Powering Up Your Government Career

You may be dreaming of that Senior Executive Service suite or maybe moving to a new agency altogether. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to understand yourself, your possibilities and develop a strategic plan to get there.

At FEW’s 49th National Training Program, GovLoop learned from federal employees and career trainers, Pamela Foster and Nicole Dixon from Career Systems International, about how you can explore your needs to better define your career; develop action plans to impact current performance; and advance your career goals through tangible steps.

The training consisted of in-depth discussion and self-exploration exercise focused on understanding needs and self-branding. “Your quality of life was your responsibility,” Dixon said.

Nixon and Foster shared the Career Power Model from Career Systems International’s Career Power Classic Guide to Development Planning, which is comprised of “the 5 Ps” of person, perspective, place, possibilities and plan.

Person: Who am I?

The first stage is to define who you are and what matters to yourself. According to Foster and Nixon, one of the side effects of getting swamped by deadlines and inundated by emails along with ever-changing priorities is losing sight of “you.” Satisfying careers are more than just jobs and pay. Careers comprise your unique values, skills and interests as well as your personal traits and style.

Start assessing yourself with these tactics:

  • Share the three most important strengths/skills you are currently using on your job.
  • Share the parts of your education, background or work experience that have been most valuable to you.
  • Explain the activities in your job you enjoy doing the most.
  • Share accomplishments you are proud of.
  • Share your values and how they are reflected in the work you do.
  • Discuss the parts of your job you find really stimulating and interesting.
  • Do a S.T.A.R. Analyze a situation, tasks needed, actions to take and results.

Perspective: How Do Others See Me?

According to Foster, your professional reputation is defined by actions by yourself, assessment by others and labels of you. “Reputation can be as simple as the stories people tell about us,” Foster said. “It’s important to foster a good one because these stories can take a life of their own.”

In short, knowing yourself is not enough. You also need to be aware of how others perceive you. This will help you balance your self-assessment and clarify whether your reputation supports your career goals.

Think about how you see yourself, then solicit feedback from others. Determine what you would like people to say about you to help you achieve your goals, like a great problem solver, quick learner or excellent customer service.

Make sure you select people who will give you honest feedback about where you seem polished and couldn’t be better, where you could use continuous improvement and where your rough edges are.

Place: What’s Changing in the World of Work?

Careers, especially those in the government, grow and evolve within ever-changing cultures and environments. An important step in taking charge of your career is to understand where you stand in the world of work. In this stage, you need to explore future trends both internally and externally while understanding the effects of these trends on your career choices.

Start by asking these questions:

  • Which areas of your organization have the most viable opportunities? What do these mean to your career?
  • What are some of the major trends in your industry? How will these trends impact your organization and your career within that organization?
  • What are the key strategic business imperatives driving your organization for the next three years? How does the work you do contribute to these business drivers?
  • How has your job changed over the last six months? How will it change over the next six? What do you need to do to stay current?

Possibilities: What Are My Options?

Whether seeking a lateral move within your organization or moving elsewhere, this is the phase to explore every option.

Your personal exercises will help you to remember what you value and prioritize. For example, are flexible schedules most important to you? You may need to move to an agency that allows more telework. Are you determined to be in SES? You may have to put in a few more years in your current organization.

Decide your priorities and carefully think over every possibility so you can better envision where you want to go. 

Plan: How Can I Achieve My Goals?

This is the time to set a detailed action plan to achieve your career goals. Be specific about the actions you are going to take. What do you plan to do for the short-term? Will it be in the next week or month? Set timelines. Make sure your goals are S.M.A.R.T.

Spelled out, that means goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-framed. For example, I want to become a manager by this time next year by developing my mentoring skills.

Be sure to write down your plan and solicit feedback from trusted co-workers or supervisors.

Ultimately, powering up your government career means knowing you own your career journey and taking charge of it. By using the 5Ps and the more in-depth exercises of the guide to career development planning, you can determine your values, priorities and take the tangible steps to get where you want to be.

For more articles about Federally Employed Women and the 49th National Training Program, click here.


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