Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Why I seriously consider quitting my cushy federal public service job...

At the very bare end of this fiscal year, March 2012, the Harper Government™ tabled a deficit reducing budget that will have a significant impact on federal public servants, and on public services in general.  The budget proposes to cut 19,200 federal public sector jobs, and subsequent reporting seems to indicate that 4,800 of those jobs will be in the National Capital Region.

Despite the news that letters are going out letting employees know they are affected (or, on the list of jobs to be cut, but the employee may find another job through a competition or some other process, and thus remain in the public service), I am 99% sure that I won't be among those receiving a letter.  Why can I be that confident?  Simply put, I am the sole policy analyst on a program that receives a lot of attention from this government.  My team is a team of two: myself, the working-level analyst, and my manager.  What's more, the policy for this program is relatively new (though the program is older than I am), and it is expected that we will continue to develop that policy to improve access for those eligible.  Sure, our team could be reassigned to a new group - I have no doubt this is possible - but that doesn't shake my confidence in my belief I am in no danger of being cut.

So then, why am I seriously considering the notion of walking away from a sure thing?  Am I nuts?  Well, the latter is a question that bears some consideration, but I can answer the former question with more ease.

Before I discuss my reasoning, I have to disclose that I do have external personal reasons, but I have chosen to keep those out of this discussion because they aren't relevant for my immediate purpose.

I suppose the most simple way to sum it up is this: this is not where I should be at this particular moment in time.  I am a relatively young, relatively new public servant in what is known as a professional substantive position, meaning I have the potential to do a lot of things - I can move up, I can change files, I can stay where I am.  But I arrived at a bad time.

I arrived at a time when the Strategic Review and Strategic Operating Review processes were underway, and the door for new hires was already closing.  Thanks to those processes, many departments have been looking for new ways to cut spending, and unfortunately, training and development are among the ways identified for elimination or reduction in order to save money by some departments.  As a result, opportunities for me to develop and advance are disappearing. 

I'm already at a disadvantage in moving around or up.  I grew up in a part of the country where French was not a priority, and even though I took French classes all through school (even into Grade 12), it was not immersion training, so it lacked meaningful, operational foundations, and it was quickly forgotten once I left high school, leaving me with only the most basic skills and comprehension.  When I came to the federal public service, it was on the understanding that I would receive supports to acquire French language skills.  Yet at one opportune moment, my request was denied, and at another, my request was scuttled because of the decision to develop other employees with higher levels of comprehension than I have.

Now, other training opportunities will be cut, or else priced beyond current training budgets, so I have virtually no opportunities to grow and develop beyond my immediate file as an analyst.  I, and others like me will reach the upper limits of our current positions soon (after all, we are highly educated and acquiring experience needed to move up), and we will stagnate.  Our natural ambition, the one that got us where we are now, will not end just because of budget cuts.  So, in light of the reality setting in for the public service, I conclude that it is not the time in my long term career goals to wait this out.

The upshot here is that more than myself can benefit from my decision to leave.  I get to move on to pursue my long term career goals, but I leave behind a job that needs to be filled.  Someone else at my substantive level (or higher), who may have an urgent need to stay attached to the public service, can take my position.  After all, I am unattached, I do not have children or parental/familial responsibilities, and I am not tethered to a home by a mortgage.  It is expected that more people of my age and substantive level have one or more of these obligations, and need this job more urgently than I do.

I can't say yet that I am safe; I know that there is that 1% chance that I will be affected.  But either way, I see this as an opportunity, not a problem.  Once I know if my position is not affected, I can better determine how to operationalize my thoughts.  Until then, still your faithful public servant...



At 1:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I came across your blog through a similar search. Similar to you, I was accepted to the public service in 2011 (before the federal public service cuts) and similar to you, I am unattached and concerned with career advancement in my current position. Unfortunately, I am not in a major location either where I can pursue other means of advancement on the side. I was wondering whether you have moved away from your position? I am considering leaving my position for further studies (my position has not been affected yet).

At 2:43 PM, Blogger Fancy C. Poitras said...

Well, I've been doing my best. I've applied on close to 20 jobs across the country, and I've had several interviews so far. So there is progress in trying to leave.


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