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Posted at 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 25, 2014
Public service isn’t easy. Once upon a time it was lauded as a job with cushy benefits and easy hours, but talk to anyone who works on Capitol Hill or for a government agency, and you’ll find their experience indicates the opposite. In every branch of government there are smart, motivated, hard-working, high-achieving staffers who could be doubling their salary in the private sector. And yet they choose to stay.*
Programs including the Presidential Management Fellowship serve as a pathway for would-be staffers with graduate degrees to enter public service. The process is competitive (about 600 of 12,000 applicants win the opportunity), time-consuming (finalists can take up to a year to find placement) and expensive (travel expenses for the interviews are your own).
So why do people do it? The PMF finalists I spoke to were excited for they opportunity. They wanted to be in public service. There was an overarching shared goal of wanting to make a difference. Unfortunately, many PMF finalists from the class of 2013 won’t find jobs. The government shutdown, sequestration, hiring freezes and agency budget cuts have provided far fewer available positions than in recent years.
As the final deadline of April 8 looms, the PMF class of 2013 is asking for an extension so they may have more time to secure a placement. They aren’t asking for jobs they aren’t qualified for, nor are they asking for positions they haven’t earned. On the contrary, they’re asking for a chance to make a difference. Which is what much of public service is about.
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