What Can I do in Government, a signature event co-hosted bySFU Career Services and theArts and Social Sciences Co-op, took place on March 24, 2010. The session allowed students to connect with panelists consisting of alumni, current students and managers who all had experience working in the public sector. Students had the opportunity to hear what the panelists had to say about what it's like working for the federal, provincial or municipal government.
During the event, I've had the opportunity to talk to four panelists who came from different areas of the government. Although the panelists had experiences unique from each other, they offered some similar tips for students who would like to work for the government.
Consider Co-op. According to Russell Vallee, Business Process Program Development Officer for the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat, Co-op is the best way to start a career with the government. Through a Co-op term, you can make the necessary connections to get your career started. It may also accelerate the bridging mechanism for getting a government position after your graduation.
Chris Lo, who graduated from SFU with a Business Administration degree and is currently working for the city of Burnaby, increased his chances of getting a government job through Co-op. Before graduation, Chris had completed six Co-op terms with various private and non-profit organizations. The experience he gained through Co-op helped in securing his current role with the city of Burnaby.
Get your foot in the door. Initially, you may not get a government position that's totally in synch with your academic background. "Take anything they offer you," advised Melanie McNabb, a Communications Officer for the Treasury Board Secretariat. She emphasized that getting your foot in the door is important. Once you're in, positions posted internally may allow you to move to a more ideal role.
Mention any second languages. For some government positions such as Melanie's current role, being fluent in English and French are essential. According to Zaita Alavi, Program Assistant for theCanadian International Development Agency (CIDA), a second language and international experience may also be an asset if you're looking to work for an international agency such as CIDA.
If you're not fluent in French, however, don't get discouraged. Chris noted that not all government positions require fluency in French. Job postings would make it clear whether a second language is essential, considered an asset or not required.
If you're fluent with another language other than French - for instance, Mandarin or Japanese - consider putting this information in your resume, according to Chris. A lot of customer service-oriented positions with the government require working with a diverse group, so a hiring manager might be interested with this skill even if it's not explicitly mentioned in the job posting.
Check government sites. A majority of government jobs may not be posted on sites such as Monster or Workopolis. For civic jobs, Chris suggested going to Civicjobs.ca, a job search site specifically meant for municipal postings. Chris also recommended the City of Burnaby website or visiting the official site of the municipality that you're interested with.
On the federal level, Russell recommended jobs.gc.ca, a site hosted by the Public Service Commission. If there's an agency that you're interested with, you can also go directly to its website. Azita recommended visiting the CIDA Youth Zone website for information about international internship and volunteer opportunities. The various provinces also have their dedicated sites for job-seekers such as the BC Public Service website.
When you check these various sites, don't be discouraged if you don't see a lot of job postings. Different agencies have hiring waves on different months of the year. Chris recommended using the job alert function on the site, if it has one. This functionality automatically notifies you if new positions that seem to fit your needs are posted.
Volunteer! As an HR advisor, Chris knows first-hand how competitive it can be to secure a government job. Chris credited his volunteer experience as aCareer Peer Educator at SFU for giving him the extra edge he needed. He encouraged attendees to do the same and to gain volunteer experience while they're still at SFU.
It is not surprising that a lot of students are interested with government positions. Working for the government can provide you with a stable and rewarding career. Get ahead of the competition by considering the tips above. Make sure you also contactSFU Career Services and your faculty'sCo-op office for more information.