millennials in government

Keeping Millennials Engaged in Government

As young federal employees reach the mid-to upper echelons of their government careers, many begin to question; Is there room for growth in the federal government?

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to do an interview with Francis Rose of Federal News radio. Of the many questions he asked, one left me perplexed: How do we keep Millennials from leaving government for the non-profit or private sector?

I know firsthand that it can be difficult to stay in government. Millennials may feel underused or like their work doesn’t have as much of an impact as work done by an advocate in the non-profit sector or a lobbyist on the hill. However, managers need to remind Millennials that as a government employee, they are public servants whose work always means something.

My personal voyage in government has taken me from student intern to professional career employee and through positions at various agencies. Several career moves later, I can say success is about foresight. You must recognize that government will change and evolve and understand your role as an agent of change. Also, you need to understand that you serve the public. Finally, you must believe that your work makes an impact. By focusing on these key concepts Millennials are more likely to stay engaged.  And, staying engaged not only keeps you passionate about your work, but it opens your eyes to greater opportunities for growth.

Given the importance of engagement, what specific steps can managers take to help others, including Millennials, stay engaged? Here are 3 things managers should encourage every Millennial to think about as they dive into a Government career:

  1. Servitude and Leadership. In order to lead, one must follow. Remind others of the need to take ownership of a career path regardless of where you start. Remind them that you get more by asking for more. Suggest that those you council volunteer or look for ways inside and outside of the office to develop skills. Call attention to agency workgroups. Of course taking on more will increase workload; however, success often requires more than just doing our basic jobs. And remind others to manage-up. Although not currently in a leadership position, an individual can develop leadership skills by advising a supervisor.
  2. Have a Board of Advisors. A Champion is a person or group who fights or argues for a cause or on your behalf. A board can include can include a mentor, sponsor, or even a supervisor. These people know you and your aspirations and are completely supportive. In essence, they will go bat for you.
  3. Establish your brand and know what you want to broadcast to the world. First impressions are lasting impressions. Be careful how you interact with people. Never judge people by their titles because you never know to whom they are connected. Be authentic and likeable so people will want to help you. Most of all “be the person you want to see” – and treat yourself as if you are the person you desire to be.


By Kehli Cage, Director of Mentoring and GOLD Fellows for the YGL National Board

To learn more about Young Government Leaders’ work to increase employees’ commitment to and passion for public service, and to join for free, visit www.younggov.org

Posted in Young Gov

Tags: Young Government Leaders, YGL, management

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