I'll second @Jason: It depends on who you ask.
I see three kinds of government workers.
- Political appointees who may bounce back and forth between private sector and government.
- People who happen to work at a government because that's where the work is. Some IT, HR, clerical, data entry, construction, etc. If they find a higher-paying job outside of government, they'll be gone in a heartbeat.
- People who, like @doris and @Jim, see government service as an opportunity to work for the greater good and accept the trade-offs that government work demands.
It takes a special mindset to devote yourself to pushing your agency's mission through administration changes and public opinion mood swings. And it's possible to start out with a feeling of calling, only to have it change to "just a job" after these sorts of agency changes (or just doing the same work for years).
I was lucky to get into a policy position when I started in state government. Although I've transitioned to web and social media, I still have a sense of mission. As I creep closer to retirement, though, I find some of the passion is gone, and I have to motivate myself differently to regain that passion.
Great post, Doris!