The New Dream Job Is Working for … the Government?

One of the best parts of being a young college graduate, and naïve to the grim realities of the working world, is being deluded about how great your career will be. Maybe you’ll found the next Nvidia, or win the Nobel Prize in your field, or start a charity that will make the world a better place. Or maybe you’ll take that entry-level job and climb the corporate ladder into middle management.

The point is, anything is possible! Delusion can be valuable, especially in reasonable doses, and optimism can be self-fulfilling. They allow you to take risks while you are still young and learning.

Today’s graduates, however, are more practical. According to a new survey from Handshake, a recruiter for college students, more graduates now aspire to work in government, and fewer want to work in technology.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with working for the government. Some of my best friends, as they say, are in the public sector, and it is possible to have a rewarding career in the civil service. But there is something depressing about recent college graduates, with their whole lives ahead of them, dreaming about … a job in government.

It’s also important to note that the numbers are not huge. Only 7.4% are applying to government jobs, up from 5.5% in 2023, compared to 21% in technology (compared to 23% last year). But overall, the survey suggests, more graduates are seeking the predictability of a government job. The most popular factor applicants are looking for, cited by 76%, is job stability. The least, cited by just 21%, is a fast-growing company — even though fast-growing companies are correlated with fast-growing salaries.