We the Partnership

Interested in a government career? Here’s advice from federal employees.

November 18, 2020

Although the federal government has more than 2 million employees, more people are needed to address our most pressing challenges. National crises like the COVID-19 pandemic and talent gaps in emerging fields have led agencies to consider initiating rapid hiring surges.

Why should someone work in government? For many reasons.

Earlier this year, we surveyed federal employees about their work experiences to honor Public Service Recognition Week. Some 130 public servants at 45 federal agencies responded, offering insights into the benefits of working in public service and advice for a government career.

Many employees described the satisfaction that comes with making a difference.

“If you have professional pride, and a true desire to help others and contribute in a meaningful and selfless way, public service is where you belong,” said Robin W., a federal employee of 31 years working at the Department of Commerce.

For Linda S., a senior analyst at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the people and work environment make public service jobs appealing. “You will never find more dedicated co-workers.”  

Ellen D. from the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation echoed Linda’s sentiment, noting, “collaboration and partnerships are critical to creating and implementing solutions that work for the public.”

Some employees described pluses such as good work-life balance, ample opportunities for advancement, strong benefits and mentorship possibilities.

“You will be given authority and responsibilities that are earned and entrusted to you. Start your career with the intent and desire to learn all you can and set your goals high!” said Tony R., a government employee for 37 years.

Some respondents offered advice on landing a federal job.

Brandon S., an intelligence specialist at the Defense Department, advised prospective candidates to use internships and volunteer opportunities to gain experience. He recommended networking at hiring events, researching the agency’s mission and history, and customizing resumes to match the exact skills outlined in a job description.

Tammy L. V. K., executive director at the Federal Aviation Administration, encouraged applicants to contact current federal employees. “There are a number of paths that someone can take to obtain a position and advance their careers in the federal government; you just need to ask.”

Some respondents shared advice on how to succeed in a government career.

Steve C., with 26 years of service across four agencies, said employees aren’t always recognized for their work by the public or within the workforce, but should “take a great deal of satisfaction from knowing that you have done the right thing, and that what you do truly matters in the long run.”

Professionalism is important, according to several respondents. Lolita D. of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said, “You have to set aside your biases, judgments and stereotypical views of others.” Mark R. of the Social Security Administration noted “the needs of the clients are an important aspect to what we do [so] always stick to policy and procedure.”

A public service career comes with many benefits, including exciting work in many fields, and the opportunity to drive change and innovation for the greater good—making a federal career a significant and worthwhile endeavor.

To share your own experiences of working in the federal government, take the #WhyIServe survey.

This post is authored by Kiki Marlam, an intern on the Partnership’s Communications team.