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The Gov Gurus - Gov't Career Advice That Works http://thegovgurus.com government career advice that works Mon, 10 Aug 2009 22:19:14 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.6.5 en 10 Ways to Tell Your Boss What a Great Job You’re Doing http://thegovgurus.com/?p=259 http://thegovgurus.com/?p=259#comments Mon, 10 Aug 2009 22:15:56 +0000 admin http://thegovgurus.com/?p=259
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    10 WAYS TO TELL YOUR BOSS WHAT A GREAT JOB YOU’RE DOING

    By Lily Whiteman

    Federal Times columnist and author of How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job

    As your work projects progress, ask yourself whether your boss knows what you are doing.  I mean really knows what you are doing, as in all of the trouble-shooting, barrier-busting and going the extra mile-ing that you do.

    Unfortunately many bosses  –  taxed to the max and untrained in supervising  –  rarely take the time and trouble to say to their staffers those five little important words: “What are you working on?”  This principle was underscored to me by the manager of a large federal accounting office who confessed as we strolled through his staff’s cubicle farm, “I probably know about 10 percent of what each of these people do daily.”

    Why should you work to close this type of communication gap between you are your boss?  Because you probably won’t get credit on your annual evaluation for achievements that your boss doesn’t know about.  In other words, what your boss doesn’t know about you could hurt you on your annual evulations.

    But beware: your annual evaluations are important to you for several reasons:

    • Your annual bonus will probably based on your annual evaluation.
    • If you are on a pay-for-performance salary system, your annual raise will be based on your evaluation instead of on a pre-set, automatic salary increase.
    • Your prospects for promotions may hinge, in part, on your evaluations.  That is because many federal job applications require submission of recent annual evaluations.  And even if you job applications don’t require you to submit recent annual evaluations, you should  –  if possible  –  cite your record of earning positive evaluations and quote praising comments from your evaluations in your resume and application essays included in your future job applications.

    If you suspect that your boss or other managers or unaware of your achievements, here are 10 ways to start spreading the good news:

    1. Introduce Yourself: If your boss is replaced, your new boss probably won’t know anything what you can do or have already done.  Nor will he know anything about your credentials, such as awards you have won or degrees you have earned.

      So don’t just settle for a hallway handshake introduction with your new boss. Instead, make an appointment to introduce yourself to him.  During your meeting with your new boss, tell him about your biggest projects; show him some of your relevant work products; identify your upcoming projects and the approvals you will need on them; and suggest some future projects that would interest you and benefit your office.  One more thing: no griping or complaining during that first meeting!

    1. Cultivate a Friendly Rapport: Without being obsequious, complement your boss on successes and chat with your boss when you both have some free time, such as before a meeting begins or at the end of the day.  By doing so, you will make it easier to deliver your good news as it develops.
    1. Be Direct: Many professionals only hint about their extra efforts.  For example, they assume that if they send their boss an email late at night, he will notice the time stamp on the email, make a mental note of their long hours and remember those contributions at review time.  But will he?  And isn’t it risky to rely on the selective and imperfect memory of a pressured, distracted boss?

      Instead, when you’re working like a harnessed beast, take the bull by the horns and tell your boss about your extra efforts.  Say something like, “I just wanted to let you know that we are making good progress on Project X…Jane and I are working hard on it; we put in 12-hour days on it every day this week.”

      In addition, if you work extra hours, claim the comp time or credit hours that you deserve on your time card.  You shouldn’t anonymously donate your time to your office any more than you would make anonymous financial donations to your office.

    1. Provide Updates: Establish a regular method for updating your boss on your projects involving some sort of cyber or paper trail – such as regularly emailed status reports.  Be sure to describe in such updates special obstacles you conquered, such as repeated computer crashes or staff shortages.  Also mention in your updates positive feedback you have received on your work from other professionals, including other managers at your own agency or at other agencies, your colleagues, stakeholder groups, contractors, clients or your staffers.
    1. Participate in Staff Meetings: If you’ve completed an important phase of a project, tell your colleagues about it in staff meetings.  Also, mention any major positive feedback you’ve received.  For example, if your office’s top banana just approved your organization’s annual report and complimented you for completing it in record time, say so.
    1. Show-and-Tell: Show to your boss or leave in your boss’s in-box documents that validate your success.  These may include, for example, evaluations from trainings or events you organized, complimentary emails from top managers, agendas from conferences at which you gave presentations, articles you published, or web pages you created.  Also, invite your boss to presentations, trainings or other events that you organize.
    1. Convey Compliments: If another manager besides or boss or any other noteworthy figure compliments your work, respond by saying something like, ”I’m sure that my boss would like to hear your impressions of my work.  Would you mind emailing him a short note telling him what you just aid to me, and c.c.-ing me on that note as well?”

      I taught this technique to a Treasury Department Webmaster who used it to convey to his boss his client’s satisfaction with a website he created.  In response, his boss gave him a $500 cash award that he otherwise would not have received.

