Motivation for the Public Service
"I was having a better time at my job than were those of my peers who had opted for private practice. Life as a public servant was more interesting. The work was more challenging. The encouragement and guidance from good mentors was more genuine. And the opportunities to take initiative and to see real results were more frequent."
- Sandra Day O'Connor
Motivation for public service is often referred to as a “calling.” Those who respond to the call are determined to do meaningful work that will make a difference in their communities. Often, those with a motivation for public service come from families with experience working in public service or volunteering in their communities. They choose to pursue an education that will prepare them for working in administrative positions or in one of the many fields of public service, such as social welfare, law enforcement, and firefighting. Those who choose to work in nonprofit organizations also share the motivation for public service with concern for the wellbeing of others over and above their own gain.
The motivation to serve the public has been studied extensively; the term "public service motivation” was coined by Perry and Wise (1990), who defined it as “as an individual's predisposition to respond to motives grounded primarily or uniquely in public institutions.” Many who study motivation for public service do so to inform public sector recruitment processes. Person-to-organization fit is an important aspect of successful personnel recruitment. Studies have found that the motivation for public service differs from the motivation for careers in private businesses. Another indication of motivation for public service is an interest in public policy. Public policy development is fundamental to public service since public policies indicate the focus of public service delivery and the role and function of public agencies and their employees.
Socialization also influences individuals’ motivation for public service. A form of socialization, in addition to parental and educational, is professional socialization. Membership and participation in professional public service organizations may be indicative of an individual’s call to public service.