Uncle Sam Wants More Young Folks to Work for "Totally Hip" Bureaucracies


Uncle Same
Public Domain

Kids aren't too keen on working for the government anymore and that has Uncle Sam worried.

With the portion of guys and gals under the age of 30 employed by the government hitting an eight-year low of 7 percent in 2013, government officials are concerned that without young tech-savvy talent, the public sector will fall behind.

Not to mention that about a quarter of all federal employees will be eligible to retire in September 2016 with cushy pension plans

So, why aren't the kids jumping at a chance to sell their souls to bureaucratic work? (Hint: It's not because government gigs are underpaid.)

According to a survey of college undergraduates by employer-branding consultancy Universum, student interest in federal work has declined over the last four years. 

It might be the government's un-cool image, according to Paul Light, a professor of public policy at New York University. A reputation of bureaucracy and hierarchy doesn't appeal all that well to the under-30 crowd.

Other recruiting problems:

  • Baby Boomers "hanging on," which limits job mobility for those looking to move up.
  • The hiring process is confusing, lengthy, and difficult with job titles that are shrouded in acronyms and jargon. 
  • Strict recruiting rules (read: no part drug use allowed) filter out promising prospects before upper-level managers can consider them.

The State Department is trying to reach the young crowd where you can find them the most—on their cellphones. The department released a mobile careers app in 2013. Other agencies are trying to bridge the generational tech-gap by connecting with the kids on Facebook and Twitter.

But the most amusing attempt comes from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) who jumped on the "Gangnam Style" fad of 2012 with its own parody video as part of a volunteer outreach project.

In the end, though, millennials may respond best to cold hard cash: It takes just 10 years of soul-crushing public service work to get your soul-crushing student loan debt forgiven.

NEXT: Sane Talk on Iraq

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  1. FYI:
    The Reason web-guy didn’t know we were having comment-function difficulties when I contacted him last night; he’s been logging hit rates and they haven’t changed much.
    So if you are as frustrated as I am at losing a paragraph or two and having to retype it, you might go right to the bottom of the page to locate the contacts and let him know.
    My 2014 donation is a good bit smaller than the 2013 amount and shrinking every time another comment gets lost in the ozone.!

    1. This surprises me. Thanks for the tip.

      PS You sound like me – “I come here to chew bubble gum and engage in commenting hilarity with the Reasonoids….and your site is all out of comments. Down goes my donation!”

    2. Thanks again for the tip – I sent a note to JD, since he’s listed as an Editor for .com.

      We’ll see if it helps.

      1. You might drop one to Mike A also.
        (annnnnnnd there goes ANOTHER 10-spot!)

    3. Well of course the hit rates aren’t falling. everytime you have to reload to post a comment multiple times you get another hit. Perhaps monitoring multiple metrics including say the rate new comments are being posted might be a good idea. Then maybe they could even cross correlate and have a monitor compare the number of clicks on the submit button to the number of comments in the database.

      Can we get some young tech savy people to go to work for Reason’t IT department? Or even better some older tech savy ones who know what the hell they are doing?

      1. Rasilio,
        ‘They’ are not monitoring the comments. You will have to contact someone to let them know.
        As far as they are concerned, you just added to the hit total.

        1. Yes, I know. I was pointing out that not monitoring comments meant their IT guys were not doing their jobs

      2. Do they really count repeat hits from the same IP? That seems…kinda dumb.

    4. I agree with that. Its so frustrating.

  2. Reason, would you please fix this site? Where are you hosting this at, some server shed in Zimbabwe? Do you need some help? This is getting ridiculous, it’s almost impossible to post a good percentage of the time. It looks really bad, seriously.

    1. And when I say looks really bad, I’m not talking about the style of the site, I mean the constant posting issues.

      1. Hyperion,
        See above; no one is reading the comments.

        1. One of the reasons Cavanaugh was my favorite reason writer.

        2. Doherty reads his.

    2. “Where are you hosting this at, some server shed in Zimbabwe?”

      Thank you for submitting a question to Reason Technical Support. We are forwarding your questions to our tech support expert, CHONOUYAZUE TANYARADZWA, who is guaranteed to respond to QUESTION # 23429082@2984*2340×5 within at least 4 harvest periods. In the meantime, do not attempt to catch or touch any squirrels you may encounter, as there have been reports that infection has been spreading. Keep your windows closed, stand on a chair, and be prepared to receive a phone call between the hours of 4-9AM HARARE TIME

  3. To anyone who makes the mistake of looking at a government job : Stay the fuck away! It’s a soul-killing place to be. It collects the people you least want to associate with and pettiness by ‘managers’ is almost encouraged. They will not reward good work, only good friends. The incentive structure is entirely backwards from what you want in a healthy organization.

    1. “Come, work for a bunch of mediocre people drunk on the idea of finally having enough power to form a clique! Orthodox thinking, toadying, and yes-bossism will be your biggest skills! Don’t want to think or work much? Happy to have lots of time off and good insurance? Have we got a spot for you!”

      1. A born copy-writer!

      2. Where can I find an application??!!

        1. Where can I find an application??!!

          For feds:

      3. Gawd, that describes the company I work for to a tee, and we don’t even have anything to do with the .gov.

    2. If you do want to do good work, you’ll be at the mercy of people who don’t want to do the work and cannot be made to do the work. Then your group director will wonder why the turnover among good people is so high.

  4. According to a survey of college undergraduates by employer-branding consultancy Universum, student interest in federal work has declined over the last four years.

    If noted supergenius miracle worker B Obama couldn’t completely remake America in his first term, it’s obviously too hard, so why bother? You might as well just go be an app developer.

