investing · Personal Finance

Why You Should Work For The Government

Some years ago I was party to a conversation about various career fields. One participant noted they hoped to get hired by the federal government, which another dismissed as “under-achieving.” This did not seem to faze the first chap, who just shrugged and gave off a satisfied smile.

Looking at some recent stats, we can see why. As private sector industries such as hospitality and leisure bleed jobs like the hemorrhoid circus, government is one of the few examples with a net positive rating, and the highest performer among the winners.

Even as the economy goes bad, the government continues to operate, paying out salaries to workers who might be deemed “non-essential” and laid off if they were in the private sector. This gives state employees a tremendous economic advantage over those who are losing their jobs (or getting less hours). They will not face the disruption native to other industries, and therefore can more easily buy into the discounted stock market or real estate.

Beyond this, government workers aren’t treated all that badly. The current federal model of FERS, which has been replicated by many state and local governments, provides a far more stable benefits package than the vaunted private sector. Participants get access to a Thrift Savings Plan (basically a 401k) with up to 4 percent matching, and a pension that comes to around 33 percent of their highest three-year salary, along with Social Security. Healthcare plans are decent as well.

The skeptics among you might point to the recent government shutdown as an example of disadvantages, but government workers ultimately received back pay, while most of the workers affected by coronavirus will not.

So if you have a child someday, recommending a career in the civil service isn’t necessarily a bad idea.

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Why Entry-Level Jobs Require Experience

We’ve all seen it before: a job listing on Indeed or LinkedIn calling out energetically to recent graduates and folks ready for an entry-level position. If you’re like most people, you rushed to scroll down and apply, amazed that a company would offer you the opportunity to use your undergraduate degree and get trained while making money.

Until you saw the requirements:

– Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university; Master’s degree preferred.
– 5-7 years progressively responsible experience in a leadership role.
– Considered subject matter expert on industry-specific standards.
– Provable experience saving children from starvation and eradicating cancer.
– A motivated and enthusiastic personality.

At this point you probably felt confused. How on earth could an entry-level position require a chunk of a lifetime in experience? Was this conception or something?

In reality, what you stumbled upon is a perfect illustration of the modern economic paradox: You need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. Cool beans, huh?

The simply reasoning behind this dynamic is as follows: corporations don’t want to pay you what you’re worth. They’d prefer that you work like a dog for low wages and poor benefits, because “At least we’re giving you a JOB.”

Let’s turn back time for a second. During the 1990s, hiring, managers began aggressively pushing the “professionalized managerial workforce” mantra, a program designed to bottleneck the careers of people with plenty of experience but no degree. This effectively kneecapped people in early-to-mid stages of their work life because they could not advance without a certification.

The broader impact market made young people panic, sending them to college in droves to ensure they would be employed. It also LOWERED the value of people with existing degrees, allowing their starting salaries to be suppressed.
So here we are in 2019, with the Bachelor’s degree viewed as the new high school diploma, and companies still atavistic in their attempts to cap pay. The question is, what can you do?

Answer: be willing to walk away. If you have qualifications that hold high market value, refuse to settle. You’re liable to hear stuff like “This is the opportunity of a lifetime to learn and grow at 45k!”

That’s cute. But it is not acceptable. Keep a firm hand. The corporate apologists will try to shame you into believing you’re worth nothing, and training is too costly. Or the bottom line is crying.

In that case, you can’t afford to work for them.