    1. Write About It: Offer to write articles about your projects for your office’s newsletter or Intranet site and for professional publications.
    1. Express Gratitude: When projects that you lead conclude, email each member of your team a thank-you note that describes the team’s successes and c.c. your boss on it.
    1. Talk to the Crowds: Don’t wait to be invited to give presentations at conferences and other meetings of large groups; instead, volunteer to do so.  To select good topics, consider what specialized knowledge you have that others would find useful.  For example, you could describe a successful case study, provide how-to instruction, or discuss lessons learned from a policy or system implementation.  Alternatively, summarize the state of knowledge on a particular topic or discuss ways to adapt to changes in your field.  After the event, tell your boss about your presentation and any positive feedback it drew.

    Get more practical advice on how to accelerate your advancement in How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job (Amacom) by Lily Whiteman.

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    Why Initiative Beats Inertia http://thegovgurus.com/?p=254 http://thegovgurus.com/?p=254#comments Sun, 07 Jun 2009 03:49:04 +0000 admin http://thegovgurus.com/?p=254
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    Even if you have the best boss in the world, you will never be more than your boss’s second most important priority.  Indeed, no matter how kind and caring your boss is, how much camaraderie you share with your colleagues and how loving your family is, you’re the only person in the world who has true pride of ownership over your career; it is your career.

    Sure: managers, colleagues and members of your inner circle may provide you with guidance and support.   But whether you’re in government or the private sector, you can’t expect anyone else to vigilantly look out for your career, ensure that you get the recognition you deserve, and devote themselves to your advancement.

    What’s more, even if you have the perfect job now, perfection is usually only a temporary state.  So now matter how happy you are in your current job, you will probably eventually have to find another one.

    Nevertheless, opportunities to improve your skills, land career-boosting assignments, generate key contacts and advance probably won’t just drop into your lap.  You must aggressively find and pursue them by showing initiative and applying enterprising, savvy strategies.  Here are some ways to do so:

    • Stay current in your field: Every field continually changes and evolves.  So if you don’t continually improve your skills and knowledge, you will fall behind the curve.  In order to stay ahead of the curve, ask your boss to send you to relevant trainings offered by your agency, the Federal Executive Institute and Management Training Centers at leadership.opm.gov, the USDA Graduate School at www.grad.usda.gov, and the Federal Executive Boards at feb.gov.  Also, peruse the Catalogue of Federal Leadership Development Programs at opm.gov/fedldp/index.aspx, and classes for feds inventoried at govleaders.org.  And, if appropriate, ask your boss if your office will pay for your tuition for relevant university classes or degrees.
    • Follow the power: Seize any and all opportunities to interact with the front offices of your agency and department. Why?  Because those front offices are loaded with high-graded positions, big budgets and senior managers who have the power to promote.  So it’s usually easier to move up in front offices than backwater offices.  What’s more, if you hitch your wagon to one of your front office’s rising stars, you may rise with him/her.  Remember: success is often more about who knows what you can do rather than just who you know.
    • Follow the controversy: If possible, volunteer to contribute to your organization’s high-profile, high-priority projects.  Your contributions to such projects will be more appreciated and will provide more exposure to high-level officials that will your contributions to back-burner projects.
    • Develop a useful, high-demand specialty: This technique helped a young financial planner and all-around go-getter catapult into the senior executive service.  He explains, “I volunteered to distill complex data and trends into bite-sized descriptions and easy-to-understand graphs for managers. I thereby helped them find good answers to hard problems. Soon I was getting invited to high-level meetings where these conceptual skills were useful.  And those meeting provided a good vantage point for me to spot opportunities for advancement.”
    • Be available and helpful: When your office is short staffed tell your office director that you’re available to help.  For example, several years ago, a Policy Analyst at the Department of Housing and Urban Development did just that on July 3, after most of her colleagues had already left for the holiday.  The result:  By the end of that July, the Policy Analyst had been hand-picked by the Assistant Secretary to become her Special Assistant.  Also, be the unflappable troube-shooter during crises.
    • Stay in touch: Keep in contact with as many of your current colleagues as possible.  And whenever you change jobs, send out a global email with your new contact info to your contacts.  Why?  Because as you move up the career ladder, so will your current colleagues and supervisors.  So even if they can’t hire you now, they may be able to do so in the future.  What’s more, as your contacts move from agency to agency, they will provide you with pipelines into other organizations.

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    Federal Jobs for Generalists http://thegovgurus.com/?p=246 http://thegovgurus.com/?p=246#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2009 20:27:46 +0000 admin http://thegovgurus.com/?p=246
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    ARE YOU A GENERALIST?

    You may be a generalist if you have:

    • A liberal arts degree and/or an advanced degree in law, business, international relations, public administration, public policy, environmental policy, public health or a variety of other fields.
    • Excellent writing and oral communication skills.
    • An ability to synthesize information from various sources into compelling, reader-friendly communications.
    • A natural curiosity about varied topics, instead of a passion for one or two highly technical, esoteric topics that only about five people in the world really care about.
    • A willingness to stay current on the news.

