Be Careful What You Wish For


“Be careful what you wish for!” – Teachers and parents probably admonished you with that warning.
But, here you are, all grown up. Working for your government and loving the whole concept of it! So, why would this vestige of days gone by be of any consequence for you? Well, because we forgot its meaning. And that we never outgrow that advice.

There are different ‘what you wish for’ career ‘traps’, if you will, that we can fall into. Here are but a few of them.


We work hard and feel under-appreciated. So we ponder the question of how best to impress our boss. We decide to offer our services for those ‘extra tasks’. Perhaps we offer to do a coffee run. Or pick up their dry cleaning. — Unfortunately, a common result of these efforts is that the boss expects that you will do these things on a regular basis. You are more likely to be taken for granted, than you are seen in a better professional light.

Perhaps we decide to come in early and leave late. (“The boss will certainly notice that!”) — Unfortunately it is noticed and also becomes expected behavior. Then, when or if you decide to ask for extra pay for this surplus time spent at the office, you might get a stifled laugh. “You chose to do this. I didn’t ask you to do so… Sorry. But the answer is ‘No’.”

So, be careful of how you decide to go about impressing your supervisor. Why not simply do great work?


You don’t want to stay at your current classification and pay grade, forever. So, while co-workers are checking out shopping or sports sites, you decide to peruse the job postings. And, there it is! A job for higher pay and a few additional rungs up the career ladder! The problem might be that the job requires you to work mega more hours than you currently do. So many more hours, that you are actually working for less money per hour, than you currently do. Or, the commute time might be much longer. Or, those whom you will be working with are miserable, gossipy, peopel!


You daydream about being assigned to a particular task. You want to be able to prove your skills and value to the agency. So, you let it be known that you want the opportunity to take on this important project. — Problem? Well, you did not quite do your ‘homework’ regarding it. You believed that you possessed the skillset necessary to pull it off. However, you soon discover that you are in above your head. You lack both the knowledge and current ability to do what it is required of you. Now, you face the prospect of failing and looking bad. Setting your career back years.


You grew up in this city. You feel a sense of wanderlust. — Then, your see a posting for a job, a lateral move, but one in a more urban and exciting location. So, you go for it and dazzle interviewers. The job is yours! The difficulty is that you never bothered to investigate the cost of housing there. Or the cost of living, in general. Now, what had been a comfortable lifestyle at your past location, is out of your reach here. Ugh!!


Some promotions entail work that is of a limited duration. It’s paid for with a special grant. Or, you are taking over for someone who is on a maternity leave of absence. But, you think that with a ‘foot in the door’, you will be ‘held over’. That the powers-that-be will be so smitten with the quality of your work, they will find new funding in order to keep you there. Or, perhaps, they will send the person who was out on leave, to a different unit when they return to work, as they love having you around — Unfortunately, life seldom works that way. Or, you might actually remain there and grow to hate the work, as time goes by.


So many people dream about becoming a supervisor. No longer being a ‘common worker-bee’. Thinking that you would not only earn much more money, but have a ton more respect. — While those aspirations might in fact materialize, some of you might simply not be ‘management material’. And, that’s okay. You might feel awkward holding others accountable. Or, those co-workers who were once your friends might no longer wish to socialize with you, ass you are now ‘one of them’. Then, there is the possibility that by becoming ‘management’, you no longer enjoy some of the job protections that you had when a part of a union.

Bottom-line, be careful of what you wish for. Investigate the opportunities. Talk them over with someone whose opinions you trust. Don’t feel pressured to advance career-wise, if you are not the ambitious type of employee. Know your assets and your limitations. Plan your finances wisely. Do not allow yourself to be taken advantage of.

‘Nuff said!

Russell A. Irving is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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