What Are Your Top Tips for Advancing a Government Career?

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This topic contains 16 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Steve Ressler 10 years, 4 months ago.

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  • #92768

    GovLoop and Brazen Careerist are teaming up to host a live video chat!

    9 PM EST, Wednesday, February 24, 2010

    Hosts Penelope Trunk and Ryan Paugh, Co-Founders of Brazen Careerist
    Guest – Andrew Krzmarzick, GovLoop Community Manager

    In advance of the event (and we can continue the conversation afterward!), I wanted to ask you:
    What Are Your Top Tips for Advancing a Government Career?

    If you could be on the video chat, what would you say? I’ll likely quote some of the responses live!

  • #92800

    Steve Ressler

    1 – Do your job really well
    2 – Take extra assignments and details
    3 – Find a good mentor…Don’t wait for them to find you
    4 – You’ll need to change jobs to grow. Take the risk
    5 – Network with others in govt – associations, events, online

  • #92798

    Here’s a great book on the subject – How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job by Lily Whiteman:

    Lily’s website: http://www.igotthejob.net/

    Some of her tips in a chapter entitled “The Fed ‘Get Ahead’ Guide”:

    1. Give your all to your job for at least the first few months.
    2. Be enthusiastic and positive.
    3. Be a problem solver.
    4. Keep evolving.
    5. Follow the controversy.

    Can’t wait to hear yours!

  • #92796

    Sara Cope

    Always keep your eyes & ears open for an opportunity. I get a daily email from USAJobs that lists new announcements in the areas I’m interested in. Even if you’re not actively looking to change jobs you will start to recognize hiring trends and even find out about management changes in your organization (yeah, sometimes that’s the first place I see it). I also read job announcements for higher graded positions to identify gaps in my training/education/experience.

  • #92794

    David Dejewski

    I like Lilly’s top five. Not having read the book, I don’t understand the context behind “Follow the controversy,” but if she’s referring to a need to be “aware” then I agree.

    I suspect that everyone will deal with any top tips list differently – based on their personality, experience, strengths and weaknesses. But having a list like this is a great place to start.

    I take many of the items on Lily’s list for granted these days, but I remember a time when this was not so easy. It’s difficult to remain positive and enthusiastic when you’re facing what appears to be a big faceless bureaucracy. When you’re not sure who cares, not sure where the boundaries are, whether or not you’re right or just mis-informed… especially when other people around you might be negative, unnecessarily competitive, or burned out.

    Summoning an internal energy to stay positive on dark and rainy days comes with practice and lots of repetition. Zipping your mouth instead of contributing to negative energy, learning to release stress, and focusing on the positive side of things is part of the process. I love the reference to the Patronus charm in Harry Potter.

    Being a problem solver requires curiosity, awareness (internal and external), teamwork, a passion for “better,” being proactive, and the courage to take action. Then to take action again. And again. and… yeah – the courage to stick with it is important too.

    Give yourself permission to have some down time. Taking your work home with you and “red-lining” all the time, might help you might rise fast, but you’re also going to burn out and fizzle – often before your maximum effectiveness is realized.

    This is easier said than done. We’re not all in the same place. One person’s level of self awareness is going to be different than another person’s. That’s where “evolving” comes in.

    In order to evolve, it helps to believe that 1. we’re capable of evolving 2. that we have some control over the rate and direction that we evolve. I’ve seen very capable people say to me “I can’t…” when I know full well that they can – they just don’t believe they can – so they won’t. Or they can, but they don’t have what it takes at the moment to do … If you don’t have it, go get it, find someone to help you get it, or help your people get it!

    I believe that promotion and career (or business) advancement is much more about an internal journey than it is about external things acting on us. Chance favors the prepared mind.

    Here’s a most excellent book about the subject of leadership and evolving (or maturing) through the various stages:

    The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership Powered Company

  • #92792

    Amanda Blount

    1. Never, ever, ever, ever turn down free training. There are free training seminars given all the time. I have met the leaders in these classes. You meet more people, and you learn something new, or you keep your skills fresh.

    2. Don’t complain too much. Look, we are all human, including the supervisors. We all have families, and we are all overworked and underpaid. No one cares that you feel like it is unfair you are doing more work then anyone else. BUCK UP OR LEAVE. Don’t bring others down in the process. Your career will reflect your time management skills.

    3. If you do have an true complaint, use the chain of command. I personally had to take a complaint to the top levels, and guess what. Instead of being downsized, I was patted on the back for how I handled the situation. I went up the chain slowly, very slowly (I gave each level 45 days to handle the situation) and kept moving up until I saw results. BUT, here is the key, and I stress this, don’t slack on you job. DO NOT MEET with investigators on work hours (even though you are allowed to). I used to put in a leave slip for one hour, and it kept the investigators on track also. OR I would meet with them after work or during lunch. Also, Do not, DO NOT, talk about your issue in the work place. If you have a complaint come to work like normal, smile, and do your work. Let the system work without your whinning.

