What options are available for students looking for employment opportunities in government?
As students, we often ask ourselves how we can apply our education in challenging, yet meaningful ways.
One option is getting involved with various on-campus clubs. Co-op internships are another way to secure work experience while completing your degree.
Given my academic background, I was interested in exploring the policy side of economics, but — like many other students — I didn’t truly know about the variety of opportunities out there.
I knew I liked to write and analyze economic problems. So, a career in government seemed alluring. But I still had so many questions and wanted to learn more. For instance, I was unsure of how working in government would feel. What would I be doing? How would I be providing value? Who would I be working with?
I first sought answers to these questions working in Strategic Communications at Indigenous Services Canada, in Gatineau. My work term there gave me insight into how federal departments work and the experience helped refine my French language skills.
Currently, as Student Ambassador for Natural Resources Canada on a part-time basis, my outreach responsibilities allowed me to develop relationships with members of the NRCan team.
In this role, I had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Shawn Tupper, NRCan’s Associate Deputy Minister and WLU’s University Champion, while he visited Laurier in September to learn more about our student body, including clubs, and the variety of academic programs our school offers.
It was his visit, and my role with NRCan in general, that continued to heighten my interest in learning more about opportunities in the federal public service. I asked a few Laurier Alumni working at Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) to share their advice with Laurier students looking to work in the public service.
Here’s what they had to say.
“There are so many different opportunities in Government – my advice is to jump in and follow your interests, whether it be a policy area you are passionate about or a particular skill set you are hoping to hone in a communications shop for example or in project management,” suggests Annette Hollas, a manager at Natural Resources Canada.
So, recognize your passions, there are lots of opportunities to work in the field of your interest. Be open-minded as you conduct your job search, the job postings might be generic and unattractive, however, at the end of the hiring process, you may find the job of your dreams.
There are many networking opportunities offered to students-employees [young professionals or recent graduates], and Anthony Ferguson, Senior Policy Advisor at NRCan, echoes the value of these “especially in the early stages of one’s career.”
Many departments have a young professionals network that offers leadership opportunities in the governance of the network, networking events with senior management, and information on training or job opportunities.
New graduates who enter the public service through specialized post-secondary recruitment programs such as the Recruitment of Policy Leaders and the Advanced Policy Analyst Program may have access to unique networking and learning experiences.
For example, NRCan’s Policy Analyst Recruitment and Development Program (PARDP) offers Masters and Ph.D. graduates the opportunity to enter the Government of Canada and strengthen their policy skills through two 12-month placements in different teams across the Department.
Positions are located primarily in the National Capital Region, though some positions do exist in the regions. Participants have the opportunity to join a social club, mentorship, speed networking with management, and guest speaker series. You can read some testimonials from PARDP students, here.
A call for an application takes place every year in Fall.
Hollas adds that, “Personal growth is also taken very seriously in government, so don’t be afraid to look for mentors to guide you through the early part of your career [in Government of Canada] or to ask about participating in the abundance of training and courses [offered by the Canada School of public service] to help expand your knowledge and skills.”
Landing a position with the federal position is highly competitive, work terms offer students an advantage.
The Government of Canada specifically offers job opportunities for students through the Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP).
Susan Masswohl, a senior policy advisor at NRCAN explains that “one work term in government can also allow candidates to readily bridge-in to government thereafter.”
Susan is a graduate of Laurier’s geography program, with a minor in History. She has been working in government for 22 years and further highlights that “there are no limits to what a career in the public service provides.”
As a student-employee, I can attest to the flexibility and range of opportunities within the public service.
“Typically, one might think that the jobs [within government] focus on the skills of the political science crowd. In fact, there are opportunities for people with backgrounds in science, law, HR, economics, geographic design, biology, geology, communications, engineering … and on, and on …. Not only that, but opportunities exist across the country, in offices and laboratories connected to various departments,” Blair Gowan said.
Consequently, not only is there a demand for a broad range of experience, but there are many options for managing your career from within the public service, in terms of subject matter, location and upward mobility. There are very few employers who can offer the diversity of employment opportunities that the government does.”
As a student, this is exciting. The flexibility the government provides is unparalleled.
So, there you have it. I hope this sheds some light on the opportunities that the government provides.
You can stay up-to-date with potential job opportunities by visiting jobs.gc.ca.