When the two of us look at life after college, there seems to be a clear fork in the road between private sector jobs that aim to give students the best outlet for learning and public sector positions that offer little in the way of creative thinking. While Georgetown may provide us the skills to explore our minds and help define what is possible in the world, it seems as if most students feel a disconnect between exploring their minds and crafting a life dedicated to service. Let’s say, for instance, that I’ve had a strong interest in energy since I came to Georgetown. If I work at the Department of Energy after graduation, will I be able to continue to explore my passions, or will I become another cog? What will happen to my lofty dreams to work on battery technology to advance renewables like wind and solar? Can I focus on that as an entry-level auditor “performing systematic examinations and appraisals of financial-related records”? (Yes, that’s the only job we found on USA Jobs for recent graduates at the Department of Energy.) How dream-crushing-ly unappealing does that job sound?
But, wait, it gets worse. How can I build and maintain a creative mind in government when the majority of the federal workforce is over 45? In 2013, almost 12 percent of government workers were over 60 compared to the 7 percent of workers under the age of 30. Now, as much as we love working on group projects with our grandparents, I think we’ll pass.
So where do we fit in? How do we marry our love of innovation and creativity with the desire to serve the public?
As a community that is supposed to embody the Jesuit motto of “men and women for others,” there has been a surprising drop in the percentage of students who consider careers in public service. From the School of Foreign Service to the College, as well as in the School of Nursing and Health Studies and the McDonough School of Business, we have had several conversations with students that highlight that the problem exists on the supply side as well as the demand side.
On the supply side, the government just isn’t as present on campus — ironic considering our location — as private sector employers, especially in consulting and banking jobs that purport to pay hefty salaries to all majors, regardless of whether you studied biology, English or finance. In addition, the government tends to recruit in late spring, long after many seniors have decided on their jobs after school. To top it off, even many entry-level positions depend heavily on prior experience when screening candidates. Part of the problem, then, is that the government does not do as good a job as the private sector at recruiting.
On the demand side, students are losing sight of their passions and potential to create change in lieu of higher-paying positions. There’s a growing community at Georgetown that is defined by kids who decide to pursue a career or summer internship because it is de facto “required” by social norms. It’s the students who are doing consulting because they are unsure of what to do in the short term, or the biology major looking into banking because it was the highest-paying job.
These aren’t hypotheticals — some of our best friends fall into this category, and even we can’t escape the pull towards some of these careers.
Steps are being in taken in the right direction with organizations like 18F, which uses our younger generation’s skills and creates digital products for government organizations, but the government and students need to meet each other halfway. An opportunity exists to build a student-run organization that pushes Hoyas into public service careers and internship opportunities using alumni and institutional connections. An opportunity exists within the government to revamp recruiting programs to excite some of the best talent in this country that is educated for a career in public service to once again consider it as a great option.
Time to get to work.
Naman Trivedi is a senior in the School of Foreign Service. Rohan Shetty is a senior in the McDonough School of Business. [and Service] appears every other Monday.