Why every federal employee should consider an Intergovernment Personnel Act detail
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Why every federal employee should consider an Intergovernment Personnel Act detail

June 27, 2024 | Updated on July 2, 2024

Since its enactment in 1983, the Intergovernmental Personnel Act has opened doors for federal employees to enrich their careers through cross-sector details.

As a recent participant, I’ve experienced firsthand how an IPA detail can be transformative, offering a chance to develop professionally and contribute to another organization’s mission. If you’re looking for a way to expand your horizons and challenge yourself, an IPA detail might just be the perfect opportunity. 

A unique path to professional growth

Typically, opportunities for federal employees to go on a work detail are confined within their own agencies or other federal bodies.

Venturing into different sectors through an IPA detail is rare and offers a broader perspective and connection to shared missions across the public and private sectors.

My own journey toward this enriching experience began with a recommendation from my supervisor to pursue a customer experience senior advisor position at the Partnership–a transition from the federal space to a nonprofit organization dedicated to good government. 

Structured for success and overcoming challenges 

In the IPA program, each assignment is meticulously planned with clear goals from the start, ensuring that everyone—the participant and the host organization—benefits. For instance, I led a project to design a customer experience pilot roundtable, an assignment that enabled me to address complex challenges beyond the scope of a part-time role. 

Transitioning to a nonprofit environment introduced me to a series of unique challenges, particularly in adapting to different operational tempos and decision-making processes. This experience wasn’t just about-facing new challenges—it was about leveraging them to enhance my professional capabilities in unexpected ways. 

Deep dive into strategic projects 

At the Partnership for Public Service, I took on projects that pushed my boundaries.

Collaborating with the Government Affairs team, I helped craft a comprehensive advocacy strategy that deepened my understanding of public policy and sharpened my strategic planning skills. Leading the Customer Experience Roundtable series and refining a customer experience recommendations database were pivotal in improving my stakeholder engagement and consensus-building skills.

These roles also honed my attention to detail and quality-assurance abilities. These skills, while invaluable in any government role, were particularly transformative given the creative and innovative demands of the nonprofit world. They complemented my previous experiences by introducing new challenges and new ways to approach solve problems that are distinct from those typically encountered in government. 

The wide-ranging benefits of an IPA detail 

Embarking on an IPA detail equips federal employees with diverse skills that extend well beyond traditional job training: 

  • Advanced analytical skills: Handling diverse data sets enhances decision-making. 
  • Enhanced leadership abilities: Leading projects or teams, often in a cross-sector environment, helps cultivate strong leadership qualities. 
  • Innovative problem-solving: New environments encourage creative solutions. 
  • Technological proficiency: I gained hands-on experience with new technologies and digital tools that can be integrated into the operations of an agency. 
  • Network expansion: Building a broad network of contacts across sectors can provide future collaboration opportunities and insights into best practices. 

Why you should consider an IPA detail 

For federal employees looking to make a substantial impact and grow their skill set, an IPA detail is an invaluable experience that will enhance your career, deepen the impact of your work and help your agency fulfill its mission. 

Ready to expand your horizons? Check with your agency’s HR department today for available IPA opportunities and take a bold step toward significant professional development. 

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