The pandemic has put many things on pause — travel plans, family gatherings, concerts… the list goes on and on. But one thing that doesn’t have to suffer is your career development.
On the NextGen online training, “How to Set and Achieve Career Growth Remotely,” three government experts with decades of experience shared their advice on how to continue developing new skills and competencies while working remotely.
In a way, “remote work has leveled the playing field,” said Mary Portko, Chief Learning Officer at the U.S. General Services Administration. While government has experimented with remote work in the past, more people are now experiencing what it’s like to attend virtual meetings and attempt to interact with colleagues and take care of business while working from home.
While this obviously presents challenges, it can also present new opportunities.
Chris O’Neil, the National Transportation Safety Board’s Media Relations Chief, pointed out that restrictions on non-essential travel and the explosion of virtual events mean that it is now easier than ever to access and attend trainings. Without having to worry about travel costs, commute time, and other factors, you can easily access high-quality trainings on a wide variety of topics, all from the comfort of your home.
With this in mind, now may actually be the perfect time to set and achieve career or professional development goals. But what should they look like?
John Verrico, a former senior executive in government, emphasized the importance of making goals about impact, not status. Instead of focusing on a new title or a new rung on the career ladder, consider what professional advancement would allow you to do, and who it would enable you to help.
Mary Portko agreed, suggesting that for every goal, you should have a path, and that path should bring you joy. If you can find joy in how you set your goals, they are much easier to stick with, and the journey to achieving them will be much more meaningful.
So, what sort of goals should you be setting, exactly?
Chris O’Neil recommended getting outside of your comfort zone, which could mean looking for assignments or responsibilities that might be outside your normal sphere of work. As everyone adjusts to new realities around work, now is the time to experiment with new things and try the unexpected.
As for daily actions that can help you advance in your career, Mary Portko identified the often-dreaded virtual meetings that we sit through as an opportunity to shine.
“Instead of showing up and waiting for the conversation, lead the conversation,” she said. By preparing questions and notes beforehand, you can make an impact that will not go unnoticed. In relation to this, she also highlighted the importance of building a portfolio — with tasks completed, ideas generated and projects led — that you can have on hand to reference during performance evaluations.
During this time, there is also a unique opportunity for supervisors to help their employees develop.
“Peel back the onion and have a personal conversation about what they’re really looking for,” said Mary. They may think they need a job change in order to get the responsibilities or opportunities that they want, but as a manager, you may be able to help them fulfill those goals in their current position.
Ultimately, the definition of success is up to you. As Chris O’Neil said, you shouldn’t say that you failed just because you didn’t achieve a goal. Now is the time to experiment, learn and make mistakes. As John Verrico pointed out, trying new things and setting new goals can actually be helpful if you’re feeling burnt out.
While the past year has been unique, and the future promises to be full of changes in the way we work, the recipe for personal development and professional success remains the same. Set goals that you care about, and learn and grow on your way to achieving them.
A special opportunity for our community members: Are you interested in receiving free professional coaching sessions with a U.S. Department of Interior Coach Training Participant (a program certified by the International Coach Federation)? The benefits of coaching include higher engagement, retention, organizational performance and productivity; increased focus on mission and organizational objectives; improved creativity, learning, and knowledge; and better relationships.
Interested federal employees may contact Angela Lennartson, Senior HR Analyst & Agency Special Employment Programs Manager with Department of the Interior at [email protected]