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How to Make Lemonade From Prunes: A Career Guide

Have you ever worked for someone who lived by the mantra “We’ve never done it that way and we’re not going to start now.”? If you work for the Federal government, it’s likely that you have.

Oddly enough, there still remain many civil service employees across the Nation with more than 30 years of service. And, more often than not, this group is not the “aging workforce” that possessed the valuable institutional knowledge and skills that are greatly missed today by agencies all over the U.S. On the contrary, one might say this group “fits the bill” as stereotypical government employees. Although sad, it’s also true that many of these same people are today’s supervisors who’ve managed to rise to their highest level of incompetence thanks to the Peter Principle. So, I’ll bet there are those who’d agree these “career govies” are people who just “stuck it out” long enough to rise to the top like oil does in water.

What’s my point? Today’s Gov 2.0 workforce is being asked to suffer through an employment nightmare for the newly hired; they’re being asked to “hang in there” with their entry-level jobs even though there is little useful mentoring available so they can learn the basics of their jobs and they’re being asked to do so at the expense of trying out new ideas and making attempts to reinvent a significant yet sagging service-delivery sector in our economy.

What to do? Make lemonade!

As a nation we should be concerned about whether our economy has the time to wait for new ideas to surface. Today’s newly hired Govies are progressive and creative thinking technologists. Many also have burgeoning ideas that have yet to see the light of day because their “institutional” supervisors “have never done it that way before and don’t intend to start.” To these new Govies I say, find an outlet!

There’s so much to be learned from developing one’s ideas, even if one must do so outside the workplace. If you want to make a better widget or try out a new idea but the boss says “no”, make you’re widget in the garage, take a digital photo, and blog about it to get feedback, or tweet about your idea to find interest or to tweak your thoughts into something better, or surf the net and learn from others. That way, when the time for your widget or your idea comes of age, you’ll be the best prepared widget-maker or the most knowledgeable person in that crowd of competitive job seekers. Better yet, by shepherding your idea or your widget outside of work, a popular following or a new way of thinking may take hold and create pressure on your nay-saying supervisor to say “do it”. Now that’s what I call making “lemonade”.

When we feel like our careers are being held back by the uncooperative or less-responsive decision-makers who rule over us, it’s important to find outlets that enable us to continue moving forward, even when we feel like we’re marking time in the workplace. Learning more, developing our own skills, testing our hypotheses, even if we must do so “creatively” and outside of work are methods that are just as valuable to developing our skills as they would be if we had the support of those “prunes” we fondly call supervisors.

So, that’s my recipe of making lemonade out of prunes!

Enjoy! The HRGovGal

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