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When I was a kid, my dad always told me to work for the government because, “It was the tit that never ran out of milk.”
Maybe that’s why I’m a boobs guy, but I think there is some truth in his statement. After completing undergrad, then the halfway house to adulthood that is grad school, I fired out applications in state, local, federal, and university jobs across the nation. After a few interviews (most notably at the FBI), I landed my current job. Most people’s perception of working in the public sector is from TV shows like Parks and Recreation. There are definitely elements of truth when describing bureaucracy, red tape, and all those other buzzwords you may or may not have learned in some throwaway general elective political science class years ago.
Despite this, working in the public sector kicks ass. Many of you are in the private sector toiling away in your own cubicle; we aren’t so different. Most of my friends are in the private sector. They put in long hours as a “Loans Setup Specialist,” “HR Adjudication Compliance Specialist,” or “Supply Chain Software Consultant,” but I can show up when I please and leave (within reason) when I please.
My work week is set at a Henry Ford style: M-F, 40-hours a week. I usually roll in around what I refer to as “Work Twilight,” that time when people arrive and screw around on their computers before they actually start working. No one notices me and it sets the stage for the day. Work twilight is approximately 8-10:30 a.m.
Around 11, I usually do about 30 minutes of work before lunch to feel some sense of accomplishment. This “work” comes in many forms, including setting up graphs, checking email, or retying my shoes so I don’t trip on the way back from heating up lunch.
After lunch, I refresh Reddit, sports blogs, the news etc. to see if anything has happened since I read them this morning. Usually it has not. From here, I contemplate writing the two-page report I have exactly one month to write that would take me 30 minutes to complete. I realize I still have two weeks to do it and continue to peruse the internet. No one reads these things anyway unless there is an extreme abuse in power or budget cuts. I usually do all of my reports one week before they are due to make myself look like a real go-getter. Unless you are on Garfield levels of laziness, the deadlines that the public sector demands are very easy to meet.
After exhausting all my media and deciding my eyes are worn out from staring at my double monitors for four hours, I go on a “meet and greet.” Sometimes I go check in with my boss to see if she has anything for me. I knew the answer to this before I went, but she’s a great boss and always has some great insight into life, day-to-day chat, some drama from the state department, or just to show face. From there, I do a lap around the building to see what’s going on and round out my voyage to chat with Jimmy for 10-20 minutes.
By now, it’s somewhere in the 1-2 p.m. range. Only two hours to go. I sit down and shoot the shit with my coworkers in cubicle land. Check the clock to see an hour and a half left. I do another 30 minutes of work and realize it’s almost time to hit the dusty trail. Sometimes there are conference calls or webinars sprinkled in the week that I halfway pay attention to. The hardest part about these is watching the people fail famously trying to set up their technology and deliver their long winded “look what I did” presentation. Just gotta remember to mute the line.
Once the minutes wind down and the freedom bell tolls, I race walk my ass out of the building and onto the real part of the day. The best part about this is knowing that my work email and phone aren’t connected so I am burden free until the next day. I porch drink now more than I did in college. Don’t even think about trying to get anything done on a Friday because “Zombie Fridays” are only there for people to be there in body, but not in mind.
I never fear being fired. My work is solid and you basically have to murder or commit a felony to get fired in the public sector. It’s not that I’m lazy, there just isn’t a whole lot to do. Funding is almost always chosen through “the good ol’ boy network,” and someone is always on vacation or out of the office so there is usually a tie-up in the work process anyway.
My friends often tell me about their awful, slave driver bosses, inept district manager, or Gestapo-level Branch Manager that micromanages everything. I honestly feel bad for people with shitty bosses. I am fearful of the day I have to move on to “bigger and better things” a.k.a. more money, because my boss and direct coworkers are wonderful. Maybe I’m not cut out for the highly competitive “it’s not what have you done but what have you done lately” atmosphere, but I’m completely fine with that.
While there are definitely some shortcomings of the public sector such as red tape, unqualified people that have been there since the seventies with a high school degree and a lot of technologically challenged Baby Boomers, the pros definitely outweigh the cons. There will never be an agreement on public vs. private, nor should there be. The only agreement I can see is that work is just something we do in between happy hours, weekends, and wedding season. My boy Oscar Wilde said it best, “Work is the curse of the drinking classes.”.
Image via YouTube