The agency does not love you back. It does not matter how much you love your job, your boss, your colleagues, or the mission- your agency does not love you back. And that’s okay. The agency, while accommodating as an organization, is not a human entity capable of emotion. Let’s stop acting like the agency has feelings to hurt.
Recently, I heard a number of people equating an individual’s willingness to stay in a position or within an organization as “loyalty” to the agency. Leaving a position is not an affront to the agency. It is simply saying that the position, the duties, the life circumstances are not congruent with my personal direction at this time. Subsequently, my definition of loyalty no longer includes the duration in a position or agency.
Here is my new definition of loyalty– as long as I am employed by any agency or company I will give 100+% of myself, strive to increase my knowledge, explore paths that will add value to my position, and will invest in the organization wholly.
I left my permanent career GS-comfortable job when I was 28 after 10 calendar years of federal service. It was a defining moment. Most of the federal family reaction altered between I was a fool or I was disloyal. In my professional life, I had just completed a huge national policy/standards win with an amazing team. It was a 4+ year investment with hundreds of thousands of donated hours to get to the win. The project was “for the good of the order” and needed to be done for the field. I gave them me. The organization appreciatively took everything I gave.
My personal life changed, and I needed to take care of my world. My many creative solutions to stay with the agency were met with by gentle but firm “No” from the agency. No, we don’t want another remote employee. No, we don’t know of any other opportunities. No, we don’t think there is a way to meet your hopes. I acknowledge and understand that they were under no obligation to accommodate me. I knew the job I signed up for when I signed on. Conversely, I was under no obligation to remain. So, I took a job in the private sector and moved across the state.
I recognize and respect the many people in the public and private sectors who have chosen to make their jobs their life- I’ve been there. Many of us, regardless of generation but typically under the age of 40, are starting to opt for another path. Our choosing something different is okay. It’s okay to prioritize a marriage, children, caring for extended family members, pursuing education, or investing in your community.
I have returned to federal service twice now. While I miss the security of a permanent job, I do not regret for a moment the eclectic path I have taken. I revel in the diversity of my experiences. Everything I learned in the private sector and each agency has made me into a better employee for my current employer. I still love all the agencies I have worked for and remain loyal to the missions everytime I step on public land, sort out the recyclables, or talk to someone about crisis communication. I do not know who will be signing my paycheck five years from now, though I know whoever it is I will be giving them my all.