Actors Don’t Hide their Oscars, Why Should You?

As I watched the Oscars last night, I was reminded of a great quote from a good friend.

Last Friday night, the Trachtenberg School honored one of its alumni, Frank DiGiammario, as our 2012 Distinguished Alumni Awardee. Along with being a an innovator, public servant, and all-around great person, Frank understands the great work federal public servants do every day and laments the fact that the general public only hears the negative when so many positive things are happening.

He put it well in his remardks: “As federal public servants we consistently hit our targets, but miss the point.”

What he means is that the federal government, and I think most job applicants, do a horrible job of promoting their accomplishments and showing their true value.

There are two many reasons why we as individuals do this.

First, most of us were raised to be modest, humble, and realistic. These are all important, laudable traits, but too often we default to the extremes. I grew up in Lake Wobegon (central Minnesota), where “all the children are above average” so I know all too well the internal conflict between needing to excel without telling anyone. In other words, if our work is good then others will recognize that–don’t toot your own horn.

When it comes to applying for a job, any job, this is WRONG. This is the time to really shine and, as my colleague Camille Roberts says, “if you’ve done it, brag about it.”

Second, it is really hard to see how impressive the forest is while standing with our noses pressed against one tree. In other words, it is hard to really see our accomplishments while we are in the middle of our work every day.

I tell students and alumni all the time that if an alien was parked above earth watching me do my job, they would conclude that 90% of my work is answering email. That isn’t far from the truth, but think about everything that happens “behind” those emails!

When I write about my work on my resume, I don’t say “Answer emails.” BORING. Instead, I write something like “Manage career services for over 450 students, 3,200 alumni, faculty, and employers through interactive programming and individual advising.”

What I want to know is: How do you show-off your “Oscar”?

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Jack Shaw

Actors do hide Oscars in moments when they feel it was not really deserved. I saw an article in the paper and I’ve heard it said many times by actors who’ve earned that Oscar, but didn’t receive it that year for whatever the reason.

Government is getting a bashing because of the politicians who run and have wrung many of us out of patience. I love this country as much as the next guy and it is probably for that reason that I have engage in Gov Loop. By some standards I am one of the old farts. That’s true, but I bring history.

I like the young asking questions and pushing new ideas. I think Gov Loop is one of the best things the government has to offer, but what am I supposed to say when I was employed by the government my boss told me fin no uncertain terms that any of her people found “blogging” on this or any other site than the commissioner’s blog, which required name and e-mail would be in need of another job because that would be a sure sign that the employee was not doing their job.

Secretaries could have small TVs on their desk, but the 13’s weren’t allowed to look for stimulating ideas related to work! Oh, and I was on the National Steering Committee for Communication in my agency. It was preposterous!

Now, we talk resumes in the same breath. The systems seems to reward merit only after it has had all the creativity squeezed out of it. You make a great point. We do need to be able to put our accomplishments on our resume, but those are hard to put down. Here’s one small example. I had the idea and plan, but the commissioner appointed a committee and I was given the opportunity to work on it. End result. I get a thank you for being a part of it; the committee chairperson gets a promotion from contractor to GS-15. We aren’t hiding our Oscars: someone is stealing and hiding them for us.

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Paul Binkley

Thanks for your thoughts Jack–very honest and real.

I find that I’m having hard time commenting on your thoughts not because I think they are wrong or inaccurate, but because I don’t know where to start.

It’s so frustrating to hear about the great impact so many public servants are having on the country at large, and then only read about how horrible those same employees are in the Post or Times. Or see how easy it is for politicians to point the finger of blame at the federal employees, when it is those employees that make this country run. And then to have those same employees shoot themselves in the foot…

Last night I gave a short presentation to a group of nonprofit professionals on how to find positions in the federal government. Near the end of my talk someone asked me–given everything you have told us, suggestions you have made, and tips for our applications, how do we just get past the black hole of federal applications?–and I really had no response.

The federal hiring process, and all those processes you refer to in your comments (like promotion, training, etc.), are so convoluted and muddled that innovation, enthusiasm, and, well….hope is crushed.

For example, how is it that a friend of mine who has a masters and doctorate in education, 20+ years in career services and training, and experience working with the exact agency to which they are applying for a GS-13 that fits their KSAs to a T, is labeled as not eligible b/c her bachelor’s degree wasn’t in education?!

It’s frustrating to say the least.

But I do think GovLoop is a great place to vent…and find hope.

It gets better, especially when people like you take the time to blog when they aren’t suppose to.

Keep up the great work!

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Jack Shaw

My first experience was with the military and my command was 90% civilian but the military held all the key positions. However, it was easy for civilians to gain a lot of rank simply because there were so many. So some not as qualified as others rose through the ranks quickly. I started civil service as an Air Reserve Technician, a GS-11 (I was also a USAFR Captain. I left the position to work in Japan for a Japanese company and was not allowed to maintain my Reserve status. My experience in Washington was positive, and it seemed people recognized talent and rewarded it.

It was quite a while before I realized rules were bent and work arounds by some individuals to make it possible to hire who you wanted to from within. You could always change the work requirements to fit an individual and you wouldn’t have to hire someone you didn’t want to. Most of the time.

I know in some places the rules are heeded and adhered to, but my later experiences made me decide retirement was best for me, rather than play the games. It doesn’t mean the civilian world is better, it just means government agencies have ways of eliminating those they don’t see fitting in their unit or agency–just diffferent than the civilian world.

Just because government is a large employer, its managers still want control over the hiring. The best way to get passed the black hole of applications is to respond exactly as expected to the KSAs or questions. An answer in the wrong direction is reason to eliminate, but there can be exceptions. Government applications want exactly what they ask for or managers select no one and re-write until they get what they want. If you have a dispute with your supervisor, unless that supervisor wants you to go, the chance of getting the change is unlikely.

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