Memo to the next prez: Gen ‘Y’ is ready and willing to serve

Roughly one-third of young adults seriously would consider a career in public service if asked by a parent or the next president of the United States, according to survey results released Tuesday by the Gallup Organization.

Of the respondents, 60 percent under the age of 30 reported that they hadn't been asked ever to consider a job in government. But 33 percent of the same group of millennials said they'd give the idea "a great deal of consideration" if their parents suggested public service as a vocation, while 29 percent reported they'd do the same if the next president called on them to serve.

Additionally, 70 percent of Americans older than 30 said no one had asked them to consider a government job, but 30 percent of those respondents stated they'd be more likely to give the matter serious thought if the country's new commander-in-chief requested it.

The results were released and discussed by six panelists at a May 6 breakfast hosted by the nonprofit Council for Excellence in Government and Gallup.

"This shows what possibilities there are with this new [presidential] transition," said Patricia McGinnis, president of the Council for Excellence in Government. "This is a transition that is more sweeping than we've seen in decades. No incumbent president or vice president is running, and we have new possibilities in Washington."

When asked how appealing a job in public service would be, 70 percent of those ages 18 to 29, and 53 percent older than 30 said "very" or "fairly appealing." Both age groups indicated that the best motivators for considering a public service career would be opportunities for growth and advancement based on performance (51 percent) as well as a flexible schedule and the chance to telecommute (45 percent). Millennials also said student loan forgiveness (27 percent) and continuing education benefits (26 percent) would be strong incentives for a career in government.

When it comes to exploring jobs in the federal government, respondents from both age groups said they would be most likely to look at government Web sites as their primary source of information. Of millennials, 11 percent said they would use search engines like Google and Yahoo to learn about federal jobs, compared with 6 percent of those older than 30.

Still, several panelists said Tuesday that the federal government's current processes for advertising federal jobs and hiring new applicants were too rigid and burdensome, turning off many young applicants.

Adam Lusin, a millennial who is a management analyst at the State Department, said the federal hiring process takes too long, especially when compared to private companies that can hire applicants instantly. He recommended that agencies educate potential applicants on how to navigate the government's hiring process through various sources, including online message boards and blogs and career centers on college campuses.

McGinnis added that all federal agencies could benefit from having direct hiring authority, noting the practice currently is available only to a handful of agencies. "Members of Congress and those who are shaping the rules and regulations need to be in this conversation as well," she said. "Creating this kind of flexibility is going to require a collaborative effort that goes beyond the executive branch."

Still, Warren Wright, managing partner at Gallup, warned against suggesting that the government's sole focus should be on recruiting millennials. "We don't want to leave the impression that we'll give up on anyone over 30," he said.

Elizabeth Kolmstetter, deputy chief human capital officer for the National Intelligence Directorate, said agencies should work to attract workers of all ages, noting that hiring and placing experienced workers into the executive ranks is a relatively new concept to the federal government. She recommended avoiding generational stereotypes, pointing out that government offers attractive benefits -- such as job security, career advancement and training -- to all age groups.

Lusin said the federal government had the mission and values that match the ideals of many millennials, and he encouraged agencies to capitalize on those strengths to attract and retain younger hires. "The type of work agencies do is noble and honorable," he said, "and that's not a message that is all the time communicated to younger millennials."

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