Do you know what civil servants do when they get laid off? They go into industry and take your next promotion, your children’s job, or even your job away from you.
You don’t think so?
That’s because you believe the propaganda that the conservatives bruit about to bolster their own egos. Conservatives who are employed by private companies love to brag that they’re the tough guys who fight in the corporate jungle for every promotion and get fired if they don’t cut the mustard. They contrast themselves to the pampered pansies who work for the government. They claim that stupid, incompetent, lazy civil servants couldn’t survive in the real world.
Let’s look at a few hard truths.
First, government jobs are good jobs with good job security and good benefits. So what does that mean? That means that the competition for government jobs is fierce.
It’s no surprise that, on average, civil servants have more university degrees than workers in the private sector; the government gets first pick of the best candidates.
Consider an example that I know from personal experience. A position in marketing for a government library – yes, the government does marketing, just like private companies – opened up. Six hundred and fifty people applied for the position. Who got it? The woman who had three university degrees – a bachelors and two master’s degrees, including a master’s in business administration – had two of her books published by a well-known engineering press, and had years of experience in both private industry and government, which included running her own library for several years.
Do you think that you could have won that job competition against her? Six hundred and forty-nine candidates, some of them very well qualified, lost to her.
And if she gets laid off and comes to your company looking for a job as your supervisor, do you think that your management is going to promote you instead of hiring her? Are you in the top 0.15% of the people who want your supervisor’s job? Not likely.
Second, government employees have a lot of experience. Where a private company has a limited product line, government departments do everything from write laws to fly to the moon – literally; NASA is a government agency. Most government managers have moved between departments to gain experience. They may be managing the development of new fertilizers for agriculture one year, giving grants for subsidized housing the next year, and three years later, writing press briefings about border patrol issues.
All that experience is gained in the biggest, most complex organization in the country. Civil servants write more memos, attend more meetings, and read more reports than you can imagine. And they get really good at understanding bureaucratic procedures.
People working in private industry like to think of themselves as graduates of the school of hard knocks, but they have no idea how cutthroat the competition for promotion is in the government.
On top of all that, consider, that the government works with private industry all the time. Many managers in the civil service have extensive personal contacts with senior managers in private companies. When they decide to leave the government, they know who to call. The vice presidents in your company take their calls, go to lunch with them, and give them letters of reference.
How does your resume stack up against that?
Third, when the government starts laying people off, who leaves? Not the slackers and incompetents. The best people always leave first because they’re the ones who know that they can get a better paying job in industry. I’ve seen many rounds of layoffs in government departments and I’ve seen those departments lose their best and brightest every time. And I’ve never seen those laid-off civil servants go on the dole. Most of them step into a job in industry without missing a pay-check.
So, the next time you hear some politician promising to cull the civil service, take a moment and look at your own job. How secure are you going to be if there are tens of thousands of better educated, better qualified, more experienced, better connected ex-civil servants knocking on your company’s door.
If you can force yourself to be honest, you’ll have to admit that you’re going to be better off if those civil servants remain in their government offices than if they are let loose on the streets in search of new jobs.