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Recruiting Gen Y to Government – “Do Good”

Much has been written about the incoming retirement tsunamai in government and the potential brain drain. While there are many pieces to the government workforce problem (retainment issues, attracting mid-level hires, how to tap into retiring govies), an integral piece will be the government’s ability to attract Gen Y workers to government service.

Just today CNN published an article entitled “How to lure Gen Y workers? Do Good.” The crux of the story is that corporate recruiters for big corporations such as PriceWaterhouseCoopers highlight their community and environment-minded projects to draw civic-minded youth.

This follows up a June 2008 Washington Post Article entitled “The Amazing Adventures of Supergrad.” The part of the article I found fascinating had a similar theme. JPMorganChase holds a Good Ventures Charity contest for undergrads where they give $25,000 for the undergrad with the best non-profit project. The article argues that the bank holds this contest mainly as a way to get the best and brightest who are now often focused in doing good in their offices to convince them to becomes investment bankers. Just like the CNN article they use their charity projects and ability to take time to volunteer to recruit superstar undergrads to work for their investment bank.

The “Do Good” philosophy continues to grow and has even spawned a magazine. What I find great about this magazine (and their events) is they make “doing good” fun, cool, creative, and stylish.

The time is perfect for government to be staffing up and recruiting the best and brightest undergrads. Government offers the ability to “do good” on a range of important issues from hurricane relief, environment protection, the war on terror, and education reform. Plus, the government offers better pay than non-profits, pretty good work/life balance, and greater job security.

So why is government not seen as an employer of choice for undergrads. I think it comes down to a few key reasons:

1) Poor marketing. Besides the military, there is very little marketing of government jobs and usually it is not half as good as corporations such as KPMG, Deloitte, etc.

2) Byzantine process. The hiring process needs to be more straight-forward and similar to the private sector. The rise of government two-year rotation programs such as Army AK Leaders, ICMA Fellows program, and GAO PDP program are starts. We need more of these types of programs.

3) Lack of single national program for undergrads. There is no one singular prestigious program for entry in federal government for undergrads. We have the Presidential Management Fellows program for graduate students. We need a Teach for America, PeaceCorps, or AmeriCorps type program for federal service.

4) Selling the mission. We need to emphasize government is the employer of choice if you want to “do good.” Government often gets a bad rap so we have to education the importance of government service. Regardless of political preference, we need government to perform efficiently and effectively and provide necessary services at the local, state, and federal level.

What do you think the government should be doing to recruiting Gen Y to government service? I really think we need some fresh thinking on this topic instead of business as usual.

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Isiah Jones

1. Pay off student loans. At least offer some type of sign on and/or retention deal to help ease the worry of making of enough money to quickly get out of debt, increase my credit score etc.
2. Offer engaged developmental work assignments.
3. Offer engaged mentorship and access to individuals at the highest levels of the organization.
4. Offer flexible, paid for, rotational assignments and travel assignments early in a new hires career.
5. Have meaningful developmental programs for entry level GS 5, 7, 9, 11 hires.
6. Create an environment where we feel that it’s ok to voice our ideas even if not accepted.
7. Encourage knowledge transfer from the status quo to the new hires, no one lives and works full-time forever and everyone that retires isn’t coming back as a contractor etc.
8. On a continuous and progressive basis create forums, workshops, conferences, trainings, all hands etc opportunities to teach entry level and new hires the importance of the organization, the organizational breakdown, where they fit in, opportunities for advancement, where resources are needed etc make them feel apart of something bigger than themselves…
9. Seek to understand individual strengths, weaknesses, personalities, ambitions, motivations etc. Some of us are more directed and forward thinking than others so you can’t stereotype an entire Generation.

Emma Dozier

Number 4 is so important. The kids who don’t get number 4 you wouldn’t want working for you anyway. I was so concerned about how much my senior year professors stressed the “bottom-line” so much, and found myself a fantastic NONcorporate job. I don’t know if I could ever go into the private sector!

Niva Kramek

Great post – esp 1 & 2 in the original post. I probably wouldn’t have been interested in a govt career without great mentorship and a few years of work for professors who were retired feds. They did a spectacular job selling it & also explaining what the day to day was like, highs & lows, and govt perks. Without that, I probably wouldn’t have considered it – despite a pretty consistent presence of govt recruiters at different job fairs. So better, more consistent, and more thorough marketing PLUS a process where your interaction with recruiters actually means something in the job application process.

Several agencies offer programs to pay part of your loans – it varies sometimes within offices. My HR person told me to talk to my supervisor, so I think it’s a discretionary part of your pay package. The program is modest, but every bit helps, so you might want to see if your office/agency offers it.