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Pros & Cons of a Federal Government Career

Career Exploration

I'm writing this towards the end of my career in the federal government in order to provide my personal observations to anyone considering a job/career as a federal civilian employee. I'm just one guy, writing about my personal experience.

Bottom line up front: the federal government was an overall good place to work by almost every primary estimation people judge careers/employers by. Stability, great benefits, great pay, and often fun and/or interesting work.

I was hired as a GS-7 in 1992 and after volunteering for a key assignment nobody else wanted to do, I got significant recognition and exposure. By 1995, I had reached the career journeyman grade (GS-11) for the job series I was in and took a lateral, self-paid move to the same job in a different city where I could get a more diverse experience. After I had the 11 for a year I had just enough time in grade to competitively apply for a related position in the same agency that had a GS-13 journeyman level. I got that job in 1996 mostly because of the recognition/exposure I got from that assignment I volunteered for as a GS-7, and the broadened experience I gained from the new office I lateraled to. In the new job as a 13, I really applied myself to learn the newest technology and systems that were key to succeeding in the agency. In 2000, I accepted a lateral transfer to DC and by the next year had my GS-14. In 2003 took a downgrade to a GS-13 for a paid move to Houston in a new agency and a new job series, and by 2005 I got the GS-14 back as a supervisor, and have been that ever since. I set out that timeline to set the background for two key points: I promoted quickly in the government because 1) I put forth some extra effort and 2) I was willing to move for laterals and promotions early on in my career. My experience is not unique. I have met many people along the way who have done the same thing. Check out the OPM payscale website at the end of this article to get an idea of the salaries for the various GS grades in various locations around the country.

I have loved the crazy amount of time off (generous annual leave, sick leave, and holidays) I have had in the government. I was very grateful not having to worry about being laid off like nearly every one of my best friends in the private sector have experienced at least one abrupt layoff in their careers. I'm about to retire at 56.5 with 30 yrs of govt service and I will live well thanks to taking full advantage of the govt's 401K (TSP) and having a true pension.

There are some cons as well.

If you are a vet, no doubt you have experienced some frustration at some point in your service, maybe even continually. The federal government is no different. There are insane policies, asinine annual training requirements, and political correctness run amok.

Some offices are absolutely toxic in the amount of stress and animosity as a result of sadistic management, and/or incompetent employees who can't be fired due to certain employment protections. I worked in 6 different office settings in my career, and one was like this, and the character of the other 5 ranged from great and friendly, to just OK. Lesson learned here: ALWAYS find out about the character of the office you will be working in!

I'm not sure how many of my colleagues would identify with my points above.

My bio on this site has some info about where I've worked and the type of work I've done. I'd do my best to respond to any questions you might have as a vet considering working for the government, career strategy, etc.

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