How good is a career in public service?
Your professional journey, to a large extent, determines your quality of life. For one, it is the primary source of income for most adults. However, as necessary as money is, other elements impact our lives. Some people choose a career that helps them reach specific goals. This could be to gain more insights and experience, or to challenge yourself a little bit more. Whatever the reason, there is a need to choose a fulfilling career.
That being said, finding a career that perfectly complements your personality is seldom straightforward. It is not uncommon to see professionals switch roles and industries quite often as they discover new interests and motivations. While this could work, there are some apparent limitations.
To start with, it is never easy to adjust to a new industry or role, regardless of your motivation. Most professionals have to engage in online courses to develop new skills. The growth rate and job requirements also become inconsistent as you start afresh in a new industry.
With a plethora of options to choose from when it comes to a career, assessing yourself and what you can bring to the table is of the utmost importance. Furthermore, choosing an industry with a high possibility for growth is never a bad idea. One such industry is public service.
The government remains the largest employer in virtually all countries, and as such, the public sector offers a high growth rate through economic modernization.
How can you confirm if a career in public service is right for you?
Deciding on any profession is a process, and public service is no exception. Thankfully, there are organized processes to give you an idea of the industry and boost your odds of making the best decision.
Careers in public service
Public or civil service represents any service planned to address specific needs concerning the aggregate members of a community. The government is not the sole provider of public service. Other organizations and private businesses also engage in public services. The industry covers a wide range of career paths. Here are some of the more popular public service careers.
Public safety careers
Public safety officers are professionals serving a public agency in an official capacity, with or without compensation. They are responsible for services that preserve the safety of a community. Some services in this sector include law enforcement, emergency, criminal justice, and so on.
Social welfare careers
Social workers are professionals who assist in improving the quality of life of a community. They ensure that the community can access basic requirements such as shelter, water, food and security. This sector includes healthcare, child welfare and management careers, among other services.
Teachers are also civil servants. This sector covers both formal, school-based programming and informal, community-based programming. Aside from teachers, other roles within this sector include counseling and administrative positions, school social workers and resource professionals.
Natural resource careers
Natural resource professionals are typically involved in research, management, utilization and conservation of different natural resources. This includes land, water bodies and animals. Park rangers, conservation agents and forestry professionals, to mention a few, are career paths within this sector of public service.
The actions of non-business entities are also considered public service. Non-profit organizations offer the opportunity to engage in most public service career paths. However, just as the name implies, these professionals are not compensated.
The career paths highlighted are just a few of the numerous ones that public service offers. All paths come with their unique requirements. Therefore, they should be considered before a decision is made. For instance, a non-profit organization should not be an option if your motivation is money.
Benefits of working in public service
There are quite a few benefits to working in public service. As we mentioned before, the public sector has a high growth rate. With the government being the predominant employer in this field, the state regularly intervenes in providing funding and creating fulfilling positions. Aside from this, there are some other advantages of public service.
Job security and flexible work hours
Public sector positions often offer quite competitive salaries. However, the major selling point comes in the form of the job security and flexible work hours attached to public service.
Public service is a stable and secure place to work. There is little risk of job loss or downsizing, and salaries and benefits are usually good. In addition, many public service jobs offer flexible work hours, which can be a great perk for working parents or people with other commitments.
Some positions in the public service sector help you offset loans such as student loans. Health professionals, for instance, can have up to $50,000 of their student loans paid by the NHS as long as they have served for about two years in a certified health institution.
Additionally, some careers offer professionals the opportunity for loan forgiveness after working for at least 10 years and maintaining loan payments during that time.
For individuals with a desire to help people, public service can be a massive avenue for personal fulfillment. It’s not uncommon to hear professionals in this field confess the satisfaction they get from carrying out their responsibilities. If you love to help in improving the community, then you will find public service highly beneficial.
Relevant skills for public service
As in every other industry, public service professionals also require good skills. While every sector requires technical skills, such as a medical professional or law enforcer, here are some generic skills that would help in this industry.
As a current or aspiring public service professional, communication is a must-have skill. This involves both written and oral forms of communication. With a job description that involves serving a community, professionals in this field are certain to interact frequently with different people. As a result, communication skills are fundamental.
Additionally, public servants also assist individuals from different cultural, economic and social groups – so there is a need to communicate well and show empathy.