    TYPES OF FEDERAL JOBS FOR GENERALISTS

    Federal agencies offer fantastic employment opportunities for generalists at all levels –  from entry level to management level.  These positions usually require developing some substantive knowledge about the issues addressed by the agency and then:

    • Producing educational materials for large audiences, including the public, stakeholder groups and Congress.  These materials may include, for example, fact sheets, web content, PowerPoint presentations, reports, videos, blogs and podcasts.
    • Answering questions about federal programs from the public, the press and Congress
    • Managing fact-finding hearings on hot-button issues and press conferences to announce new regulations, the results of investigations, legal actions and other regulatory activities.
    • Delivering briefings to the employees of federal agencies and/or to senior staffers
    • Pitching news stories to the press.
    • Serving as a liaison between a federal agency’s headquarters office  –  which generates policies and regulations  –  and field offices throughout the U.S. that implement those policies and regulations.

    FINDING OPENINGS

    Common job titles for federal jobs for generalists include public affairs specialist, writer/editor, web content specialist, communications specialist, outreach coordinator, Congressional affairs specialist, legislative affairs specialist, policy analyst and program analyst. You may find openings for generalists by searching for these job titles on:

    • The career sections of agency websites.  (A hyperlinked, A-to-Z list of agency websites is posted at http://www.firstgov.gov.)

    You may also find federal openings for generalists by:

    • Attending federal job fairs.

      Note that federal internship programs are only rarely advertised on USAJOBS; they are usually only advertised on agency websites.

    TARGET AGENCIES FOR GENERALISTS

    Although generalists are hired by virtually all federal agencies, several federal organizations are particularly popular among generalists because they offer “think tanky” environments and manage studies, reports and programs on multi-disciplinary topics, including foreign affairs, education, information technology social issues, economics, environmental issues, public health and the sciences.  These agencies include The Library of Congress, the Congressional Research Service, the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Office of Management and Budget.

    Other popular destinations for generalists include the Smithsonian; the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy and Transportation; the Environmental Protection Agency; Foreign Service agencies and intelligence agencies.  In addition, the National Academy of Sciences (http://www.nas.edu), which advises the federal government on scientific and technical issues, also employs a large cadre of generalists.

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    QUICK TIP: LOSE YOUR LOANS http://thegovgurus.com/?p=241 http://thegovgurus.com/?p=241#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2009 18:31:41 +0000 admin http://thegovgurus.com/?p=241
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    Federal agencies may repay up to $10,000 of an employee’s academic debt per year up to a total of $60,000.  In return the employee must agree to stay with the agency for at least three years.

    So if you have outstanding student loans, during your salary negotiations ask your hiring agency if it would enroll you in the student loan repayment program.  To obtain additional information about the student loan repayment program and to find out which agencies offer this benefit most frequently, click here.

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    Quick Tip - Find The Presenter Before He Presents http://thegovgurus.com/?p=236 http://thegovgurus.com/?p=236#comments Sat, 11 Apr 2009 19:36:44 +0000 admin http://thegovgurus.com/?p=236
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    Are you going to a conference or meeting where you hope to meet the presenter?  Maybe you have an idea you want to run by him/her?  Maybe you just want to connect and swap business cards?

    Here’s the trick - Find him/her right before they go on.  They are probably in the back looking bored, maybe on their computer, and there is no line to talk to them.  Afterwards, they will be completely swamped and you’ll be lucky to stand in line with 10 others and get 5 minutes.

    So go early to the talk, find the speaker, and talk to them early.

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    Weekly Best - Around the Web - 4/1 http://thegovgurus.com/?p=232 http://thegovgurus.com/?p=232#comments Sun, 05 Apr 2009 23:20:06 +0000 admin http://thegovgurus.com/?p=232
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    Give Em Goose Bumps - Tammy Erickson

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    Quick Tip - Maximize Your LinkedIn Connections http://thegovgurus.com/?p=227 http://thegovgurus.com/?p=227#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2009 12:50:14 +0000 admin http://thegovgurus.com/?p=227
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    After you register on LinkedIn.com, type the name of your target organization into the site’s search window.  You will thereby generate a list of friends, friends-of-friends, and even friends-of-friends-of-friends who work at your target organization.

    Ask the contacts on your LinkedIn list for additional networking contacts, informational interviews, and leads for openings at your target organization.  Also ask them to help you prepare for interviews by providing you with background information about your target organization’s culture and about your interviewers.

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    8 Ways to Identify Anyone’s Self-Interest: Hello My Name is Scott

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    QUICK TIP: COMMUNICATING WITH THE SILENT TYPE

    An agency contact person is identified on the vacancy announcement of each federal job. Contact the agency contact person for your target job if you have any questions about:

    · How your application has faired thus far in the selection process. Yes, the agency contact person can and will tell you whether your application has been rejected or is still being considered, whether you may be called for an interview, and what numerical score your application earned.

    · The status of the selection process for your target job.

    · Procedures for applying for your target job.

    · The responsibilities and benefits of your target job.

    Don’t be shy: it is the contact person’s job to answer questions from applicants like you.

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