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The Gov Gurus - Gov't Career Advice That Works » Getting Ahead government career advice that works Mon, 10 Aug 2009 22:19:14 +0000 en 10 Ways to Tell Your Boss What a Great Job You’re Doing Mon, 10 Aug 2009 22:15:56 +0000 admin
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    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 Sun, 07 Jun 2009 03:49:04 +0000 admin
  • 10 Ways to Tell Your Boss What a Great Job You’re Doing 10 WAYS TO TELL YOUR BOSS WHAT A GREAT JOB...
  • Top 10 Reasons to Be Nice to Admin Times have changed and roles have changed along the way....
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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, the USDA Graduate School at, and the Federal Executive Boards at  Also, peruse the Catalogue of Federal Leadership Development Programs at, and classes for feds inventoried at  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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    Dealing with Failure Tue, 23 Dec 2008 19:03:50 +0000 admin When you are early in your career, mentors have often told me “you should take risks” and “if you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying.” While I understand their advice, it is still really hard to fail for the perfectionists out there.

    One of the best talks I’ve been to recently was Karen Evans from OMB addressing a number of young IT leaders on tips to succeed (the second speaker in the series is Renny Dipentima). A major point she made is that nobody teaches people how to deal with failure. And no matter how good you are, you are bound to fail at some point. Schedules slip, cost overruns occur, and we all occasionally say the wrong thing.

    I agree 100% and it is a skill I’m working on. Management does not want to hear excuses and no one wants to hear the blame game. So how does one deal with failure? My best guess is the approach I used in my first job in high school when I got in a little trouble with a golf cart - confess the problem directly, say it won’t happen again, and most importantly learn from your mistakes and make sure it never happens again.

    How have you dealt with set-backs and failure?

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    How Gov’t Really Works Tue, 23 Dec 2008 03:44:35 +0000 admin Recently, I finished the book How Washington Really Works. It is just one book in a series (Bureacracy, Case for Bureaucracy, Hardball) I’ve been reading trying to understand the government space where I work.

    Since my master’s is not in public policy, a lot of this is still new to me and I am basically trying to get smart on my own. In addition to these books, a critical part of my education so far has been tips from senior leaders. My favorite articles in trade magazines such as FCW and Federal Times (love Lily Whiteman’s columns) is when they sit down with retiring senior leaders and ask for their tips. The best panels at conferences are real, straight-forward (not vague sound bits) lessons learned from the best.

    Additionally, during a six month job search last year, I had 30-40 information interviews with former and current senior leaders. While partly trying to get job advice, in the end the most valuable part was the succinct career advice I received about the government (in summary - do good work, with interesting people, on interesting projects).

    But in the end, I still have not found the crisp, succinct government career book I’m looking for. This book would be the survival guide for govies on how the game is played. Potential Title - Government Survival Guide: How to Successfully Navigate the Bureaucracy

    My version of the book would be quite short (100 pages), direct, and fun (Seth Godin style). No long, boring, academic, or bureaucratic book here.

    I would have ten, 10-page chapters on the following:

    1) How Hiring Really Works (Getting In and Getting Your Next Job)
    2) The Budget Process and Why Oct. 1st Should be a National Holiday
    3) Understanding the Bizarre World of Acquisitions
    4) Dealing with Oversight - Why We All Love the GAO and OIG
    5) Handling the Annual Performance Review (Why You or Your Staff Complains When It Exceeds Fully Satisfactory)
    6) Writing Effective Emails/Memos and Running Effective Meetings/Teleconferences
    7) Dealing with Gov’t Ethics and Lawyers
    8) The Link Between HQ and Field - i.e. Why You Shouldn’t Treat the Field Like Your Kids
    9) The New Workplace - Rules for Working with Contractors (Friend, Enemy, or Frenemy)
    10) Performance Measures and Dealing with OMB - Why Green is Good

    What else would you include in the book? Where do you go to learn how the gov’t sector really work? What are your favorite gov’t-related books?

    Hopefully, we’ll begin to answer some of these questions here at GovLoop. I’ve already started blogging with some tips (here, here, here), while “Wisdom from the Retired Fed” has started his 50 Rules of Management yesterday.

    And if someone wants to give me a book deal let me know…or maybe we can write it all together on a wiki.

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    Top 10 Reasons to Be Nice to Admin Tue, 23 Dec 2008 03:41:01 +0000 admin
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    imes have changed and roles have changed along the way. While the days of the personal secretary may no longer be around, each office usually has a person that serves in an administrative role to keep the office running whether it is a secretary, administrative assistant, or even executive assistant.

    To kick off my new series of Top 10 lists, here is:

    Top 10 Reasons To Be Nice to Your AA/Secretary/Etc

    1 - You want to be paid right? S/he can always forget to turn in your time card.

    2 - Caller ID. S/he can ignore you.

    3 - S/he’s probably been around longer than you and knows the “unauthorized” history of the org that you need to know.

    4 - S/he has more connections in the office than anyone. S/he can make or break you.

    5 - It’s cheap - all it takes is a smile and maybe some candy (or Starbucks)

    6 - S/he has your boss’s ear and hears all the good gossip. S/he can choose to share it with you (or not).

    7 - Someday she could be your boss - Ther’es a fine line from Secretary to Exec Assistnat to Chief of Staff

    8 - There’s probably a reason the head of the department is called a Secretary (i.e. Secretary of Homeland Security).

    9 - S/he can always make sure you never get the meeting invite (or room change)

    10 - S/he can magically forget to tell you that you have to brief the boss until 5 minutes before it starts.

    While Secretary’s Day may be a little out of fasion, I give great kudos to all the great people that keep the offices running, getting meetings organized, and all of us paid. I’ve been blessed to have (and currently have) some great ones.

    Photo Published Courtesy of Creative Commons License by Flickr user “crazytales562″

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    The Gov Gurus Sat, 20 Dec 2008 19:55:23 +0000 admin Welcome to The Gov Gurus.  At your service.  To help you navigate the world of government service.
    Who are we?  We are your gurus.  Your guide along the search for a government jobs.  Or your swamis here to help you navigate gov’t life - getting a raise, a sweet detail, or a promotion.
    Our bios are somewhere cool on the site but are qualifications are impeccable - we are gov’t ninjas - swimming the world of gov’t dutiful for years and picking up tricks along the way.  Our little black book of secrets will be revealed for yours eyes only.  Spread the word.  Shhhhh….

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