Working in the government: Stories from the frontline

Daniel Olivan

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Working in the government: Stories from the frontline
Working in the government is not an easy task. Read these stories about people who have succeeded as they dedicated a significant part of their lives to serving the public.

An earlier version of this story first appeared on Kalibrr. Visit this page for more on the ups and downs of navigating your career.

Working in the government is not an easy task. Listen to the stories of these dedicated civil service employees (including the success story of one government worker hired through Kalibrr), and be inspired by what drove these people to dedicated a significant part of their lives to serving the public.

Heeding the call

 Photo via Kalibrr

When I first entered college, I never imagined myself choosing government as a career option right after graduation. It started with something as human as soul searching – a desire to find my vocation, my calling, my home.

What guided my search during the last few months before graduation day was an article shared by our Theology professor during senior year, aptly called “The Calling of Voices” by Frederick Buechner.

It spoke of the reality that throughout life, we would all be overwhelmed by a multitude of voices – made even more pronounced today by the rise of social media and advances in information and communications technology – each pulling us in different directions. But to cut through all the noise, one needs the endurance to listen, the resolve to discern, and the courage to decide on which voice to follow.

My decision to work in the government was based on a personal discernment that this would be the place where I can help the most but also learn the most. I have been blessed with a loving family, supportive friends, and a holistic education focused on my passion for mathematics and philosophy.

But I also acknowledge that I lack grounding in the deep social realities that our country faces, and that there is also a need for passionate workers in the government in spite of – but more importantly, because of – widespread prejudices regarding its inefficiency and corruption.

After about two years in government, I realized that I have gained more than I have given. I’ve learned about public service from my colleagues who volunteer in orphanages and homes for the aged – even outside work hours. I’ve learned of the tenacity of field implementers who, despite being overworked, still find the time and the strength to volunteer during disaster relief and response operations. I’ve learned about real hope from program participants who, despite their crippling situation and poverty, have striven to change for the better for their family.

I hope that you permit yourself to be still, listen, and discern which voice you will follow – whether to work in the government, to start your own business, to join a non-profit organization, to teach in a public school, among others – for there is much yet to be done.

There is much more to learn and be joyful about, if you allow yourself to follow that voice which may not be the loudest one, but is perhaps that faint whisper that leads you to the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

Accessible government jobs

Photo via Kalibrr

Around February 2014, I decided to join the government. After I got my civil service eligibility, I submitted applications to the few government agencies that I knew of.

I left my job in the BPO industry to review for my comprehensive exams in graduate school. I was in between jobs while waiting for updates on my previous applications while I searched for other government jobs online. Unfortunately, online platforms at that point only had a few posts under public/civil jobs.

In August, I was finally hired as a project assistant in a government attached agency under a contract of service. While I was happy in my first government job, I still hoped for a permanent appointment and a lasting career in the field.

One day, my colleague reposted the Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines’ Facebook post announcing 3,320 government job vacancies. That’s when I learned of Kalibrr. I tried to know more about the site and read related Rappler articles.

I created a Kalibrr account and applied for administrative officer positions in the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on May 17. I got a call from human resources to come for an interview on June 30 and got a job offer on July 14.

At least in my case, the Kalibrr-DBM partnership shortened the time from application to job offer – from 5 months to two months. The process was easier and hassle-free. I did not have to be absent from work just to submit my application. I saved time and money, and avoided tedious commutes.

It did not matter that I had no connections inside DBM. I am proud to say that I was hired based only on my qualifications and competencies. I now work in human resources, where I help ensure that the hiring and promotion of employees are based on merit and fitness.

I’m glad that more government agencies are partnering with Kalibrr. This makes civil service jobs more accessible to the public.

If the Bagumbayani Initiative and Kalibrr existed ten years ago, I probably would have joined the civil service earlier. I’m hopeful that more young people will be interested in joining government.

Fortunate fall

Photo via Kalibrr

Right after college, I went through the more popular route into the labor force. I marched through the streets of Makati to look for a job at the big corporations whose offices lined up Ayala Avenue. It was a blessing in disguise that these businesses did not hire me because I ended up in a better place. I never had the chance to work for mere profit.

At the Department of Finance (DOF), my main responsibility is to formulate tax policies, provide technical advice to officials, and represent the DOF during congressional public hearings and inter-agency meetings on tax-related matters. 

I love the challenge that comes with my job. Now, I consider myself part of the group that helps move the economy. It is rewarding – hand on my heart – that I can contribute to society this way while, at the same time, earn a living.

My job inevitably requires continued learning to keep abreast with advances in tax policy and administration. The DOF gives the best capacity-building programs available both here and abroad. I earned my Masters in Economics, under a full-time study leave arrangement.

I was also sent to the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC to see, up close and personal, how a multinational organization works and gives policy advice to its member countries. That was a once in a lifetime opportunity that had a lifetime impact on me as a policy advisor.  It honed not only my capabilities but raised as well my self-confidence. 

And finally, government – even with its flaws and misgivings – gives better pension benefits. What’s not to like?

Giving back

Photo via Kalibrr

It is commonly assumed that people working in the Bureaucracy and serving the country and its people through government are making an unnecessary sacrifice. As some view it, it’s an actual waste of time and talent.

Of course, I can’t blame people who have this perception because there is a legitimate basis for their frustration, after alI. However, I wouldn’t automatically accept this perspective.

As I see it, to work in government, to pursue the interest of our Motherland, and to concretely build and aspire for a better life for our countrymen is a beautiful privilege. I find it difficult to believe how a person can immediately regret or dismiss such a genuine effort to meaningfully contribute to our country’s developing narrative of progress.

Yes, it is and will be burdensome. It will be difficult, and at times, disappointing. But when has anything easy ever been worth it?

Your Iskolar ng Bayan (Scholar of the Nation) is now a lingkod bayan (public servant). It’s now my turn to return the favor. #GobyerYES! –

Ever thought about working in government? As these stories show, it can lead to a fulfilling career of serving your fellow Filipinos. To find a list of government job openings, visit Kalibrr’s new jobs portal hosted on Rappler – 

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