Opinion

Saturday 19 August 2017

George Hook: The civil service is a bastion for the under-incentivised and the apathetic

When his son's friend told him his sole ambition was to waste his education and get a permanent position in the civil service, George Hook was horrified

The civil service is a bastion for the under-incentivised and the apathetic, says George Hook. Stock image
The civil service is a bastion for the under-incentivised and the apathetic, says George Hook. Stock image

Many years ago, I had a conversation with a friend of my son. He had just finished college and was about to embark on a professional career. After obtaining a degree in a foreign language and ancient history from Trinity College, the sum total of his ambition, the friend told me, was to gain employment as a civil servant and to see out his working days in a pensionable, State-funded position.

"What about your degree?" I asked, astonished. "How will you put your newly acquired knowledge of foreign languages and ancient history to good use in the Irish civil service?" He shrugged his shoulders and laughed at my incredulity. As far as he was concerned, his degree was but a small step on a pathway to permanent, secure employment. He didn't care a jot if his hard-earned knowledge never saw the light of day again.

I remember that conversation vividly because I struggled to process how a person with an inviting life canvas could limit their life ambition in such an abrupt manner. Where was the drive for success and personal development, I asked myself. Where was his appetite for adventure?

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