John Klossner

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Public service or just a paycheck -- why do you work for the government?

My wife spent the first part of her career as a newspaper reporter, working for publications throughout New England. About 15 years ago, she was approached by a former colleague who invited her to join him in the press relations office of a federal agency. She has been working there ever since. I can safely say my wife enjoys being a government employee, although I don't think she ever felt an overwhelming desire to use her skills in government work before taking this position. The job came up, and she took it.

I share this because lately -- with all the turmoil surrounding government employees and their roles and functions -- I have been interested in what motivates people to first become government workers, and what still motivates them.

So I would like to ask any public-sector employee a few questions.

How did you get your job?

Were you specifically looking for a government job?

Does it make a difference to you whether you work in the public or private sector, or is it just a job?

Basically, why are you a government employee?

If any government employees would like to answer via the comments section, my only requests are that you a) be bluntly honest; b) keep it brief; and c) not treat it as a campaign speech.

I may compile these at some future point, but the comments section may do that for me.

John Klossner

Posted on Jun 15, 2011 at 12:19 PM

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Reader comments

Thu, Jul 21, 2011

How did you get your job?
Began as an intern in college. They offered a full time position upon graduation and I accepted.

Does it make a difference to you whether you work in the public or private sector, or is it just a job?
Just a paycheck. I left federal work for a corporate job and came back 9 months later. The work wasn't much different (engineering) but at least the gov't. can't force you to work overtime or travel when you'd rather stay home.

Basically, why are you a government employee?
I need a paycheck and a retirement. Government work provides those with less hassle than the private sector.

Thu, Jul 21, 2011

I have worked for the FEDs for 29 years. I have no college degree but make good money. I have earned the good money over the years dealing with stress and responsibility involved with the career. I was trained for my work by the govt but have no similar job available outside govt. I feel the country should appreciate the work and system federal workers allow to take place freely. I am an air traffic controller. I am not rich but have earned a federal retirement while getting a salary most times below others in the aviation industry. Believe me contractors can not provide the level of safety needed in a public safety arena. Only federal workers can and do insure the safety of the flying public. We use contractors when needed but must oversee the contractors to ensure the safety of the nation.

Sat, Jul 9, 2011

I came to the government more than 20 years ago. Private was not paying much then and things were extremely unstable. I gave the military 6 years as an Army Reservist and became disenchanted with the lack of soldier discipline in the younger soldiers. I figured that I could make a difference if I worked in my college degree discipline but I have found that not to be true over the years. I am grateful for job and the experiences but I stay for stability and benefits. I only wished that management could truly appreciate the level of loyalty from employees who put that much time into being employed with an agency for that length of time. Government employment has its share of problems but private industry is too volatile for someone like myself. I am just grateful for being employed with a consistant pay check.

Tue, Jul 5, 2011

The pay. I hate my job. It's out of my field and an autistic hell. I can't seem to change it to something better, not for want of trying. I have applied to dozens of positions, rarely get interviewed and then fail the interview. The private sector has little for me and my consulting business has yet to take off. Curiously, a foreign agency has expressed interest in the work that I have done at my agency, which my agency doesn't want to know about.

Sun, Jul 3, 2011

Before working for the Army as a DoD civilian, I had been an army reservist and then went active Navy. After that, I worked about ten years as a government contractor, always wanting to go government. I wanted to because as a contractor I was seen and felt as if I was a money grubber working for money grubbers. I felt like an outsider whose contributions really did not count. I worked as a mercenary, was the attitude. I also saw that the contractor did what the government wanted. My views have matured since then but that is the way things seemed at the time. When the Army wanted a commercial activities study where I was working, they asked/tasked me to assist all the government employees, both GS and NAF, to enter their work into the rather new and very clunky Resumix system. To learn how, I entered my own resume. Several weeks passed and I got a call with a job offer, which I accepted. That is how I got on the inside. As a government worker, I am directly contributing. Far behind the front lines are folks like me who maintain a stable, secure environment to support the front line folks. It is not particularly noble or glamorous work but it is absolutely necessary. Part of why I stay is folks are unaware of me. A few times, folks have noticed and asked me to come to work for them but I have thus far balked because of the importance I associate with my current job. But there is the ambition to move up the ladder so I can organize things more to my liking and become more productive. It would be awesome to acquire a status that let me solicit great ideas and then implement them. That status may come with time. The job is important. I make sufficient money to live well, despite knowing I could make triple in Iraq or Afghanistan or half again working in the US as a government contractor or straight-up commercial worker. The benefits help but I would stay if they went away. Finally, I have invested over 16 years working for Uncle and become eligible for early out in roughly eight years, if current regulations hold, at which time I can try my hand in industry a few years before full-on retirement.

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