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Tips for Getting Promoted in the Public Sector

In the past five years, I have accepted jobs at two organizations and have been promoted at each one. In the past year, I was promoted twice, increasing my salary nearly 29%. While not all promotions come with salary increases, they are opportunities that can lead to more income. Here are some of my tips for getting promoted in the public sector:

Thinking Ahead

At each position I’ve accepted, I have always thought about my next step. Where can I go from here? How can I grow in this position to get me to the next level? When I was considering accepting my current role, my salary was not a factor in my decision as the pay difference was minor. I did, however, think about the opportunities that would help me reach my future aspirations.

What are your goals? Do you want to be in a leadership position? Do you want to make a certain amount each year? Think ahead and how your current role can get you there. Here are a few ways to think ahead:

  • Journal about your future: take some time to reflect on where you want to be in one, five or ten years.
  • Vision boards: while they might be silly, vision boards are a creative way to open yourself up to what you truly want to accomplish.
  • Talk about it: talk to a friend or family member about what the future might hold. You might be surprised by how supportive they can be.

Make A Plan

While I’ve never been certain about the exact job titles I would like, I am certain about working in government and being in a leadership role. To become better at both, I enrolled in a women’s leadership program and decided to go back to school for a Master’s in Public Administration. Achieving both required planning so I wouldn’t overextend myself.

Work on creating a plan that makes sense for you at your organization. If there are limited opportunities to get promoted, look at other professional development options that can help improve your skills.

  • Look at your year: take a look at your calendar and how you can work on your self-improvement. Do you want to become a better public speaker? Perhaps work toward a certification? Want to go back to school? Or serve on a board or commission? All of these require time commitments, so look at the year and where it makes the most sense to fit in your plan.
  • Prioritize engagements: new challenges sometimes require us to let go of other things we’ve said yes to. Prioritize what will help you attain your goals and assess other engagements.

Work on Your Areas of Opportunity

For me, weaknesses are areas of opportunity. We all have them. A current area of opportunity I’m working on (and I’m sure many of us have) is public speaking, specifically getting comfortable with moderating events. While it’s uncomfortable, I know it’s going to make me a better public speaker overall. I’ve challenged myself at work to raise my hand for public speaking events. What are your areas of opportunity? How can you find ways to overcome them?

  • Look at your work: while I would like to think I do everything very well at work, I know that I can do better in certain areas. I encourage you to work on these areas so you can make improvements.

Share Your Plan

Once you’ve developed your plan, share it with others. Find the appropriate time to share with your leadership team. Perhaps you have an annual review or time of the year that you can check-in. I shared my hopes of being in a leadership role with my direct supervisor who was supportive and recommended the women’s leadership program I later enrolled in. Often, leadership isn’t aware of your aspirations until you tell them.

  • Talk to a friend or family member about your plan: you’ll find that the more you talk about it, the more you commit to doing the work.

Implement Your Plan

Actions speak louder than words, so walk your talk and do the work. This is the hardest part about self-improvement and working towards a promotion. You have to be accountable to yourself, so check-in often and evolve the plan as needed.

Other Tips

  • If job promotions are limited at your organization, ask your supervisor if they would consider job title changes. Often, titles are a reflection of the work and a slight change can be an investment later on in your career.
  • Show initiative even in the smallest ways. Learn to anticipate the needs of others and make yourself an even more valuable team player.
  • Find opportunities outside of your organization. Want to work on your leadership skills? Find a volunteer board where you can give back and find opportunities for self-improvement.
  • Mentor others so you can pass down your own knowledge and give back. This has helped me reflect on my own journey and has fueled my commitment to keep improving and keep reaching for those promotions.

Have you been promoted? How did you achieve your new role? Drop your comments down below.

You might also be interested in GovLoop’s 5 Things That Could Be Stopping You From Your Next Promotion and 6 Reasons You’re Not Getting Promoted.

Maribel Castañeda currently serves at the pleasure of Virginia Governor Ralph S. Northam as the Director of Appointments in the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office. She facilitates the appointment process for over 300 state boards and commissions or about 800 appointments each year. She bridges communication between constituents, state agencies, Governor’s Cabinet and organizations who want to share a voice in their government. Her vision is to have each board and commission reflect the Virginia that exists today. Maribel also serves as the Director of Latino Outreach connecting the Hispanic and Latino community to resources and services.

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