But it could be worth the wait . . .
Whether you’re seeking government work as a local sheriff’s deputy or as a state social worker, there is one personality trait that will come in handy.
That’s because landing work as a government employee is typically a slow process. Unlike the private world of work, managers for government agencies typically cannot hire on the spot. Instead, they work from a list of eligible candidates.
And how do you get on this list? Usually, you have to submit an application and resume, and complete a test.
Next, you may be interviewed by a panel of government workers from different departments in the agency where you want to work. Sometimes panel members are also recruited from other agencies to share in the interview duties.
Once you are a finalist for the job, you might still face one more interview with the hiring manager.
The whole process can take weeks at best, and often takes months or more. The process for screening potential law enforcement candidates (and other sensitive positions) is even more elaborate, involving lie detector tests, psychological exams, and extensive background checks.
Time on Your Side
If it all sounds daunting, take heart. Your odds of getting hired are improving with each passing day. Certainly, if you are looking for immediate employment, a government job may not be the quickest option. But if you have some time to endure the process, government employment could be one of your best bets.
That’s because many government agencies – at federal, state and local levels – are coming to terms with the staffing crisis that is just around the corner, a result of the wholesale retirement of the baby-boom generation.
Believe it or not, 44 percent of all federal workers become eligible to retire in the next four years. In nine years, that number climbs to 60 percent. The Social Security Administration alone will have 87 percent of its claims assistants and examiners reach retirement eligibility by 2010.
At the state level, 34 percent of California’s workforce is likely to retire in four years. Warning that the number could climb to 49 percent, some experts are calling it a "human capital crisis."
Currently, more than 25,000 California public employees (state, county, city) who are covered by CalPERS (Public Employee Retirement System) are retiring each year.
Some agencies are starting to realize they have to start wooing applicants via ads and recruiting events. The state Board of Equalization, for example, is hoping to snare some new tax auditors when it hosts a Meet & Greet event from 2:30 to 5:15 on Dec 4, at the Elihu Harris State Building in Oakland.
Expect to see more aggressive recruiting as the shortage of workers worsens.
So while you may wonder if you are good enough for government work, with a shrinking labor pool, the answer is definitely yes – there is probably a government position of some type for you somewhere. Of course, you still must have the qualifications a particular job requires. That may be experience (even in the private sector) or specific degrees.
Here’s a rundown of typical jobs you will find with government agencies.
Office and Administrative Support.
Government agencies require a wide variety of staff to handle bookkeeping, court transactions, dispatching of emergency vehicles, First-line supervisors are also in demand.
Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers, Detectives and Investigators.
Help needed to control traffic, prevent and investigate crime. State and local correctional officers guard jails, while bailiffs maintain order in the courtroom.
Includes fire inspectors, emergency medical technicians and paramedics.
Tax Examiners, Collectors and Revenue Agents.
Determine tax liability and collect past-due taxes from individuals or businesses.
Urban and Regional Planners.
Analyze and detail the best use of developable land.
Counsel and assess the needs of clients, referring them to appropriate help. Eligibility interviewers screen applicants for aid. Social and human service assistants duties vary by agency – some assist with counseling, other do community outreach.
Public agencies hire attorneys, computer specialists, engineers, probation officers, and registered nurses.
Janitors and cleaners, landscaping and groundskeeping crew, and recreation workers needed.
Teachers and Administrators.
With almost 15,000 public school teachers retiring annually in California alone, look for plenty of opportunity in the classroom.
While this is just a generalized list, you can find a number of promising job openings by simply visiting various government websites. On the site for the California State Personnel Board (spb.ca.gov/employment), there were almost 4000 job openings listed recently, for positions covering the full spectrum of interests (from administrative clerk to industrial hygienist).
A final note. The patience you needed to land that government job may also come in handy during your career as a public servant. You might, for example, be expected to carry a heavier workload since agencies typically cannot hire fast enough.
Patience might also come in handy if you decide you are going to seek a promotion. You might have to endure another test, more panel interviews, and even await approval by the governing agency’s board or city council.
But who knows, maybe the shrinking labor pool will streamline this process as well. Certainly, they are going to have to start doing something to latch onto the talent they already have.
For more details on government jobs, visit:
This website offers links, resources and an overview of government employment, exams, how to apply to certain agencies, etc.
This site, managed by the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), offers a search of open federal jobs gathered from hundreds of government agencies. (703) 605-6000.
Lists government job openings and links to other resources for municipal, city and county government websites, state leagues and associations, statewide newspapers, etc.
This site from the Public Service Employees Network offers job listings, resources, information on how to find and apply for government jobs, and links to state jobs. Topics include FAQs on federal jobs, sample exam questions, resume tips, etc.
California State Personnel Board, (916) 653-1705.