Working for the (Swiss) government
Can you predict what work in an organisation looks like from its status? Yes, to some extent. There are different types of actors in international cooperation. A comparison between them shows the similarities and differences that can influence work. It goes without saying that each organisation also has its own particularities.
Swiss international cooperation at a glance
Switzerland has been active in international cooperation for over 60 years. The fight against poverty and hunger, humanitarian aid, health promotion and education, economic development and global challenges are just some of the many areas in which Switzerland is involved in international cooperation.
Switzerland is involved in a wide range of international cooperation activities.
The bodies responsible for these issues and activities are the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), and various international divisions of other federal and cantonal offices.
At the federal level, the financing of international cooperation is based on a budget that is subject to parliamentary approval.
How does the status of government affect the working environment?
- The Confederation's involvement in international cooperation is mainly at a macro level. In other words, the Confederation's staff is mainly engaged in strategic and steering work.
- As a result, most of the Confederation's staff rarely, if ever, come into direct contact with the people it serves ("the beneficiaries").
- An important part of the work of the Confederation is to coordinate the funds available and oversee implementation (often by third parties).
- Maintaining relations with other governments is a priority for the Confederation. Diplomatic activities, therefore, play a central role.
- The Confederation has a hierarchical organisation. In addition, it is often necessary to coordinate with other offices, which can slow down processes.
- The salary range at the Confederation is generally higher than that of other actors.
Questions to ask yourself
With the above considerations in mind, the following questions can help you to better define whether working in a governmental organisation is right for you. Understand these questions primarily as an orientation aid, not as preconditions for making a decision.
Do you have a strong aptitude and taste for upstream work?
...such as developing strategic documents or programmes and coordinating activities.
Are you comfortable working at a level that is often further away from the beneficiaries than in other types of organisations?
This question should not be taken literally: the "altitude" of work varies greatly from one office to another, from one function to another.
Are you comfortable with not always seeing the fruits of your labour?
Do you thrive in a hierarchical structure?
Are you prepared to give up your ideas at times? Have you mastered the art of compromise?