Ottawa, plans, and families


in Daily updates, Economics, Ottawa

Ottawa in general, and the federal civil service in particular, seem ideally suited to those who want to get a mortgage, buy a house, and start having children. The benefits associated with government jobs are most valuable for those who have these kinds of plans; the same is true for the strong job security and minimal requirements for overtime hours or late evenings.

Personally, I feel like I have more in common with undergraduate students than with people who are at that stage of their lives. I don’t see my present situation as the base of a hill to be slowly climbed over the course of decades. I see it as another interim stage, albeit one from which it is hard to anticipate the character of the stage that will succeed it.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Alison December 8, 2008 at 8:05 pm

Word to that, Milan.

R.K. December 8, 2008 at 9:37 pm

One option would be to choose a specific date when you plan to leave Ottawa – perhaps a year or two out?

Tristan December 8, 2008 at 10:17 pm

Another option would be to choose a specific date to “get a mortgage, buy a house, and start having children.”

Alena December 8, 2008 at 11:48 pm

What you describe is a great advantage of working for the government. In private practice, many people do not have much time for children until they are partners or otherwise established. At the World Bank for example, many of my young professional colleagues spent 20 days out of a month traveling. It would have been virtually impossible to have children unless you had a partner willing to stay at home. Of course, having children is not a goal for everyone and it should not be.

Anonymous December 9, 2008 at 9:53 am

This is exactly the wrong time in your life to be working in a bureaucratic, low-risk, non-entrepreneurial environment. It is like investing in government bonds rather than stocks: dull, and with lower long-term returns and fewer lessons learned.

Milan December 9, 2008 at 10:59 am

Maybe paying off my student debt can be the unofficial hourglass of my government tenure.

Once that has been accomplished, I could consider myself free to do something more interesting and rewarding.

Sasha December 9, 2008 at 11:54 am

That’s the trouble with interesting and rewarding, isn’t it? It doesn’t tend to pay very well – at least in terms of salary. I have to say though, that it pays off in other ways that are at least as valuable.

Milan December 9, 2008 at 11:58 am

I find it very hard to believe that my year and a half in Ottawa has had the slightest effect on any present or future government policy or action.

It doesn’t get much less satisfying than that.

R.K December 9, 2008 at 1:51 pm

Given that you still feel like a student, have you considered going back for a PhD? Maybe once you have paid off existing student loans?

Hella Stella December 9, 2008 at 2:58 pm

Me too, Milan. We can both craft plans to break out.

emily December 9, 2008 at 3:07 pm

I vote PHD.

You would be researching and think-tanking everything that you are concerned about, plus the added bonus of having your student loans put on hold. Then you would have the option of teaching during your program, or at any point in the future.

Being in an academic program also puts you in touch with a lot of like-minded people who are very concerned. You could also do some very valuable networking.

emily December 9, 2008 at 3:09 pm

(and enjoy your energetic 2os)

Milan December 9, 2008 at 3:12 pm

You would be researching and think-tanking everything that you are concerned about, plus the added bonus of having your student loans put on hold.

Not true, because I paid off my government loans with a private loan that I thought would be less expensive to finance in the medium term. The biggest limitation of doing so was losing the option to suspend payments while in school.

Given my degree of frustration with not doing anything of concrete importance while working for government, heading back to academia might be the wrong move. After all, doctoral students are even less influential than the most thoroughly ignored bureaucrats.

I think it might be better to try and get a job with someone in the private sector doing good work on low-carbon technologies.

Litty December 9, 2008 at 3:38 pm

Maybe the thing to do is buckle down, reduce your expenses, and pay off those loans as fast as possible.

After that, you will be free to do whatever seems best.

Sarah December 9, 2008 at 7:35 pm

I wouldn’t advise anyone to embark on a PhD unless they are confident that it is needed for the life & career path they want. There are numerous disadvantages, not least that it takes much longer than people tend to anticipate, is often depressing (because progress is slow & hard to measure, the chances of employment in academia are low, people often find their supervision unsatisfactory etc etc), involves a lot of lost income, puts strain on relationships, & combines very poorly with having both a child and career if you are female.
Of course it is the role of later year PhD students to say this, while the role of beginning or wannabe PhD students is to ignore them ;-)

BuddyRich December 9, 2008 at 9:43 pm

Its just a job… stick it out, work your 9 to 5 and then party like its 1984 after work and on weekends… or if its accomplishment or whatnot that you want, volunteer, become an activist, etc… I don’t think now is the time to quit a secure job looking for a new one.

Granted I get to say this from the ivory towers a Government IT job. While the bureaucracy is the same (and having been in IT in the private sector the red tape bothers me something fierce sometimes), at least when I finish a project I have something useful to show for it, and know it will likely be used (not that projects don’t get canned and alot of hard work flushed down the drain,, but luckily it hasn’t happended to me yet. I could understand being frustrated if I wrote policy papers that no one read, or at least acted on! That’s why I am staying a programmer and not moving into a best practices\documentation and\or management role…

Litty December 11, 2008 at 7:16 pm

At the very least, it is a GOOD job: Getting Out of Debt!

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