Millennials and Public Service: A Perfect Match
According to Gallup, Americans’ average level of confidence in 14 key U.S. institutions is only 32%. Considering public opinion of the federal government, it may seem impossible to convince the next generation to consider a career in public service. After all, who wants to join an organization whose main function seems to be a punching bag?
In fact, the public sector is uniquely positioned to appeal to younger workers. Millennials want career advancement opportunities, need employment stability, value work/life balance, and tend to be highly mission-oriented and purpose driven. At the same, Millennials also need financial security—this is especially true for a generation that entered the job market during the worst economy since the Great Depression. If you consider all of these motivations, government service is actually an outstanding career opportunity, offering Millennials numerous ways to make a difference.
Let’s first consider the wave of expected retirements in the next few years, particularly in the Federal government. Such a transition offers younger workers—often extremely eager to progress quickly in their careers—the opportunity to gain supervisory and management experience in order to move up the corporate latter.
Employment stability and financial security represent another advantage. While younger workers tend to embrace change and uncertainty, the reality is that employment stability is essential in the long-term, especially if you plan to get married and raise a family. According to Paul Taylor, author of the book The Next America, nearly 70% of unmarried Millennials say they plan to get married someday, but many have put off marriage because they do feel not feel financially secure.
It is widely known that the next generation of workers faces a mountain of bills: crushing student loan debt, growing health care and entitlement costs, a difficult job market, and little savings—say nothing of retirement. Thankfully, a career in public service is attractive on each of these fronts. While you will not become rich working in government, you can earn a respectable, stable income and often even have a pension waiting for you when you retire. In some Federal agencies, there are student loan repayment programs available. Such benefits are very hard to come by in the private sector.
Work-life balance is another great match between young workers and public employers. In the Federal government, there are numerous options available surrounding workplace flexibility. Whether it is flexitour, maxiflex, gliding, compressed or alternative work schedules, and the use of credit hours, there are a host of options available to agencies to use in attracting Millennial employees. The trick will be for managers to fully embrace the modern workplace.
And we cannot forget that supporting a higher cause is of upmost importance for many younger workers. Millennials tend to not only want—but demand—meaning and purpose in what they do, even if it means earning less or sacrificing job security. In government, you might earn less than the private sector, but there is certainly no shortage of purpose to what public servants do in serving our country. At the same time, job security is a welcome feature that comes with the longevity and stability of our public institutions.
Believe deeply in conservation? Check out the Department of Interior. Want to serve our nation’s Veterans? The Department of Veterans Affairs has over 2,300 open vacancies as of this writing. And this is just in Federal service. There are opportunities to serve the public in numerous capacities at the county, city, and state levels, too.
According to Pew, public trust in the U.S. government reached an all-time high of 77% in 1964. That was a much different time and a much different country, but it shows that greater unity and trust is possible. Given younger workers’ generational characteristics, and the critical need for renewed civic engagement, careers in government are a perfect place for Millennials to put their energy and idealism to work—making a positive difference in the lives of Americans, while helping restore the public’s trust in America’s institutions.
Written by Jonathan Ludwig, Director of Marketing for Young Government Leaders
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Posted in Young Gov