The results of the 2011 National Association of Colleges and Employers survey reveal an especially disturbing trend for government recruiters: Only 2.3 percent of more than 35,000 college and university students indicated that they plan to work in the federal government after leaving school.
Why? To find the answer, GovLoop and The Washington Post devoted our question of the week to asking readers to share why recent college graduates should pursue a career in public service, and for potential reasons that federal jobs are so unappealing to recent graduates.
Their responses on Twitter, the Federal Eye, via e-mail and in conversations on GovLoop.com included a range of their own motivations and some factors they thought could appeal to or dissuade young adults from going into public service.
“College students outside of [greater Washington] don't see it as a viable option as they are unsure if there are Fed jobs outside of DC. ... If they are aware of Fed jobs, they see the hiring system as too difficult and convoluted to get into, the private sector lures them with normal and much more quick hiring systems. College students these days are concerned with financial and personal security, especially the ones from big-name schools that carry a high price tag and student loans that need to be paid on within 6 months, they will not wait around to apply to a government job. Personally I believe it's a sad sad thing that the hiring system has disillusioned the young and the talented.” — Miranda Braatz, a social coach at Leigh B. Coaching and Consulting, from GovLoop
“As a federal procurement manager I have supervised some of the best and brightest recent college grads, and many have expressed that they made the right decision coming to work for the federal government. If one is looking for instant riches, this is not the place to be, but if you are willing to work hard, learn and grow, the federal government is a nice place to start a career. And, eventually your work will pay off with job security and a better than decent salary.” — Cheri Tyner, Department of Homeland Security
#fedbuzz Will I have a job when I finish my degree next year? If budget cuts keep hitting the way they are, quite possibly not.— Travis Mason-Bushman (@polarscribe) February 7, 2012
“I never considered working for the government until after college. It might sound unbelievable, but I know that in my case it was because I was unaware that working for the government was even an option. I think that students would benefit from having access to coaches and advisers knowledgeable of the opportunities available in the public sector.” — John Lucien Grillo, a facility operations specialist at The Library of Congress, from GovLoop
“There are two simple reasons a recent college graduate should not consider a career in public service. They are pay and benefits. Congress continues to attack and/or threaten to attack salaries and benefits. Though arguments are raised that federal employees are paid more than private sector counterparts, this only applies to lower-level occupations. In professional occupations requiring education, extensive experience, or a combination of both, federal employees are clearly underpaid the higher you go in federal service. ... In short, if you are a recent graduate and plan to do more than flip hamburgers, clean toilets, or collate documents for the rest of your career — steer clear of federal service. You will be thankful you did.” — Joe Dassaro, Veterans Affairs
“Government service is great for lots of us who are not particularly good-looking: too fat, too skinny, too nerdy, too religious, too boring, too gay, etc. Private companies constantly consider these issues to the detriment of careers. Federal employees have stable families, get health insurance, vacation and sick pay, continuity in the expertise, lots of upward mobility and lateral opportunities because the federal mission is always changing.” — Richard Benitez, Social Security Administration
“Once you have a mortgage and kids, one of the things that appeals to you most is not necessarily travel, or promotions that may transfer you across the country, but rather the stability of the job, the extended benefits (for family), and the security of working for an employer who is not leaving town or being outsourced to Mexico or India. In other words, those aspects of federal employment that are usually strong attractants are not necessarily strong attractants to the age group surveyed. — Mark Hammer, an analyst in the Canadian public sector, from GovLoop
“I think it’s great if recent college grads consider a career in public service. My kids have both been trying to do that — and they apply to job after job after job and never get an interview! They are both college grads with good grades. One even has several years of work experience — and yet they never get a response. My son finally got an AmeriCorps appointment — after trying to get one for two years! I'd love for them to be in public service — as I and their father are, and they'd like it too — but public service doesn’t seem to want them!” — Martha DeMers, Department of Defense
Do you have something to add? Share your story: Should recent grads consider a career in public service?
Or tweet your thoughts using the hashtag #FedBuzz
Allison Primack writes for GovLoop.