions of work on an antebellum plantation.

Apparently, OPM has not heard that we are living in the 21st century and to the detriment of the country, tax payer, and federal workforce continues espousing and enforcing 19th century work rules: rules that do nothing to attract truly brilliant and dedicated young people to government service. Why would any twenty year old with an advacne degree in IT want to work for the government. Even if we paid them more than say Google or Apple do you really think they want to come to an aging office, using technology ten years old, wearing a coat and tie and being chained to their desk where they aren’t even allowed to check their own personal emails or Facebook account during a break? As a federal employee I worked at one location, where there was no AC for two summers in a row and we weren’t even allow to buy our employees bottle water. Compare that to the food bars at Google and other high tech companies. I have been in federal service 35+ years and I still have to go hat in hand to a supervisor to get persmission to come to work a half early so I can leave a half early on a Friday in the summer–and most of the times I end up taking leave.

Until OPM and agencies change their work ethos and bureaucratic rules, young people will eschew government service with the vigors of slaves running away from the plantation (which many young people equate government work conditions to).

Have other thoughts on the subject? Feel free to weigh in in the comments below.

Our thanks to our users who took the time to take our survey and share their comments.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.