PolyWogg’s (Completely Informal and Totally Unofficial) Guide to Competing for Jobs in the Canadian Federal Government
To be reworked with Chapter 1 & 2, added to knowing yourself
CHOOSING AN AREA OF WORK
As mentioned earlier, some people care heavily about the sector. For instance, some are only interested in the private sector. If so, they generally get to pick between an established company, a start-up, a consulting company, a temp agency, or act as an entrepreneur. If these are attractive to you, the likelihood of you liking a government job is relatively low.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are government jobs. However, note that government jobs tend to be separated by order of government – federal (two different groups), provincial or territorial, regional, municipal or even internationally through United Nations or regional development financial institutions.
In the middle are other types of organizations, often dealing with similar issues to government, particularly on the social front but operating somewhat more like a private business. This includes associations, educational organizations, health care providers, NGOs in general, and Crown Corporations (business arms of the government).
Some people weight the work by the type of impact the organization has and thus the scope of work of the organization. Some people are all about individuals and want to deal with the micro issues. Others are more about mid-level issues, and generally are focused on infrastructure. Still others want to see the big-picture, macro-level issues and thus focus on how systems work and inter-relate.
For some people, they don’t care about the sector or area of focus, but they do care about the type of work. As such, they frequently are choosing in government between policy analysis, program development, service delivery or enabling services (such as HR, finance, evaluation, research, communications, or legal services).
Others are more interested in the scope of their file – are they focusing on design, implementation, evaluation/review or change/transformation?
Another possibility is to the type of business environment – is it relatively static or is it incredibly dynamic?
Finally, others are more compelled by their own personal value-added. Are they great at a task? Are they good at freeing others to do other things? Is it compelling that they are part of something important even if their own role isn’t?
Ultimately, there are four factors that tend to determine if you’re going to be happy with a job or not.
First and foremost is the job itself. Obviously, the simplest form of this question is whether you like what the company or you are doing? Does the mandate of the organization align well with your own personal interests, principles and skills? Alternatively, some people are all about the impact – are you making a difference (personally or as part of a good organization)?
Secondly, people often enjoy even seemingly less-than-ideal jobs if they know that the job is helping them grow and development. This can be in form of skills development that serves as a stepping stone to future work, or it might be simply opportunities for learning i.e. professional development. Others are looking for challenges that will help them grow personally, while others want to flex their personal creativity muscles and are looking for autonomy, flexibility, and variety of tasks. In short, what are you getting out of the job?
Third, the work environment is critical to enjoyment. Do you have clear direction from above i.e. leadership? Does the culture encourage pride of ownership and a healthy day-to-day atmosphere? Or are people demoralized in soul-sucking pain? Obviously much of this depends on the community you work with inside the organization – not only your supervisor(s), but also your peers, subordinates, and work partners. Are employees engaged in the work, including two-way communications? Or are they automatons being told what to do? Of course, the literature frequently reduces job satisfaction into a general “work-life balance” equation, which is important, but for others, it might simply be determined by which hours of work are normal and the physical location of the office.
Finally, there’s your direct compensation. The job itself is important, as is indirect benefits and the work environment, but it’s work – you have to be compensated. A lot of people think initially, or at least superficially, this is just about the size of the pay cheque, but for most people in government, it isn’t. Pay levels are set by legislation and regulation, and negotiated in bulk. Which means the “extra” perks that draw people to government are benefits (top-ups for maternity leave, sick benefits, health coverage, etc.). In the past, government jobs were considered relatively secure and permanent, and for many, income security is a huge aspect of compensation. Leave is also set for all workers, and is an important aspect of compensation (often in lieu of larger pay raises). Finally, though, some people are more about the learning opportunities (mentioned above), the work environment (also mentioned above), or additional perks such as opportunities to travel or language training.