Government Work – Is It For Me?
By: Danielle Gruen
Early on in my work as a career development professional, I had not once considered the government sector as an option in my own career path for practicing career counseling. There was no specific reason for this; I suppose I just assumed it was not for me. Where did I get this idea? Probably the same place many of our clients get these ideas as well. Government work often holds a stigma as well as certain ideas about both the work and its workers. As with most stereotypes, there is an aspect of truth to some of the beliefs, while in large part these notions are filled with misconceptions and misinformation. As a career counselor, now working in government for almost five years, I have a new perspective on the opportunities available in government work and the accuracies about the beliefs of a government worker.
Why Should Anyone Consider Government Work?
Overcoming Preconceived Notions About Government
A change in perspective and reality begins with each of us either directly through obtaining employment in government work or indirectly by informing and empowering others with more accurate information about government work. This begins with:
Tips and Activities When Considering Government Work
Tip #1: Conduct informational interviews with current government employees in the departments or agencies of interest. Tip #2: Inquire about the specific policies and procedure for promotion from within each given organization, including questions about: employee development through training, internal programs, and upward mobility. To have another employee or colleague in support of your own career development is critical, particularly in government work. I recommend seeking a position within an agency or workplace team where this is common and encouraged from year one as a new employee. A senior staff willing to guide and advise your career development along the way directly or indirectly through support is ideal, and truly a gift in this sector. This will vary from one department or city to another, and may not be a typical inquiry, but do so anyhow. This will assist with breaking down the bureaucratic confusions and potential barriers.
Tip #3: Ask questions and request support before entering employment in government work. Tip #4: Maintain similar support through a mentor or supervisor once employed in a government position, and throughout the life of your career in government. Developing an understanding of government work, and the vast differences in federal versus state and industry to industry is where the mysteries of government work become less intimidating and secretive. Researching departments of interest is not only doable, but starts with the individual and some basic self-assessments.
On a separate piece of paper, complete the following sentences for yourself, and encourage your clients to do the same. This will help in getting an idea of whether government work is for you.
Danielle Gruen, MS, NCC, DCC, is a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the State of California, Division of Department of Rehabilitation in Los Angeles, California. She currently serves as Disability Awareness Specialist and liaison counselor in the transition services program for high school and college students. She also serves as lead counselor and provides Disability Awareness training at a local community rehabilitation program serving the HIV/AIDS community. She earned her Masters degree from San Francisco State and has worked in non-profit, higher education, and government as a Career Counselor and Workplace Consultant. She also has a private practice providing local and distance counseling for career transitioners at all stages, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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