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Government Instructional Design & My Experience

I grew up hearing the term "Government Job" in high regard, which led me to believe the work was exclusive, important, and of high performing. To be clear there are many who view employment with the government as highly rewarding and a perfect fit for them. And I will concede that there are some advantages to working for such a large organization like the federal government but those advantages are interpreted differently. I have found that the main benefits are all related to job security, level of job difficulty and medical benefits.

Structural Problems

Most businesses are organized to make a profit and in doing so to serve customers with high levels of satisfaction in order to win any future business. The federal government is not motivated by these same capitalistic motivations. For most customers a capitalism centered business model seeks to serve the customer and their demands. Government institutions are dictated what to do and how to do it by those whose motive is to generate a dependency on them rather than truly helping solve a need.

Achieving the Mission

I never stopped to ask exactly why this type of job was so coveted growing up. I just assumed that those who spoke of it in this way held the same opinions and ethical standards I was taught as a child. The truth of the matter is that people who "work heartily, as for the Lord" may find themselves compromising in that standard because what you do for the government isn't actually goal oriented.

Like any company, there is a missions and the ultimate purpose of your role and the roles of the rest of the organization. Those roles should be directed toward achieving the mission. However, government jobs seem to be explicitly designed so as to seem motivated toward the mission, but organized in a way that the mission becomes unattainable. The term "Red Tape" comes to mind here. The red tape is not placed, as you might think, to protect or restrict functionality for the greater good. Rather, the tape is placed to take the scenic route to any task. If one is committed to a particular mission or course of action and paying attention they will quickly find out that you never really ever reach your intended destination. Rather, you find that the mission is no better served now than it was before you took action. You can spend your entire career work toward a mission, yet you are no closer to achieving it than when you first began.

The Pull of a Government Job

The benefits of a government job are specifically marketed to your "weaker" half. Much like junk food, the company peddling this product does not approach the consumption of their product from a moderation aspect, but from a try it once and you won't go back standpoint. This is really no different than any marketing strategy, but it is interesting how an employer can survive with such a strategy for their workforce. Come join us; our work is easy, we can't really fire you, and the we have the backing of the country to help subsidize your health benefits.

Job security

Job security is by far the main benefit an employee receives by successfully obtaining a government job. The threat of termination is extremely low. If you view your employment with an organization in terms of running for your life from a blood thirsty bear, you need only do one of two things.

  1. Run faster than the slowest of your colleagues, so as to not be the one caught.

  2. Cribble a colleague during their own run for survival ensuring the threat shifts from you to the now vulnerable employee.

The result of this type of culture in any other company actually focused on meeting customer demand would go bankrupt or never get off the ground.

Level of Difficulty

The most difficult task taken in my dealings with the government as an employer was getting in the door. Getting the offer of employment by the government was seen as a congratulatory event by my interviewer. I thought nothing of it at the time, but they knew just how difficult it was to jump through all the hoops set before anyone pursuing an opening irrespective of their qualifications. Once employed it became smooth sailing. In fact, because of my peskey work ethic I found myself placing unwanted expectations on others I worked with to fulfil their job responsibilities. I seemed to overachieve in my role, which normally I would have considered a win. However the sentiment was not shared by many of my colleagues.

The Benefits

The medical benefits were unlike anything I had ever experienced in the corporate world or in public education. I can't remember now how many options I had, but the number of medical programs differed greatly. I chalked it up to how many different jurisdictions the federal government dealt with, but there were clearly benefit programs that served a very specific population which I did not qualify. I'm not an insurance guy by any respects, but I just imagined the costs associated with maintaining an insurance plan that is small and not widely used. Their available policies didn't seem too steep in price for the employee, so I just wonder how much it was costing taxpayers for me to be a part of a particular policy.


The benefits of a government job are specifically marketed to your weaker and lazier side of all of us. I enjoy an easy task as much as the next person, but when that is the expectation for an entire entity of the government it was exceedingly frustrating. I couldn't get anything done that depended upon the collaboration of others.

I spent an entire year with FEMA and my role transformed into developing my team to learn the skills necessary to be competitive in the Instructional Design industry. There was no use of video in training. Everything was instructor led even when it was a "highly trained" instructor standing in front of a class reading the slides to the audience with the occasional check for understanding by the facilitator. Engagements within the now standard virtual led class consisted of reading standard operating procedures and placing a green check mark next to your profile indicating you completed the task. Unable to change the status quo, I was able to illustrate just how instructional design had been done in my experience and how much better it might otherwise be one for them it the red tape allowed for it.

#instructionaldesign #workexperience

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