  5. It seems like those reasons would attract the current crop of young people. Minus the party drugs thing of course, which is going to be anywhere you go. Actually, the vast majority of state jobs here don’t drug test. Something about some pesky 4th Amendment thing…..

    1. GW|6.13.14 @ 11:24AM|#
      “It seems like those reasons would attract the current crop of young people.”

      The default employer of those with victim-studies degrees.

    2. It seems like those reasons would attract the current crop of young people. Minus the party drugs thing of course, which is going to be anywhere you go.

      Yeah, you hold onto that irrational hatred for youth despite any evidence.

  6. When I was at my first real job, I remember seeing notices for some government jobs in my building, and some of them looked kind of like a step up that I was qualified for, so I started to look into applying. It immediately set off my internal alarms when I saw how much bullshit was required to apply for the job, how much paperwork had to be filled out, and just how long and arduous the application process would be. And this was for more entry-level tech jobs. I also ran into schedules of how one advanced, at what rate one was allowed to do that, and all kinds of descriptions of how seniority worked and the like. I was still pretty young and didn’t know much, but everything about the whole deal turned me off and triggered my “I hate bureaucracy” reflexes.

    Then as I got older and more experienced I realized how accurate my reservations had been. If you’re young and ambitious and ready to work hard and kick ass in exchange for rapid advancement, do not go near government jobs, ever.

    1. Some large companies are getting about to this point. The process for being hired or promoted makes you wonder how the hell they stay in business…

      1. HR is winning their war on hiring practices. Fuck the business needs, all applicants and current personnel must kowtow to the HR gurlz.

        1. This is the bullshit I’m fighting at my current company.

          “We need to improve our processes and become more efficient.”

          “Ok. Get rid of the HR department.”

          “*GASP* That’s ridiculous!”

  7. What’s the most infuriating college major you’ve ever heard of?

    “Art Therapy” ranks pretty high for me.

    1. Working-class studies. No, really, that exists.

      1. General rule of thumb. If you want to have a job don’t major in anything that fits the template “________ studies”

    2. Art Therapy’s not so bad. A person might actually find a job in that field as long as they are willing to move to wherever a job is. The one that annoyed me when I was at the University of Wisconsin was “History of Science.” Every time someone told me they were majoring in that, I had to resist the urge to roll my eyes.

  8. As someone who looked for a government job out of college (and thankfully didn’t find one before I got hired in the private sector) there were a few issues:
    1) It takes months to hear back (if at all) about any job posting

    2a) Some of the entry level postings include tests so you need to make the extra effort to go to a crowded federal office or a testing center.

    2b) Additionally, veterans and disabled veterans are given extra points as preference (5 points & 10 points respectively). So you could score 100 on a test and it will still be extremely unlikely for you to get a position. They are given similar preference for regular job postings. For better or worse this is a barrier for fresh graduates.

    3) You need to be flexible about moving locations (usually asked to select your top 3 locations). The easiest way to get a job is to go to the offices nobody wants to like Lincoln, Nebraska.

    4) The drug & lie detector thing excludes people pretty much based on whether they get nervous about lying.

    1. I applied to work with the OCC (Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

      The person conducting the interview had virtually no interviewing skills. She constantly interrupted my responses.

      The “2nd Round” of the interview was a 100 multiple Choice Questionnaire that told me I was “Not Qualified” for the job. It was merely a psychological placement test. No technical economics or banking questions.

      These people suck.

      1. Yeah, that’s even worse than I’d have expected.

        *lowers expectations even further….and can’t*

  9. My guess is that the big sticking point for the current generation is the application process.

  10. “without young tech-savvy talent, the public sector will fall behind.”

    Fall behind *what*?

    I thought the whole point of government work was that there is no competition, so failure and ineptitude is perfectly acceptable.

    1. “Looking for Programmers in Focus, Visual Basic, C and maintenance technicians with experience repairing Wang and Fortune equipment….”

      1. You laugh, but I just got put on a contract to maintain a classic ASP application that is 600 pages, mission critical and integrates with SL. I got stuck with it, because I’m the only person in the company who was dumb enough to admit experience with VBScript.

        1. Sounds to me like you’re in the catbird seat. Threaten to quit monthly so they’ll have to find someone else or default on the contract and watch the retention premiums roll in.

          Play your cards right and by the time the contract expires (or the machine that runs the application sets fire to itself) you can be an executive VP and independently wealthy. You can then suggest to the customer that the application be upgraded to another platform — which only you know.

  11. I see they disappeared the troll commenting about libertarianism being smaller than.,,,something. So my comment rolled up to P Brooks’ comment.


    Why’d you disappear the guy? I didn’t think his comments were offensive or anything. He was just a derp.

    🙁 I haz a sad – Reason falling to the level of deleting comments 🙁

    1. It was one of the two trolls that get ejected whenever they reveal themselves. I think it was commenting last night and showed the telltales but I’ll be damned if I could remember which it was this morning.

      1. I think it was ‘Merkin.

  12. Oh – I see commenting works again, too. Yay!

    (-$10 more….)

    1. My weekend beer is covered by now. ‘Course it’s not deductible, but it is consumable.
      (oops; there goes another 10-spot)

  13. I thought the government was going to get the young people to become government-sector bureaucrats by making it easier to pay off student loans if you worked in the government sector.

    1. It’s cheaper and easier to hope that the Obama administration will have (another) moral collapse and issue an executive order allowing student debt to be discharged in bankruptcy. Less danger, too, of having your own moral collapse due to working for the Office of Redundancy Department doing everything in quadruplicate. Press hard, you are making four copies.

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