Congratulations on your new career in public service! Now what?
Perhaps you’re entering public service after spending the bulk of your career in the private sector. Or you’re a student fresh out of college. Starting out, you will receive a great deal of information, which can be akin to trying to drink water from a fire hose. However, amidst the sea of information, there are ways to establish your footing. Here are five tips to help you navigate your first year in public service:
Find Out What You Can, Early
On the offer letter, there should be information on where to meet for orientation, as well as your point of contact (POC) – usually your immediate supervisor, or other designated sponsor. If you did not get to ask during the initial interview, consider getting in touch with your POC to inquire about immediate expectations – i.e. working hours, or if additional documentation is needed. You want your first week to go as smoothly as possible.
Look for Opportunities to Learn
Complete mandatory trainings as soon as possible. Examples of these trainings might include: network security awareness, ethics or anti-harassment. Most, if not all agencies have some kind of Learning Management System (LMS), where a great deal of mandatory trainings can be completed. In addition, check with your agencies’ workforce/career development center for any upcoming trainings. Find out how your agency disperses its information internally. Some have electronic boards throughout the building. Others have email lists or an electronic newsletter. Check these periodically to find out about training events. Lastly, GovLoop offers trainings through its academy as well as webinars. Consider signing up for one!
Maximize Meet & Greets
During your first week, your supervisor may introduce you to your new colleagues. Be sure to write down their names, and send follow-up email. You may even want to schedule some additional time with them, to find out more about what they do, and where your roles might intersect. There may be some chance for future collaborative efforts! Also, don’t forget to find out who your day-to-day team members are and what projects they might be working on. If possible, avail your support early. In addition, although as a new employee you might be tempted to opt out (at least in the beginning), consider attending divisional or agency-wide meetings. This is a good chance to introduce yourself to people in other divisions.
Get a Mentor
After establishing and making connections, identify a mentor. If your agency has a formal mentorship program, consider signing up. While your supervisor can provide leadership and guidance, it is still a good idea to create connections with other leaders within your agency. Mentors can provide additional insight into navigating company culture and adjusting as a new public servant. Review this article from Forbes for additional information on the benefits of mentorship, and how to go about choosing a mentor.
Volunteer, Volunteer, Volunteer
Federal agencies have a number of opportunities for civic engagement. Whether Feds Feed Families, or the Combined Federal Campaign, those causes need champions! Consider volunteering. Not only is this is a great way to build solidarity and support around a great cause, it is also a great way to further establish connections throughout your agency. You may also want to consider joining an agency committee. There are plenty to choose from – employee engagement, human capital, committee planning for monthly events. These are yet another pathway to involvement.
The public sector is vastly different from other industries. There will be different expectations of you, and a lot to learn in a short time. Creating strategies can help you establish your footing, and, give direction to your new career in public service!
Hope Marshall is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.