Navigating Your Career Path – Another Tricky Scenario

There has been some great conversation back and forth with Andy’s tricky career scenario, Jump Ship, or Ask For More? I have another one for you all based on the top goals of our mentees in the GovLoop Mentors Program – hopefully the great advice will continue!

Jenny is a GS-13 who has moved up within her agency from a GS-11 over the past two years. Her long-term career ambition is to advance to the SES level.

She has the opportunity to advance to a more senior leadership role within her current agency, but she isn’t satisfied with her current career track / field of expertise.

She is presented with a tradeoff:

(1) Move career fields and start with less responsibility at a GS-12 level

(2) Gain leadership responsibility at her current agency.

What should she do – get into a different track at a lower level, or gain additional leadership experience in her current track?

For additional career scenarios and awesome GovLooper advice, check out:

How Do I Switch Fields in Government?

How Long Should I Stay Here?

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Andrew Krzmarzick

This is a tough one. It always feels like you’re taking a step back when you go somewhere for less money…even if in the grand scheme of things you will end up in a similar or better place five years down the road. That being said, if she is really unhappy on her current track, it would be better for Jenny to get into a place where she is going to enjoy the field more and accept a temporary pay cut for now.

Maybe she could even map out both tracks in a five-year plan and figure out how she could arrive at the same place over time when it comes to compensation so that it feels less like she’s losing momentum in her career in the short term.


Couple ideas:

-Depends on the career track and how much you dislike it. Do you really dislike your current career track or just have some issues with it? Also how sure are you that you will like the other career track (based on fact or perhaps on grass is always greener phenomenom). Also depends how narrowing it is – for example, I switched from auditor career track to IT program manager career track and part of it was as you move up as an auditor, it becomes harder to switch

-On the reverse, leadership skills is leadership skills and that’s transferrable. So any chance you get to lead, take it as you can leverage that in the future.

David Dejewski

It depends. There are no cookie cutter answers to these kinds of questions. It’s highly individual.

I like to start with the end in mind. What is it I want to achieve with my life? What causes/ ideals/ programs do I support? What kind of people do I want to be associated with? How do I want to be remembered?

If the track you’re on doesn’t get you where you want to go, it may make sense to jump onto another track.

Tracey Harriot

I’ve been there, but was “lucky” enough to accomplish both options above. I spent 11 years in my last career field and had moved pretty quickly through the ranks. I gained a lot of valuable skills in the process, but realized I was in the wrong field. I took my time with finding a new career (5 years, actually) and took a hefty pay cut once I decided to finally move, but I couldn’t be happier about my decision. In the three years since I changed careers, I’ve already more than made up the difference in pay and am working on entering into management once again.

My experience will not work for everyone, but it’s just a thought/example of how it could work for anyone. I love David’s idea of starting with the end in mind or Andrew’s five-year plan mapping. I think either/both of these ideas could be very helpful for Jenny in determining which option is best for her.

Lindsey Tepe

Last night at the Mentors Midpoint Energizer event, attendees offered some great advice on this scenario:

She should be sure that she really understands the responsibilities and work of an SES position – at a GS 12/13 level, she may not be working regularly with senior execs and may find that the work isn’t exactly what she had thought.

Another mentee in attendance was in a similar situation, and found that moving agencies was the best move for her. As a go-getter that has advanced from a GS-11 to 13 in two years, the step down may not be a huge roadblock to success in her new career track.

One continued theme of conversations was to follow your passion – if you aren’t invested in the work you are doing, it will be hard to show the level of commitment needed to advance.