Looking at the residence listings of GovLoop members made me feel a bit of an outsider; so many are from what I would consider the “DC Area.” It made me wonder how valuable GovLoop would be for me, as a Washington Outsider. But then I got to thinking: what, if any, are the real differences? We are all Federal employees, after all, and that should give us some level of commonality. Or does it?
In the early days of my career, the Forest Service’s Washington Office (WO for short) was a vague and distant concept that didn’t really apply much to my day to day routine. After all, what did bureaucrats in stuffy offices and even stuffier suits have to do with my job kayaking through the Alaskan wilderness, educating visitors about nature and wilderness values?
As I grew in my career, this view of course changed. But even then I still held the idea of the WO being bureaucrats who made up policies without giving real thought to the effects they would have on the ground. They were people too far removed from the reality of forest management. They made up studies with goofy, jargony names that didn’t mean anything. They made changes that didn’t need to be made. Oh yeah, and they took most of our budget.
These days, however, I see things differently. I’ve been around long enough to see a couple of good, enjoyable career paths that might lead me to the (gasp!) Washington Office! As my career goals have become more defined, as well as my growing self-identity as a leader within the agency, I realize that people like me eventually end up “on the Beltway” because we have the experience and knowledge to help shape our agency’s policies for the better. Heck, I may even buy a suit one day.
So that’s how my view of DC-ers has evolved. But I wonder: what do they think of someone like me? Am I some tree-hugging bumpkin? Am I the person who gets dirt under her fingernails, doing the grunt work while they do the “important” work? Within the Forest Service, I don’t think so……But I wonder about people in other sectors of government. I don’t know any, so I can’t speculate. So I guess I’ll just have to read your posts to find out.
Perceptions aside, I think we have plenty in common, regardless of where we work or for what agency:
• We all represent the Federal Government, not only 9 to 5 but to our friends, families, and neighbors who know where we work. This can be a tough road to hoe, depending on the perception of your agency’s actions in your local area. (Try working for the Forest Service in Alaska).
• We are all public servants. Though our missions may be different, we all work on the taxpayer’s dime, and (hopefully!) that means something to us. We are acting on behalf of the entire country, and that brings us great responsibility. The People are trusting us to do the right things to make our country a better place for everyone.
• We all know we have a pretty good gig. Working for The Man is pretty secure, especially as our economy tanks and people are losing private-sector jobs left and right. Even the Government is downsizing in some areas, but even so we are still guaranteed a transfer if possible and worst case, a nice severance package. We rest assured knowing that there is no way we can walk into work tomorrow and be handed a pink slip. We know we’ll get our paychecks, paid annual and sick leave, and retirement (such as it may be).
• We have an opportunity to serve as real leaders for our country. While not all Federal Employees think about this, those of us who do take it seriously. Whether our goal is to lead in the Capitol, in our agencies, or in our communities, we recognize that we are in a position to help effect change in our society.
So while it may seem that we come from different planets, at the core of it all we share the same foundations.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject. What are your perceptions of the inside/outside the beltway divide? Or does it really exist?
Let the posting begin!