• Opinion
  • August 17, 2018
  • 8 minutes
  • 4

Three myths and misconceptions young people have about public service

Opinion: Canada's public servants have flexibility, new digital skills — and don't just push paper

This opinion piece was written by Amanda Bernardo, an analyst at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. 

It is all too common that a set of myths will form and uncharitably depict a profession. We hear these misconceptions all the time. While some may be harmless, others have the potential to hold people back from starting a position they otherwise would have loved.

The reality is you don’t ever truly know whether a career is right for you until you’re fully immersed within it. Unfortunately, we don’t always have the luxury to leave job security behind to venture off and try something new.

However, with great risk often comes great reward. So if you’re looking to become a public servant, let me help by eliminating some of the myths and misconceptions that may be holding you back.

Myth 1: The private sector offers more career flexibility.

Flexibility is probably one of the most amazing features of being a public servant. Did you know the federal government has over 201 departments, agencies, Crown Corporations and special operating agencies? If that doesn’t scream flexibility, I don’t know what else can.

As a student, you have the flexibility to work with the public service while completing your studies through the federal student work experience program or to be recruited afterwards through the post-secondary recruitment program.

As a permanent employee, you have the option to go on secondment, assignment, or even on an interchange in order to build your experience in and outside the public service. A secondment, similar to an assignment, is a temporary move of an employee to another department or agency to perform the functions of a position that already exists or to take on a special project. An interchange is a temporary assignment inside (for external employees) and outside (for public servants) the public service that enables a transfer of knowledge and expertise and contributes to the professional development of participants.

The public service has also launched Canada’s Free Agents, which offers public servants the freedom to select work that matches their skills and interests and allows them to move between departments and make a contribution that they find meaningful.

Don’t forget, the public service is always posting jobs across Canada that offer new challenges and opportunities to grow in your career: the possibilities are endless.

Myth 2: Public servants are paper pushers.

Okay, so maybe a few jobs are heavy on the paperwork … but that may be your thing.

As an analyst, a lot of my work requires a large amount of reading and writing on a daily basis. However, for someone whose background is in just that, being able to evaluate, analyse and provide advice, with the perk of knowing that my work has an effect on the decisions that serve Canadians across the country, is a pretty incredible feeling.

But if writing is not your thing, don’t fret. There are a diverse range of jobs available across the public service.

You could be:

  • an aircraft crew member with Transport Canada’s National Aerial Surveillance program;
  • a border services officer with the Canadian Border Services Agency;
  • a veterinarian with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency;
  • a park warden or a fire management specialist with the Parks Canada Agency;
  • an environmental officer with the National Capital Commission;
  • a commanding officer with the Canadian Coastguard; or even
  • a free agent with Canada’s Free Agents.

Be sure to follow @jobs_gc to see the latest job postings on your Twitter feed. There are also a number of public servants online sharing their stories and experiences through the online chat series #LeadersGC. Check out this particular chat that highlights some of the incredible things public servants do across Canada.

Myth 3: The public service is not digital.

Have you met Alex Benay? Alex is the current chief information officer for the government Canada and he and his teams have made incredible strides in digitising the public service. Whether through the work they are leading with Open Government and GCcollab, the development of a cloud-first policy, or the launch of the Canadian Digital Service, the idea of digital first is here … and here to stay.

While the public service may have struggled in this area in the past, the appointment of the new minister for digital government has driven Canada to become a leader in the D7.

What does digital first mean for you as a public servant? It means you’ll have access to the tools that enable you to work better, whether at home or in the office. Equipping employees with the right technology goes a long way in ensuring they have the flexibility and ease to get their jobs done.

Don’t hold back

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions around what it means to be a public servant. Sure, we may hold one or two meetings that likely could have been avoided every once in a while, but at the end of the day we’re an inspiring, hard-working and passionate group of people all driven by a common mission: to make positive change for citizens.

Whether we push paper or serve on the coastguard, we’re doing incredible things each and every day that make the public service the incredible place that it is.

So, if you’re holding back from joining the public service because you heard one of these myths or misconceptions, don’t anymore. — Amanda Bernardo 

(Picture credit: Flickr/Adolf Galland)



Leave a Reply

to leave a comment.
Master the skills you need for the public service.

Discover inspiring resources, tools and policies.