Your federal career: Things to bear in mind ...

Federal beat columnist Mike Causey reminds us that even when you might think otherwise, it's likely the grass is pretty green already—on this side of hill.

No matter how discouraged or disgusted you, or me, or anybody gets with their job, odds are that it is better, more rewarding and more secure than most others. And that there are much, much worse things than working for the federal government, making a career out of public service, and then retiring under one of the few remaining defined benefit pension plans in the nation.

On the other hand, Uncle Sam does have some, uh, interesting jobs.

Early in my newspaper career, after covering cops, writing obits and then features, I was given a beat which covered the Treasury Department, the U.S. Postal Service and the Food & Drug Administration, for some reason. After just a few months on the job, I concluded that they were the three most interesting agencies in government. It later occurred to me that if I had been

handed three others—maybe Justice, Interior and GSA—I would have reached the same conclusion. The key, I guess, was learning—in depth—what they did. And discovering the variety of jobs and responsibilities that almost any federal operation offers.

Once, while doing a feature on smugglers, I met a Customs Service employee who was an expert in china. The kind you eat off of. Specifically, this employee (a guy, a tough agent) knew all about Royal Doulton china. Real and fake. Some of his stories, about the things people smuggle and where they try to hide or stick them, were unbelievable. When I say “stick them,” hold that thought …

A few years later, I got the entire government as a beat. It was fun, fascinating and very educational. I didn’t learn it all, but did learn a lot.

One of my assignments involved working with two Navy civilian scientists. The Navy (and lots of other people) were looking at extended space travel. Like going to Mars and coming home again. One of the big problems then—and now—is food. And water. And air. The movie The Martian was great and it dealt with that. But NASA scientists say the guy who was stranded on Mars (Matt Damon) couldn’t have grown his own potatoes, because the ones he brought from Earth were sterile. Still, a good movie.

Anyhow, at the time, Navy space travel types were thinking about ways to preserve food and water, including by putting people to sleep for extended periods—maybe months at a time—then waking them before they landed on Mars. Then back to hibernation for the trip back to Earth.

So, I met these two scientists whose job—literally—was to check out hibernating bears.

“How do you do that?” I asked? Well, they explained, you find a bear den and then very, very carefully check out the sleeping beast to see how they are doing, such as how much weight

they put on before and how much they lose while sleeping the winter away. The key to the operation was their heart rate, their breathing and their body temperature. Since they too are mammals, info on them could be applied to people.

So here’s the situation. You find a den with a 300-pound, very hungry bear sleeping away. You take your measurements, record the data, then get the heck out of Dodge before he/she wakes up for a midnight snack. As in you.

Being a reporter sometimes means asking really dumb questions. “So if the bear is asleep,” I asked, “and you don’t want to disturb him or her, where do you stick the thermometer?”

I’ll never forget the look on his face. “Where do you think?” he said. I thought for a minute and decided that—as important and rewarding as public service can be—life as a government scientist was probably not for me.

I’ve never regretted my career choice. But I’m sure glad those Navy guys were there. And when we make our first Mars landing I will think fondly of them.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.