Aside from the obvious — to work like the Dickens — here are ten potentially pivotal get-ahead tips.
1. Follow the money, controversy and power: Unfair though it is, employees who work in front offices with SESers and political appointees tend to ascend the career ladder faster than comparably productive employees who toil in out-of-sight, backwater offices. Why? Because managers who run front offices usually have the authority and funding to promote worthy employees. So pick projects, details and jobs that will give you face-time with managers in front offices.
2, Be a problem-solver: If you can, and it is appropriate for you to do so, independently trouble-shoot problems with as minimal help as possible from supervisors. If your boss doesn’t already know about your resulting problem-solving successes, tell him about them. Generally speaking, your boss will be happier to see and hear from you if you tell him about problems you solved rather than problems you created or can’t solve. And if possible, be the unflappable, indefatigable trouble-shooter through office-wide crises.
3. Be proactive: Don’t wait to be assigned dull, ho-hum projects. Instead, take the initiative: Suggest to your boss projects that would advance your boss’s goals and would offer you the career-boosting experience you need to get ahead.
4. Get a broad range of experience: To get into the Senior Executive Service (SES), you will need experience in varied issues — including, to name just a few, budgeting, human resources, contract management, project management, and supervising large numbers of people. This is the kind of diverse, in-depth experience that you can’t earn overnight or fake. So if you aspire to the SES, seek experience/training in all of types of office issues, even those that don’t interest you. Beware: this may require moving between jobs and/or agencies.
Also, if you want to become an SESer, discuss your prospects with current SESers, and,if appropriate your current boss. When you do so, ask them to help you identify gaps in your credentials and help you identify ways to fill them.
If you can’t get career-boosting management and supervisory experience on the job,, consider gaining needed experience by taking leadership roles in volunteer positions with various non-work organizations, including, professional organizations, community organizations, the PTA, condo boards, or non-profits.
Also review these documents on opm.gov: Guide To Senior Executive Service Qualifications and Welcome to the Senior Executive Service. (And remember, you don’t have to be a GS-15 to apply to the SES; GS-14s may apply as well.)
5. Start spreading the news: Unfortunately, many bosses — overworked and untrained in supervising — rarely take the time and trouble to ask their staffers those five little words, “what are you working on?” Unfortunately, what your boss doesn’t know about your successes can hurt you. After all, if your boss is unaware of your achievements, you probably won’t get credit for them on your annual evaluations.
So if you suspect that your boss is unaware of your latest successes, directly tell him about them Accompany your explanations with any relevant work products, such as related web pages, reports, project summaries, videos, diagrams and postings on various forms of new media. Remember, as Walt Whitman said, “If you done it, it aint bragging.”
Lily Whiteman is the author of the critically acclaimed, “How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job.” Also, she delivers seminars/workshops on career advancement skills. Lily’s career advice has appeared in many national media outlets, including “The Wall Street Journal,” The Washington Post,” and National Public Radio. Lily’s website is IGotTheJob.net.