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Government Careers: Life on the Job

Don’t forget to sign up for the Bucknell D.C Career Fair on March 4th!

Considering a career in government after graduation? Before you take the civil service exam, make sure you know what you’re getting into. Each government agency is different, so it’s important to know what life is like at each one.

It’s all about the agency

Agency culture can have a huge effect.

Each agency or department has an internal culture that you need to learn about. In many respects, working for a government agency can be one of the most exciting or rewarding experiences for someone who loves politics, current events or social issues. Much of what you may do could be on the news, or indirectly impact some major event in the United States or somewhere else in the world. No matter what agency it is, the work is focused on the central mission of supporting the federal government.

What does this mean in practice? It means that while you are working for a bureaucracy that sometimes can be slow to respond, at other moments things will move fast and furious. A friend of mine who worked for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) would always remark how slow their work was until there was some sort of emergency to which she needed to respond. Once they were on the road, the days were long and hard; sleep was seen as a luxury.

So much of what government agencies do is not seen by the public, which oftentimes only hears about a particular department if a politician is either complimenting or criticizing its operations. There seems to be little in between. However, most of what you do at a federal agency will be conducted in the scope of a normal workday. You will get to work by 8 or 9 a.m. and be out of the office by 5 p.m. Of course this also depends on the agency you choose and the position that you are handed–the hours can vary quite a bit.

Jobs can differ–a lot!

Working for a government agency can mean being an active duty Marine Corps officer in Afghanistan. Or it could mean working for the Department of Agriculture in Nebraska. It could also entail monitoring the trading of stocks on the New York Stock Exchange as a compliance officer for the Securities and Exchange Commission. This variety in regards to the different facets of federal work means that you should pick a federal agency that fits your background the best, but be prepared for the work that the agency might ask you to perform. Having heard about an individual’s experience at one agency does not mean that you will find that same lifestyle or culture at another agency.

For example, if you are going to work for the Environmental Protection Agency, you will tend to find individuals that care about conservation and the environment. This does not mean that there are not both Republicans and Democrats who work at the EPA (despite what many think, there are many conservation-minded Republicans). But it does mean that you will find individuals who tend to enjoy the outdoors and prize environmental awareness. This can easily be contrasted with the Department of Defense, which tends to have a large number of military veterans who work in the organization. Veterans tend to have a language that is colored by their time in the service. They may often tell jokes or stories that are a strong part of their military tradition, no matter which branch they were in. Once again, this is not necessarily a political difference, so much as a cultural difference. Having successfully done some sort of enforcement or compliance work for the Department of Defense does not mean that you will find the same level of enjoyment or fulfillment at the EPA doing similar work. Agency culture can have a huge effect on your federal government experience.

Read more about government agency careers on and make sure to sign up for the:

D.C Career Fair – March 4th

This event will focus on organizations and opportunities within government, nonprofit, public service, and international & public affairs. The goal is to bring interested and motivated Bucknell students to Washington, DC for the evening to meet representatives from organizations and network with Bucknell alumni, parents, and friends. This event provides students an opportunity to discuss their career paths with participants and learn about participants’ organizations, and any current or future openings — volunteer, internship or fulltime — if applicable.

Registered students must attend one of two prep sessions to receive entry ticket; security will also require that students bring a photo id. Two (2) prep sessions will be held on Monday, March 1: 12-noon -ELC 217 OR 5:00 pm-Rooke Lecture Hall (RCHM 116)

Bus transportation is provided to and from Washington, DC. To reserve a seat on the bus, please give your refundable $20 deposit to Eileen Friend, Career Development Center. Seats are reserved on a first-come, first-served email. Reservation deadline is Wednesday, February 24, 2010.

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