Ability to recognize hierarchy
Hierarchy is highly regarded in public service organizations. Therefore, public servants should be capable of recognizing and respecting authority. This also applies to leadership roles.
When working in an organization, a public servant should learn to be competent in both roles. Building up this skill helps prepare professionals for a career in the public service field.
There is hardly any room for individualism in the public sector. Therefore, learning how to collaborate with a team will help you achieve better results, especially when faced with major societal issues. Professionals should effectively include team members in different processes to ensure that more is done.
This also applies to professionals in managerial positions. Collaboration is always better than dictatorship.
Leadership exists in every stage of an organization’s hierarchy, and most leadership positions are reserved for experienced professionals. They are meant to make good decisions and oversee processes that could potentially affect the community. Therefore, a professional’s leadership skills are very critical.
As such, there is a need to develop leadership skills to become better prepared for higher, more demanding positions and tasks.
Creativity and critical thinking prowess
As a public servant, issues will always arise, and these issues need to be addressed quickly and effectively. When it comes to serving a community, there are a lot of groups to consider, and as such, the best solution might not be the obvious one. Being creative would help develop a solution that works and satisfies all parties involved.
Aside from creativity, thinking critically is also really important. Learning to make observations and identify the root cause of a problem is the first step to developing an effective solution.
Being politically cognizant
Most public servants work under the government, so it’s only fitting that you understand the political climate and how it affects your position as a professional. You must also be politically aware in order to connect better and build relationships with top dignitaries. In the public sector, everyone can do with a bit of connection.
Is public service a promising career for me?
Implementing career planning processes is the best way to know if you are a good fit for any job. Having a solid plan prevents you from making ill-informed decisions. You can also identify new opportunities and the competencies required.
There are a few frameworks that could help in making the right decision. However, the following process includes the foundational elements efficient for mapping out your career path.
Recognize your interests and competencies
The first step requires you to identify your skills and interests. This is a pivotal step to ensure that you choose a fulfilling job. Consider of all your skills and check if you are a good fit for the industry. This also helps in identifying deficiencies in your skillset.
Professionals looking for a career change should highlight all transferable skills that can be used in the public service sector. Different tests help professionals identify the full extent of their competencies.
Having completed this step, you should have a good idea of the sector you could work in if you choose to become a public servant.
Research the industry
In the public service industry, there are three major sectors: the government, private and non-profit sectors. While the government and private sectors compensate public workers in varying sums, non-profit workers do not get compensated.
Therefore, you should research the industry and decide which sector suits you best based on your motivations. This also opens you up to less obvious professions that perfectly complement your skills and qualifications.
Some things to also consider in this step are the size of the organization you want to work in, previous work experience, and internships. In summary, this step helps you get a better idea of your career preferences.
Decide on your goals
At this point, you should have enough information to make a good decision. First, assess your existing competencies with the skills required for public service. Your motivations and preferences will also reduce your choices regarding which sector to work in.
If you still have difficulties deciding, you can employ decision-making frameworks. The easiest and most popular one is SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. With this framework, you will be able to highlight your strengths and weaknesses regarding a position. You will also identify possible opportunities and threats present in a sector.
For most jobseekers, the fear of failure makes this step very difficult. Nevertheless, making a decision based on factual information makes you much closer to selecting the ideal career.
Set your goals
Not everybody who decides on a career in public service is instantly qualified for a position. People often consider their passion and decide on an industry without the required skills. This is where goals come in.
As part of the decision process, you should identify where you are now, where you intend to be in the future, and how you can get there. You should also make achievable plans to reach your goals. For instance, managerial positions in public service are reserved for professionals with an advanced-level degree. Therefore, if you aspire to take up an administrative position, you can explore advanced degrees such as the Laurier Public Safety degree.
Wilfrid Laurier University offers an online Master of Public Safety degree for professionals looking to take on leadership roles in the public safety sector. This program is tailored to promote a better understanding of contemporary issues, social elements and technologies that affect public safety practice.
This program is the perfect solution for professionals seeking more career advancement opportunities. It gives you a more comprehensive view of the field and prepares you for new opportunities and leadership positions.
There are so many different sectors in the public service field that making a decision becomes quite complex. However, this process has proven to be effective over time. Deciding on a career is a continuous process, so you should review your motivations and goals throughout. Additionally, a career plan outlines a pathway to achieving your goals. Therefore, by making it detailed and following through, you become ever closer to experiencing a fulfilling career.