Why do some millennials choose government?
MANILA, Philippines – Is the millennial generation averse or inclined toward working for the government?
Several studies and researches, however, have painted contradicting images of the millennials. On one hand, they have been characterized as having a sense of entitlement and “overly self-confident and self-absorbed." They are also branded as apathetic and oblivious to the societal challenges around them, a result of their supposed disillusionment.
On the other hand, they are praised as fearless, empowered, passionate, and free. And as digital natives who grew up along with the exponential growth of technology, they are presumed to be an innovative and dynamic generation.
While conventional wisdom coupled with experience from other countries suggest that those born from 1980 to 2000 are reluctant to pursue a career in government, interviews and anecdotes from millennials in the Philippine government, however, offer a different perspective.
Why do millennials join government? What do they contribute to the bureaucratic and decades-old public system? (READ: Millennials in the workplace: How to get the best of them?)
Rappler interviewed 3 millennials working in different government offices to know more about the generation that makes up almost a third of the Philippine population.
For Anna Motohara Venturina, 23 years old, and Bea Orante, 22, it was plain curiosity and the desire to understand what is on the other side of the fence which drove them to a career they both described as “ initially unlikely.”
Venturina works at the office of Senator Bam Aquino. In her line of work, she assists and sometimes sits in for the senator in committee meetings.
Orante works in the communications department of the Local Government Academy (LGA). The agency is mandated to train and develop agencies and local government offices towards innovative and effective local governance.
"I was part of the student movement, and there are things na kinocontest ko na ginagawa ng gobyerno. Pero gusto kong maintindihan na kung bakit ginagawa nila 'yun. Bakit ganito sila mag-isip. Bakit may mga maraming pagkakataon na walang point of convergence yung mamamayan at 'yung gobyerno," Venturina said.
(There were government actions that I contested. I want to understand why they did it. Why they think that way. Why there have been many instances when there was no point of converence between citizens and the government.)
Tricia Villaluz shifted careers from media to government in her pursuit for a more stable career. Villaluz, 24, works at the Office of the Provincial Governor of Cavite. She is tasked with correspondences and communication with other LGUs and the latters' constituents. She also drafts executive orders and memoranda.
"Two years after college, I was already thinking long term. I wanted something stable for my job and being in the government would help me achieve that," Villaluz said.
Challenges: Principles and age gap
But surfing the territory did not come easy for them.
"You have a set of targets –just like in any job – and you work towards those targets every month. But I think one of the problems there is that you tend to get hyperfocused to your targets and then you lose sight of the intangible side of things. You forget that it is not just about the targets but also the people you are helping and trying to make a difference," Orante said.
Orante added, however, that a more pressing challenge she has so far experienced in her two-month stint in government is aligning her principles that sometimes contradict with government policies.
"You have to keep remembering that you are part of the government but at the same time you are your own person. So even if you are working in the government, it is important that you still have a critical eye on certain things," Orante added.
This was echoed by Venturina. She said that more than retaining one's belief system, it is also challenging for millennials in government to ensure that they will be able to translate their views to concrete policies and action.
"Ang isa sa mga challenge ay dahil nandito ka na sa gobyerno, may pressure sa`yo na kumilos (One of the challenges here is that since you are already in the government, there's a pressure for you to deliver)," Venturina said.
Good thing though, Venturina added, that she works with other like-minded millennials in her team, making overcoming these challenges a lot easier.
The same thing cannot be said for Villaluz, however.
"Most of my co-workers are Gen Y and Gen X so sometimes it's difficult to reach out to them about certain things. I tend to always hesistate thinking if i'm coming across as know-it-all," Villaluz said, adding that some of her officemates also tend to treat her as a kid.
How do they overcome these problems in the workplace?
Orante said that it is important for millennials to learn how to manage their expectations before entering the job. (READ: 3 things I learned as a millennial in government)
"When you’re young, you have this idealism that this is how things should have been. But you kind of learn how to manage your expectations," Orante said. She also emphasized the importance of approaching government work with an open mind.
During their short stint at the government, the 3 millennials have also debunked several myths about the system, giving them a fresher perspective of the institution they used to distrust. Venturina even dubbed her entrance to the public sector a "moment of clarity."
"I was bothered by the level of bureaucracy. And I think I still am. I still see that there’s a lot of problem but at the same time you realize that there are a lot people with good intention," Orante said.
This was echoed by Villaluz, saying that entering government "changed my view in the sense that I saw how government people do work on their job diligently, as opposed to other people thinking that govt employees tend to slack off."
'More millennials needed in government'
The 3 young government employees agreed on one thing: millennials are needed in the public sector. According to them, the young generation adds valuable information and insights that could help address the bureaucracy in the system.
"If for example, the government communications strategy is just focused on an old audience, you’re not going to get as much engagement from the youth. When you kind of forget about the youth, you also forget that they can be the basis for your future activities," Orante said.
Venturina added that millennials have an endless list of ways of doing things and getting things done. Given this millennial talent, they can bring in a fresh perspective and possible solutions to decades-old problems in the government.
"We have this kind of perception that the youth are apolitical but in fact if you’re young, you really care a lot. We’ve seen a lot of groups rising up right now, talking about issues. And I think we have to get these voices in the government." Orante added.
In all, the millennials' reputation of being a disconnected generation seems to betray their close identification with public service and civic engagement. As proven by Venturina, Orante, and Villaluz, millennials are not at all detached from politics and public service.
"Given the emergence of social media and opportunity to grandstand both online and offline, the tendency is for milllennials to show their concern about what is happening around them," Venturina said. – Rappler.com