What’s Next in Your Upwardly Mobile Career?


Upwardly mobile is defined as moving or aspiring to move to a higher social class or to a position of increased status or power by collinsdictionary.com. If you’re “old school” (entered government service before 2000), you took the test, received your results, received job offers, and started work. You applied for promotion by identifying your specific set of knowledge, skills, and abilities (or your merit status) and received your next promotion. This was the process for applying for federal jobs and receiving promotions for years.

Fortunately, the times have changed (and are constantly changing!). Previously, employees might spend their entire career in the same agency or area of service/expertise, twenty-five plus years of doing the same activity (or a like activity). Now, government careers are fluid and varied, flexible and adaptable. A person might begin service as an inspector and end their career in a completely different area of expertise like teaching, policy development, or label approval.

Here are five tips to help you decide what your next stop will be on this career train. Ask yourself:

  1. What’s my why? This question helps you determine why you chose to work for your current Agency.  Benefits? Money? The ability to promote? Security? Self-fulfillment? Location? Overtime? Comp time? The questions are endless and only you know what compels you to keep doing what you do every day.
  2. Are you fulfilled? This question will help you to determine if there are areas of your professional development that are not being met. Do you really enjoy interacting with customers, but your current position has you locked away in a cubicle? Are you interested in teleworking but your current assignment has you tethered to a plant and that’s not an option? Are you working and enjoying the feelings of contentment from a job well-done or do you dread your alarm clock going off daily? Are you only INTERESTED in promotion or are you COMMITTED to promoting?  This particular question is extremely important because interest won’t get you to that promotion, but commitment will! Again, these queries depend entirely on you.
  3. Am I effective? To answer this question, self-assessment is good, but not entirely helpful.   A 360-degree assessment of your direct reports as well as your direct supervisor will provide a clearer picture of your effect in your area of expertise. The 360-degree assessment will tell you how well you are performing both above and below your area of influence. You will discover how your co-workers see your work habits: are you a team player? Do you encourage/edify your teammates? Are you the Debbie Downer on the team? You will also discover how your supervisor views your contributions. Are you blocking team creativity or do you add to the team constructively?   When determining team leads, are you the go-to person for your supervisor or are you the last person picked to play ball? By receiving constructive criticism from your direct reports as well as your direct supervisor, you can ascertain what areas need to be addressed.   Perhaps your approach is so strong and overbearing that your direct reports cannot relate to you. Maybe your supervisor has noticed that you show partiality or bias to certain groups and you are not consistently applying regulatory decisions.
  4. What’s in it for me? This question is what keeps you pushing past the obstacles to get to the next place. Your personal advantages or benefits are defined by answering this question.   Maybe you are encouraged by monetary incentives, recognition among your peers, pride, or self-empowerment.  We all have our own motivators and we are not motivated by the same things. Perhaps you have a young family and feel compelled to spend more time at home; being offered a promotion that requires fifty percent more of your time traveling away from your family would not be a motivator for you  even with twice as much pay per hour.
  5. Have I matured enough for the next position? After you have evaluated every other area of your career development, this question must be addressed.

Are there any other questions or concerns you have encountered in your search for your next position?

Adrienne Nelson-Reynolds 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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Joe Raasch

Thanks for sharing Adrienne! I love #1. Each of us needs to figure this out, know the answer changes over time, and OWN IT. It’s ok to work for money, for love of the work, for security, for whatever. But be true to yourself and your next opportunity.