To Climb The Career Ladder, You Have To Know The Rungs


I was astounded talking with one of my co-workers today. The figure that astounded me: 27 (twenty-seven). He was making a graphic for each of the 27 career ladders in our organization. That’s quite a few career ladders, and we are not even the largest department. I realize we have hundreds of civil service classifications throughout our state, and our governing department is attempting to consolidate or eliminate hundreds of said classifications. At some point, the madness has to stop. With that said, I thought I would take the time this week to spotlight some of the more popular classifications.

Office Technician (OT) – The Office Technician is a great entryway into the civil service system. You should have descent typing skills. Do you know Microsoft Office Suite? Even better. You should have solid math and writing skills. Reading for comprehension is a huge plus because an Office Technician usually has to receive documents and make heads or tails of those documents. These folks are usually on the frontline either working with customers or being a point of contact for other areas, so customer service skills are essential.

Staff Services Analyst (SSA) – The Staff Services Analyst role is a great entry-level analyst position. You should have the ability to research and to apply critical thinking. Being able to express yourself both in the written and oral format is essential since you will have to report your findings and make simple recommendations. The nice thing about being a Staff Services Analyst is that you will never find yourself without guidance. You will almost always find yourself on a team or partnered with an associate analyst. These individuals usually enter the organization as a Jack-of-all-trades (or Jill-of-all-trades) and thus receive a lot of coaching from their supervisor as they hone their skills.

Associate Governmental Program Analyst (AGPA) – The AGPA, in addition to research skills and critical thinking skills, must be able to synthesize multiple sources of information and deploy creative solutions. The most important thing: they must be able to operate with minimal supervision. They become the tactical scout, the insertion specialist, for their team. They will oftentimes find themselves in a lead person role, so good interpersonal skills are a must. Additionally, they will find themselves presenting on behalf of the team or supervisor, so professional confidence is paramount. The AGPA gets the tough assignments, the projects that fail to make it into the project management office’s queue. At the end of the day, these folks must decide whether or not to progress as specialists or move into a leadership role.

Staff Services Manager I (SSM I) – The Staff Services Manager I is the frontline manager. They handle a team of three to five individuals and are charged with carrying out the operational duties of their program. They should have a good working knowledge of their program but, more importantly, they should have excellent interpersonal skills to be able to coach and mentor the individuals on their team. Oddly enough, writing skills are more important than ever at this level. They will find themselves writing probation reports, performance reviews, development plans, status updates, quarterly reports, annual summaries, and so on. They have to set up their associates for success, so their writing should be clear and concise. Their presentations should also be easily translatable so that their associate can pick up the ball and run with it.

So, that’s the Generalist ladder and it’s not even the whole ladder. Oh, and don’t get me started on working titles.

I really like the GS system. The rank system when I was in the Air Force was really easy to follow as well. I liked that you could have an Airman First Class (A1C) as a cop, a cook, or a mechanic. I think we can do a better job at untangling pay and time in service from job duties.

TS Hamilton 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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