When it comes to professional development, no one can take you to the best version of your career besides yourself.
This startling reality is one that’s equally true in both the public and private sectors. Recognizing that you are ultimately the only anchor holding yourself down will help you scale the summit in any industry, including government.
Kirk Borkowski says that his tenure as Director of Operations and Special Partnerships at Drexel University Online has repeatedly shown him how personal anxieties can undermine professional goals. Drexel University is a Philadelphia-based school focused on preparing young men and women from all walks of life for successful careers in an emerging economy.
“The primary barrier that most students in this or any or sector face is time, money and fear,” he said Wednesday during GovLoop’s NextGen Professional Development Virtual Summit: Advance Your Gov Career. “Time and money are always a concern. Sometimes that fear is what’s unknown, how to get started or even what to get started with.”
Borkowski added that once a government employee decides to overcome their hesitation and invest in themselves, they typically need a mix of hard and soft skills to develop professionally.
Hard skills are technical skills related to specific situations and tasks. Soft skills, meanwhile, are those that typically focus on communication, interpersonal relationships and personal character.
Government employees reach their full potential, Borkowski continued, by cultivating traditionally valuable traits like adaptability, creativity and negotiating. More recently, Borkowski noted, agencies are looking for potential workers with cybersecurity and compliance knowledge.
“Each of these skills is necessary for one to refine as they embark on the government career ladder,” he said.
So how do government employees looking to develop professionally take their first steps up the mountain of success? According to Lisa J. Alonzo, the answer is obtaining as much wisdom as possible.
“Leaders are life-long learners,” said Alonzo, the Executive Director of the Alamo Federal Executive Board. AFEB is the collaboration hub for 63 federal agencies in the greater San Antonio, Texas area. “They make learning a lifestyle. An education is far more valuable than a degree.”
For example, Alonzo said, government employees should not let their finances block their professional development dreams.
“Because I am a life-long learner, I’m always looking for chances to take classes at free or reduced rates,” she said. “You don’t have to have a whole pot of money. There are opportunities to find nuggets of knowledge in all that you do.”
Alonzo said that one’s current workplace is often overflowing with potential opportunities for personal and professional growth.
“By having awareness [of your goals], your supervisor can budget and help you with trainings that keep you focused on your career journey,” she said. “Another option is take on special projects as the lead. You want to work as hard as you can to learn that job thoroughly.”
Another tool, Alonzo continued, is becoming a frequent sight at networking events. According to Alonzo, these moments are valuable for forging connections and shopping your business cards and resume.
“You never know who you’re going to meet at these conferences that can be a game-changer for you and your career,” she said. “Sometimes when we’re comfortable, we need to step outside our comfort zone.”
Most importantly, Alonzo added, is that government employees remember their desires may not become reality overnight.
“Life happens,” she said. “Sometimes it throws you that unexpected curveball. Don’t be so stringent in your plans that you beat yourself up. Take time to exhale and time to pause.”
If you want to attend sessions like this one at future virtual summits, pre-register today!