How to Pursue a Career in Public Service with a Family

How to Pursue a Career in Public Service with a Family

Balancing work and family is always hard, but it is much harder for those working in public service. Police officers, emergency medical services personnel and health services providers are often asked to work long hours and weekends. Yet these jobs are emotionally rewarding, and they have never been in such demand. This provides economic stability and gives many advancement opportunities. Here are a few pointers on how to pursue a career in public service if you have a family.

Try Working as a Temp

You’ve probably heard about the temp-to-perm trend. Businesses hire someone on a temporary contract, and if they work out, they are the first ones offered a permanent position. What most don’t know is that government positions regularly get filled in the same way. Start as a temporary employee. It gives you experience in civil service. It allows you to network with existing permanent workers. And most of all, it gives you access to internal job positions.

If you’re a current student or recent graduate, you’re the ideal candidate for a co-op or internship. These are offered through every provincial government. And they put you on the fast track to a full-time position.

Try All Levels of Government

If you’re trying to break into civil service to get a stable, decent-paying job, know that it may be hard to find a federal job in Ottawa. However, there is another way to get there. Apply for jobs at the municipal or provincial level. These jobs pay well. They’re often available in your area. And they allow you to earn experience that enables you to move to the next level of government.

Be Mobile

Your ability to secure a public position increases dramatically if you’re willing to move. While there may not be an administrative position in your area that fits your skill sets, there is probably another area that has such an opening. You might find it by working in a nearby suburb, or you may have to move to the other side of the country. When you’re applying for jobs, saying that you’re willing to relocate will make you a more desirable candidate, too.

Set Clear Goals for Your Career

You won’t succeed in your career if you don’t have clear, set goals for your career. You may want to move into management one day, increasing your pay and reducing the physical demands of your job. However, if you don’t have a plan on how to move into management, it may never happen. Know what is required. Then earn the degrees, credentials or job experience necessary to qualify.

Know that you’re likely going to be rejected when you apply. Set goals on how many jobs you’ll apply to or how many people you network with. Be intentional and be persistent. If you have goals and can’t stick with them, re-evaluate your goals. Has your passion changed? Do you want to change careers? For example, an EMT may be tired of dealing with medical emergencies. Choose a new direction, create a new plan, and then start working your plan. In our EMT example, you might earn a college degree so that you could move into medical and health services management. College work toward a degree could help a police officer become a detective.

Earn an Advanced Degree

A college degree is required for most public administration jobs. However, you need to earn a relevant degree. Know what type of job you want to hold and what degree makes you eligible for it. If you want to move into emergency management, border control management or national security, then you could get your public safety masters. 

Know that you don’t have to quit your job to pursue a master’s degree, however. Public safety courses can be taken completely online nowadays. A degree like this can also be a way for current and former military personnel to move into public safety. A bachelor’s degree in public administration or emergency management is the minimum to work as an emergency management director, while a master’s degree is preferred.

How do you balance working with earning a degree? Don’t procrastinate. Whether it is studying for your classes or doing housework, get it done. However, you can’t do everything. Prioritize what you are doing. Avoid distractions and time wasters, no matter what they are for you. Yet you can’t afford to waste time multi-tasking since, in reality, you’ll do all of it badly. To balance all of this with your family, take a day off from work and school and dedicate that to your family.

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Learning At Home

One way to get all of it in is to plan your schedule and ensure that the most important things, including bonding time with your partner and kids, are accounted for. If you find yourself with free time, do something creative or productive, whether it is reading articles on your future profession or playing with the kids. Just don’t do it at the expense of your health. Give yourself enough time to sleep and exercise every day.


Networking is promoted in the private sector as a way to find a new job or generate new business. However, it isn’t limited to the private sector. Talk to anyone you know who works in civil service. They may be able to get you an interview or offer advice on open positions. It may simply be a matter of updating your resume or improving your bilingualism. Attend job fairs and get to know hiring managers. If you already work as a police officer or EMT, start networking now so that you can secure a better job. You could email human resource managers or cold call them. However, you can’t forget the critical step of creating a job profile with the Public Service Commission of Canada. Do this before you start applying for jobs. Better yet, set up job alerts in that system in every region that is relevant so that you can act on any lead.

Be Flexible

Being a multi-disciplinarian is a benefit to your career. Consider taking jobs that stretch your knowledge base and skillset. Maybe you could learn about GIS or IT in a civil service role. This skills stack makes you a more desirable candidate since you’re now qualified for both jobs that emphasize these skills and the jobs your education prepared you for.


There are more than a quarter-million people employed by the Public Service in Canada. With a little effort, planning and strategic thinking, you can break into the public service sector, too.

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