As part of today’s Government Innovator’s Virtual Summit, we heard from GovLoop President and Founder Steve Ressler has he conducted a career advice live chat for audience members. Ressler gave us a variety of awesome career tips — below are eight questions the audience asked, and Ressler’s advice.
#1: What’s your best networking tip?
Ressler said the word networking freaks people out. His advice? Just don’t think of it as networking. His best tip was instead to think of it as meeting interesting people and finding ways you can help them. Try to come at networking from it at a place of curiosity and giving. Additionally, don’t overestimate what you can accomplish when you set out to network. You don’t need to meet everyone in the room at an event — even meeting two interesting people is worth it. Set your expectations correctly on networking.
#2: What have you found as the most effective way to leverage knowledge learned from training within an organization that is stuck in the “status quo” mentality?
Ressler advised that it’s all about taking the initiative to do trainings — and to share that wealth of knowledge with other colleagues. Try to go to as many trainings as possible — but don’t stop there. Get one or two colleagues to attend a training with you. After the training, write up what you learned and share it office-wide. Your company many not be able to get out of the status quo, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop learning and sharing.
#3: Where can you get SES training?
For those not in the know, SES stands for Senior Executive Service — and it is a corps of men and women who administer public programs at the top levels of Federal Government utilizing well-honed executive skills and broad perspectives of government and public service. Look to the Office of Personnel Management first, Ressler said — they have core competencies for becoming an SES so look to training that map to those. Ressler also recommended reading books and resources from Kathryn Troutman.
#4: How do you take on more opportunities and try to “rise through the ranks” without seeming like a know-it-all?
Easy, said Ressler — stay humble. But first, and perhaps more important, “don’t worry about the haters.” He explained that most people really want everybody to like them. But as you grow through your career you realize that’s not necessarily possible — and it’s okay. It’s just the nature of life. Additionally, if you’re truly worried that you’re coming off as a know-it-all, Ressler advised trying to hold back a little bit. Do you want to be the equivalent of the person in the front row answering every question? Probably not. Let other people chime in before you talk, don’t sit next to the boss every single time, and pick your battles.
#5: If you’re a millennial, what are some of the best ways to start succeeding in gov?
It’s all about the associations, according to Ressler. Join Young Government Leaders. Look for opportunities outside of your own job and associations you can tap into like NASCIO or ACT-IAC. Secondly, read. A lot. Ressler recommend James Wilson’s book Bureaucracy as a good starting point. Finally, just be plain awesome at your job. Ressler said sometimes people overthink their roles but it’s just as important as always to do the following: Show up to work early. Leave late. Double check your spelling. Be good in meetings. Be nice. Be helpful.
#6: How can you deal with career advancement when you have more education than your peers?
Again, Ressler advised being humble. “I definitely value education and others do too and its important to honor that education,” he said. “But I find some folks are overly concerned and think they are better than others if they have a degree. The truth is, though, once you’re in the workforce you have to throw that out the door. You might have gone to Harvard, I might have gone to a non Ivy League, but when we work together, we are peers, plain and simple.” Plus, Ressler added, real world career experience can be just as valuable as advanced degrees.
#7: I’ve been in gov for 10 years and want to move to management. How?
Start by managing where you can, Ressler said, even if it doesn’t seem very glorious. Does your company have an intern program? Manage that. Or find a way to manage a project – it could be leading the companies’ summer picnic. That sounds boring, but it’s actually good experience. So work to find those opportunities. You can read books on management and go to trainings and that’s good to have — but nothing beats hands-on experience.
#8: What are some good questions to ask a manager when starting a new position?
Ask the manager who is the best person in this role in the past and what have they done to be successful, Ressler said. “Basically you’re asking, what does success in the past look like in this role?” Ressler also suggested asking about your managers’ upcoming priorities in the next month or quarter, and the best way for you to help out with those. “Try to think what’s in your manager’s brain. Ask, how can i help you? A lot of the time we’re concerned with how we’ll get something out of a job or out of our boss, but try to flip that and see what you can do to help them.”