What's it take to make the best of your current position? How should you go about finding a new job? And when you do find a new job, what's the best way to make a good impression?
GovLoop explored these questions and more in its recent online training, "Your Government Career Resolutions." Virginia Hill, Manager of the Center for Government Leadership at the Partnership for Public Service, joined Julie Saad and Elizabeth Fischer Laurie. Saad is the Special Assistant to the Director, Potomac Service Center, Homeland Security Department, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Fischer Laurie is the Lead Attorney Advisor, Civil Remedies Division, Health and Human Services Department.
Hill spoke first, addressing career resolutions for those looking to make the most of the job they have now.
1. Get creative with your portfolio.
Your portfolio can always be tweaked.
"What you've got to do is make sure to ask your boss where you can change, delegate or even trade opportunities with other colleagues," Hill said.
She suggested first taking an inventory of current projects to decide which were actually the most important, and which were starting to feel stale. From there, you can think about going to your boss and requesting performance reviews or individual changes to your individual development plan.
2. Ask for what you want … seriously.
Even if you're close with your supervisor, you can't expect others to read your mind. You have to ask directly.
"This can be intimidating for some people, especially if you have to propose something directly to your supervisor," Hill said. "But you can't assume they know what you want."
If you're going to ask for what you want, she added, make sure you're prepared to make the business case for it.
3. Make time to talk to people.
Think outside of your day-to-day activities to carve some space for informational interviews and networking. Don't expect anything more from the people you talk to than their perspectives.
Treat this as a chance to broaden your horizons, Hill said.
4. Think outside of your tour of duty.
You shouldn't expect to find all your life's satisfaction from your job. Find activities you enjoy outside of work — ones that can still have a positive impact on your career.
Hill recommended improv comedy classes, meet-ups for a specific interest or volunteer work, among others.
The second speaker was Fischer Laurie, who noted four tips for one of the most difficult aspects of professional life: job hunting.
1. Be accountable to yourself by planning.
As common wisdom holds, if you write down your goals and some steps to achieve them, you're more likely to succeed.
That said, these goals should be within reason. It might help to create smaller weekly or monthly goals, as opposed to one or two large goals.
2. Track your progress.
This applies to accountability as well, and it can help keep you from feeling like you're spinning your wheels.
Fischer Laurie said that even she had not yet found an ideal way to keep track of her progress, but she gave a few examples of helpful tools: spreadsheets, Word documents, notebooks and calendar applications. And keep track of who you've spoken to.
3. Don't be so hard on yourself.
This is a widely-applicable tip. Cut yourself a break!
The job hunting process is a long and, at times, arduous one. You'll do yourself a big favor if you take a few deep breaths and keep it all in perspective.
"Remember Rome was not built in a day," she said. "You need to know that it's going to take some time."
4. Talk to others about what you are trying to do.
Just like any other New Year's resolution, talking about your goals with other people can help you stay more accountable. That said, you probably don't want to walk into your supervisor's office and tell them of your job hunt when it's in its early stages, unless you have a close relationship with him or her.
Saad spoke last on the training, assuming the next topic in the process. How do you make a good impression at that new job?
1. "Show up" in a way that reinforces the hiring manager's decision.
New employees should bring authentic energy, enthusiasm and willingness to hit the ground running as soon as they come on to the new job. Making it clear that your supervisor made the right move in hiring you will go a long way.
"You want to make sure that you're starting off on the right foot," Saad said.
2. Go above and beyond to produce stellar work products that will speak for themselves.
Early on, it's important you excel in your tasks and projects, no matter how small. This goes hand-in-hand with No. 1.
3. Take initiative.
Don't just sit back and wait for those tasks and projects to come to you. Be proactive in seeking out new ways to help the organization. Be observant and look for areas where you can dive in or take the lead.
4. Keep your eyes and ears open for collateral duty opportunities, volunteer roles or special projects.
Of course it's vital you do your job well. It's also important you pitch in to support other areas of the organization that need the help.