The unsung heroes of the work world are the ones who make our lives easier, safer, and cleaner. These are the public servants who’s daily job is to make sure the rest of us don’t even notice them. Every hour of the day, in every city in the country, a team of people are quietly working behind the scenes to ensure our water supply is safe to drink, our sewers aren’t overflowing, and our streets are paved.
City employees perform duties all across the employment spectrum. This includes engineers, sanitation workers, public transportation workers, and the dreaded parking ticket attendants. Of course it takes an entire team behind those that work directly in a service position to keep the inner workings of city employment running smoothly. Therefore cities also employ an equally important staff of human resources personnel, IT specialists, and public relations officers to keep all the different components of the city workforce working in concert with one another. Even with all the varied positions available within a public sector job, this is still a frequently overlooked field when it comes to the typical person’s job search. Most job seekers out there don’t realize how many public sector jobs are available, including ones where the city is always looking for new applicants.
Just about any municipality is likely to be in great need of filling the positions that very few people are qualified for. Police officers are more than likely to be at the top of this list. Since a person must have a clean background check, be very physically fit, and have the patience to stay calm during very tense situations this is one of the harder jobs to find qualified applicants to fill. 911 operators are also in high demand given the extra level of skill that is required.
San Mateo is one city with an extensive network of public employees that range from waste water utility specialists to computer analysts. Letty Juarez, Senior HR Recruitment Analyst for San Mateo, says that hiring can take as long as two to three months from the time a positionis announced. These lead times are generally longer than what one might see in the private sector simply because of the due diligence that a public office must undertake before hiring anyone.
While it might take a while to work through the required testing process red tape, many people feel the side benefits to a government job far outweigh the initial hoops and hurdles it takes to get one. The city of San Mateo, for example, has a highly desirable pension plan called the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS). In this set-up the city makes pays the employee’s portion of their contribution to the retirement system—usually around 7% of their salary. An additional benefit is that the contributions and accrued value stay with you if you go on to work for another government agency.
Juarez mentions several other perks, including bi-lingual pay for employees who can act as translators for the diverse community of San Mateo. Currently the rate for an employee working in a bi-lingual capacity is an extra $195 per month on top of his or her regular salary. Also when it comes to health insurance premiums San Mateo is one of the many public employers that will cover most of the premiums for the employees. It can vary, no doubt, based on how many dependants a person has, but it is certainly much more generous coverage than one usually finds at a private company.
One of the greatest perks is not even listed in a job description. The unspoken, but very real, advantage of working in a public sector job is the near-promise of job security. The desire for this has certainly increased in recent years with all the job market fluctuations that the Bay Area has seen. From the dotcom bust to the dip in tourism after September 11th, so many different employment sectors have been hit that a public sector job can seem like a safe refuge from the turbulent few years the region has lived through. While city governments might struggle with their budgets from one yearto the next, it isn’t likely that they will ever shut down completely and go out of business. After all, there will always be a need for our streets to be kept clean and safe.
Juarez sums up the philosophy behind public sector jobs by saying, “Personally I've been working for departments that allow me to assist not only our customers but our employees as well. Knowing I made a difference to one person was worth my “work day”. The salary helps me pay the bills, but mostly, I love working for an organization that morally and ethically allows me to sleep at night and proudly say who I work for.”