Lessons Learned from My First Year as a Public Employee

December 5, 2012

Photo credit: Henryk Sadura-iStock-Thinkstock

On October 3, 2011, I began my first day as a public employee.

When I originally applied, I didn’t really have any idea of how public sector employment would differ from my experiences in the private sector.  I had worked at major corporations, medium-sized companies, and even a tiny company with just three full-time employees.  Surely, I had experienced it all and no new experience could be too jarring.

Well, here I am one year later and what have I learned?

I knew by the end of my first day, not only how to sign my name on about a thousand personnel forms without getting a hand cramp, but that my organization was filled with exceptionally intelligent and motivated people. It was evident they were dedicated to public service and always striving for excellence. My new fellow employees were passionate about the work they were doing, and I felt honored to be chosen to work among them.

A refreshing revelation was to find myself working in an environment where the emphasis is providing service to the people of Colorado as opposed to a singular focus on sales numbers and profits.

Looking back on my private sector experience, it is astonishing how much that perspective got in the way of doing great work. Creativity and, oddly enough, efficiency were stifled by upper management’s seemingly singular focus.  It didn’t matter what exceptional service I was providing to the customer, all that mattered was that my work increased sales numbers and profits.

Much to my satisfaction, my work in the public sector is about how I can provide the best service to our customers.

A challenging aspect of public employment is the reality of always having to do a lot with very little. Public sector budgets have been on a steady decrease for years, but the demand for our services has not waned. I learned very quickly that innovation and efficient use of resources are paramount in the public sector. Public employees provide vital services to the state, so we simply must maintain a high level of service no matter what constraints we may work under.

Finally, I can now say that my work makes a difference! (Cue the rainbows and puppy dogs.)

Without a doubt, I can prove that by coming into work every day, I am making a positive impact on the community. We serve hundreds of thousands of Colorado residents, and I am proud to say that I love being a public employee.

Other articles you may be interested in:
Back in Session: What Public Employees Should Know About the Legislature
Public Service is in Our DNA