Federal Law Enforcement Jobs, a metaphor
The Magic Bag of Poo
I am writing this to explain in succinct terms what it’s like to be a Federal Agent in a realistic, non-Hollywood format. I am frequently approached by folks from other walks of life interested in the opportunities available in the Fed world, and what things are like in different agencies. I have had the opportunity to meet folks from a wide variety of other Fed LEO jobs, and have come to some conclusions.
There are TONS of Federal Agent positions out there, seemingly every USG agency under the sun has their own LE branch or OIG component. They all carry guns and a badge, and run around doing something related in some way (sometimes a very remote way) to law enforcement. Each job has its particular high and low points. Many require the employee to be deployable anywhere in the U.S., some require you to serve overseas for much of your career, and some in very inhospitable places like war zones. Every individual has his or her preference as to what is an acceptable work situation.
Here’s where the metaphor comes in. Federal LEO jobs (and probably just jobs in general, but LEO jobs I can speak with some authority about) are like steaming bags of poo. That is to say, in general, most of the time they suck. All of them. If they didn’t suck the USG wouldn’t pay you so ridiculously much to do them. They don’t suck all the time, and they all suck in different ways, but it ‘aint “NCIS” or “24” on TV.
So here’s the thing…you walk into a room and see a big table full of small plastic bags full of poo. Some are heavier, some lighter. Some smell really bad, some leak a bit. None of them are really attractive, but here’s the catch. If you pick one up and carry it around for 20 years it turns into a bag of gold. Now that’s not a bad deal when you think about it. The bag of gold also keeps refilling as you spend it, and you no longer have the poo to deal with.
So, if you are thinking about becoming a Fed, pick your bag of poo carefully. Look into all of them and decide which one you think best fits your personality and lifestyle. Then pick it up and get used to it. Don’t go looking at the other bags, because you’ll think the other bags of poo look better. This is a common mistake. You may put your bag of poo down and pick up a different one, which will still turn to gold in the same 20 years. The trouble is, once you pick up the new bag your old bag will seem far more attractive, and you’ll start to want your old bag back. But someone else may have grabbed your old bag and that’s not an option, or if you can get it back it’s just not the same.
So pick your bag of poo, carry it, get used to it, and be patient. Sometimes it will seem like the worst thing you’ve ever carried, and other times it will seem light as a feather, but it will always be there.
Slowly turning to gold.