5 tips to help you better navigate your agency and build your career
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5 tips to help you better navigate your agency and build your career

June 13, 2022

In the Partnership’s Preparing to Lead program, the premier leadership development course for federal employees at the GS-7 through GS-11 levels, enables participants to become more effective employees and develop critical leadership skills they will be able to use throughout their careers

One of the topics we discuss in the program is called Navigating Structures. Simply put, the federal government is the largest public institution in the country, and working in it—and across it—takes skill, forethought and nuance. If you do it right, there is no doubt you’ll get a lot more done, not just for your team or agency, but for the entire enterprise.

Having led Preparing to Lead and spoken on this specific topic, I wanted to share five helpful things to consider when navigating your own agency.

At what level can you gain flexibility?

Some agencies require you to achieve a certain GS level before you can have more decision making over your career path and jobs you take. Do you need to be a GS-13? Maybe GS-12? Once you achieve that level, you’ll have much more flexibility over your career path, so learn what you need to do to get to that level and then do it.

Who are the influencers and what is your relationship to them?

It’s important to think about your network and where people fit into it. Who are your close coworkers? Who are your advocates who will speak well on your behalf? Who are your allies who will give you opportunities to succeed? What is your relationship to each? Being intentional about mapping out your network can help you identify the people who are both influential in your organization and your strongest supporters.

What offices are in the spotlight?

Being in a fast-paced office that has the attention of your agency’s secretary or administrator can highlight you and the impact you have. Are there opportunities for you to join an office that is in the spotlight? Will you have opportunities to do so in the future?

Remember to wait for your time—it will happen.

That said, don’t just jump to the next best thing. Be smart and intentional about your career moves. If you’re considering a move and your mentors and supervisors are suggesting otherwise, it might not be the right time to make the jump. If now is not the right time, remember that the time will come, so be ready when it does.

Someone is always watching.

Federal agencies are big places, but they’re also small. Someone is always watching you, so do what you can to exercise emotional intelligence and self-awareness. Be kind, work hard and don’t speak badly about people in the organization. The last thing you want is to be in contention for an important role, only to have one of the panel members remember the time you were nasty to a colleague.

If these five tips for navigating your agency are useful, consider exploring the other modules included in the Preparing to Lead program. The program truly is a fantastic opportunity that sets up GS-7 through GS-11 employees for success, no matter how long they have been in government.

The Preparing to Lead program is part of the Public Service Leadership Institute, the preeminent source of public service leadership programs, policies and perspectives. Visit the Preparing to Lead webpage for more information.

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