Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Government Jobs, A Double Edged Sword

I was talking to a friend recently who was lamenting her government job.  It was not that she was particularly disgruntled with her job, it was just that she felt that she had reached the peak of what she was going to accomplish in the next dozen or so years.  You see, for her to move up anymore, she would have to wait for her boss to leave or retire.  Neither of these seem likely at the present time.

This is in contrast to my current situation.  I have had some pretty good growth over the last few years.  The one exception for me would be at Microsoft.  Ironically, I would say Microsoft, up until recently, is almost like a government job.  What do I mean by this?  One of the reasons people covet government jobs is the security.  Take my mom for example.  She never had to worry about layoffs.  She worked for the government for over 35 years.  Through booms and busts, she kept her job. She did not have fantastic career growth, but she always had a job.

Now think about this.  If you have a government job, and your job is pretty safe no matter the situation, that means all your coworkers also have pretty safe and secure jobs.   There can only be so many managers in any organization whether they be public or private.  If there is never any turnover, there are fewer opportunities to move up as the bosses stick around just like the people underneath them.  As I stated in my previous post, some of my best career growth came at times where there were layoffs.  Layoffs create voids.  Voids at work create opportunities for someone to step in and take more responsibility.  This inevitably leads to career advancement.

I felt this way at Microsoft.  I felt trapped under the weight of the management above me.  There was great opportunity for growth when the size of the company was doubling every other year, but the pace of growth had slowed down dramatically and it had reached a saturation point when it came to management.  Because people just did not lose their job anywhere near fast enough, I worked with several people that should have been kicked out long ago, and the benefits are good enough to keep many people around, I just did not feel I could move up at the pace I wanted to and I was used to.  So I left, because, while I liked a lot of things about the company, and I was certain I could have had a job for years to come, I was never going to get the growth I desired.

And as if to prove my point, my career growth has come much faster than I could have ever predicted.  I now run an entire technology organization for the main division of my company including development, QA, and project management.  This same position at Microsoft would have taken me at a minimum six or seven years and more realistically it would have taken me ten or twelve.  Some of this has come with a lot more uncertainty, I could lose my job tomorrow for all I know, but it is a trade off I'm willing to make.

What do you think?  Is job security worth sacrificing career advancement?

1 comment:

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