    4. No Office gossip. That sucks! And if you get caught doing it, admit it, apoligize, make it right, and move on. AND don’t do it again.

    5. Yes, take risks. If you feel something needs changing, go to your supervisor and ask them about this situation, and tell them how you would like to implement the change. They may let you try it out. If they say no, try again in 6 months, their attitude may have changed.

    6. Use any approved volunteer time and use it well. I have just been admitted to the higher levels of CFC because I have been doing the lower levels for years. Loved it, and was asked to join the movers and the shakers of our local group. Now, I am doing what I love, plus I just expanded my network to other Federal agencies in the area.

    7. Oh and my one pet peeve – don’t dare put in a comp time sheet for every single little hour you work overtime. Look, most of us, talk around the coffee pot, take a few more extra minutes for lunch once in a while, are allowed to run a quick errand on Gov time once in a while… so give it up. If you turn in a comp time sheet for something you should have finished while you were gossiping, then you are not going to go far. My boss tells us to turn them in when we think we need them, especially when he gives us extra work, but come on. If you work late 30 minutes just once a week, and you want to turn in a comp time sheet, you are in the wrong job. If you think you are going to work 5-10 more hours then normal – then yes put in a comp time sheet, this helps your office ask for more people, plus it helps your boss track and transfer work equally.
    BUT, remember there needs to be a balance of what you are getting from your job, and how much you are giving.

    8. Can’t say this enough – Work hard! Geez. This is the Government. If you want a cushy job, go somewhere else. We need hard working people who will not only work hard, but work well. Learn to like people and work hard for them.

    9. Network at work. Even if you are a teleworker, you can go to some meetings, or e-mail some of the people who you may work for one day. Keep up! Look at the people who are moving up fast…. get to know them, and ask them how they are doing it. I have had my eyes set on a particular person from a long time ago. I told him 5 years ago that when he “makes it” I would be on his team. Well, guess what, he is one step from “making it” and last year he asked me for my resume. People like him are not stupid. Within 2 years he will need to form a team of people who work well with him. Don’t be fooled. We all do this, and powerful people are always looking for people to round out their future teams. Learn from that.

    10. DON’T use people. After all I just said it sounds like I am pushing you to use people to your own advantage. NOPE, I am saying you better have alot to offer so they can USE YOU appropriately. If you have nothing to offer to a group, you will be the weak link. Plus, You better start looking to form your own personal team for when you have “made it”. Pay back those who have worked so hard for you in the past. Remember those people, they helped make you, and they can help break you. Yep – I will admit it, and you better believe it. This is how Government and ALL big corporations work. So, learn the rules, and work well within the rules. You will do well.

  • #92790

    Quite a significant number of savvy tips-nicely said! While I teach high school English & so am not in the government per say (no time sheets for us for the hours spent grading, planning etc-but I also get better holidays so I’m not complaining) -all of these points are applicable to any job.

    Thanks for some nice reminders,

  • #92788

    Ayaan Carter

    What great advice Amanda!


  • #92786

    Amanda Blount

    An English teacher! That is terrific! As you are reading these, I am sure you are also thinking… use correct grammer! Oh, I am terrible when it comes to correct grammer! BTW – I used to teach Business in a Vocational High School, so I will tell you, I know you have one of the toughest jobs on the planet. You mentioned grading and planning, but I also know tecahers have groups they must help, they have additional meetings in the evening, and parent / teacher meetings, and phone calls, and on and on…etc.

    You job is so much harder than mine, and yes you are in the Government. Teachers have to work with in all the laws, state rules, and Fed Government rules, so yes you are a Government employee – you just work harder than us! 🙂

  • #92784

    I think congrats are in order for not only being a teacher…but being English Teacher of the Year in OH, right? You have a proud brother. 🙂

  • #92782

    I gave y’all a shout out on the Brazen Careerist live video chat last night, reading many of your comments.

    Great stuff from all of you – thanks! Keep it coming…maybe we can make a GovLoop Guide out of this and make it available for new hires?

  • #92780

    Ahhh Andy-thanks!

    I’m so unworthy in comparison to all of “Mr. GovLoop’s” top honors of being named a Federal 100 winner not once but TWICE (2007/2009-not sure how many people can claim that honor) but I have to say -personal recognition is really nice & a good reminder that we need to give out kudos more often in more sectors!

    P.S. E-mail me if you have new baby questions-we do “Bum Genius” cloth diapers & love them…

  • #92778

    As Steve will tell you, our mother still corrects our grammar so I never judge others!

    Thank you for the recognition of the extra time & the extra mandates that come down the pipelines–I’m just trying to build better government workers in the future (who can write, read & speak -crazy!!)

    🙂 Sarah

  • #92776

    Amanda Blount

    Good for you! And as Steve would say… That is awesome!

  • #92774

    Amanda Blount

    Now that is really cool! A family of high-acheivers and hard workers! I love it!

  • #92772

    Amanda Blount

    Thank You!

  • #92770

    Thanks, Sarah – I’ll provide my email: [email protected] – We’re leaning in that direction after Week 6…Thanks!

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