Dear new Govie:
Congratulations. I applaud your choice to work in an environment that might make the world a better place. Here are some things you should know as you begin a career in public service:
1. If you plan to work directly with the public, learn the fundamentals of good customer service. Please understand the public is your main customer. The key thing you will learn is that customers want to feel like someone can hear, understand, and deliver what they need. You may not get customer service training on the job. If they don’t give it, make it your responsibility to go get it.
2. If you do not work directly with the public, remember that you still work for the public. In other words remember you are a civil “servant” and not a civil “master”. Regardless of your role or title, a little humility will keep you connected to what you are doing and why.
3. Bring your best self to the job. Of course, nobody’s perfect but everyone has at least one good quality. Don’t be afraid to display that good quality and any other best aspects of yourself. By doing this you will not only dismantle but also destroy any remnants of old outdated stereotypes of government bureaucrats. When you bring your best self to the job you will also by default bring your best work, your best ideas, and your best work ethic.
4. In the beginning, forget the career ladder and just learn. You can try to monkey branch your way to the top but after you get “there” will you be able to garner respect as if you are someone who has a proven track record. You might, but only if you humble yourself enough to learn your craft.
5. Learn by listening more than you talk. Did you hear that? Try an 80/20 rule. Listen 80 percent of the time and talk 20 percent of the time.
6. Be honest. If you are asked to give feedback be truthful with your employer about the good, the bad, and the ugly. Honesty also requires that you do your job with a degree of integrity. Take your honesty across the board to your clients, your stakeholders, your staff, your co-workers, as well as yourself.
7. Try to align your interests and your work. It’s hard to fake passion. It’s okay to use your head but it’s also okay to be led by your heart. Was it genuine interest that called you into public service? Don’t let go of that.
8. Know when to stay and when to leave. Don’t let the security of public service become a stumbling block for your progress. If after doing everything you can to be a great civil servant, after bringing your “A” game, and after keeping your head and your heart in the game, you can’t make it all work – don’t stay in a toxic workplace. You still owe it to yourself to find happiness.
Good luck, new Govie.