government career

How to Build a Successful Career in Government 

A career in government can give you the opportunity to make a difference, and it can give others the chance to be heard. A career at mid-level will give you the chance to get your thoughts and opinions across (and heard). Building a successful career in government (whether local or state) will take time. To achieve sustainable success, you will need to focus on personal growth just as much as professional growth – if you are to succeed in your department or field. Building a successful career will not just happen. You will need a plan in place to ensure higher chances of success – so to get this plan started, what areas should you be covering?

Commit to Change and Growth

Firstly within your plan or strategy, you have to be prepared to grow and change. When you commit to change and growth, you accept that you are not perfect. When you are working for the government (at any level), you will be a role model to others. To be the best role model, you must commit to growth and change. For example, you will need to change if people in local communities are not liaising with you. Or, you will need to grow professionally to ensure that what you have to say is valued, listened to, and respected. Growth and change rarely happen overnight, and it is important to give yourself enough time. If you try to change what you think and feel (and even how you act) too quickly, then the results could backfire on you, your role, and your reputation. Taking small but manageable steps to change and grow is what you need to shift your focus onto. When you take smaller steps, you can implement change and growth, and differences that will positively impact most people within your local community and area of work.

Focus on Where You Want to Be

Looking at where you are now is important. Reflection allows you to see what you are doing and if you are in a role that is suitable. After undergoing a period of reflection, you then have to start focusing on where you want to be. Is your career going in the direction that you want it to? And, what direction would you like it to go in? For example, would you like to get involved in leadership within local government, or are you looking to work at a higher level in national government? Where are your aim and focus telling you that you want to be? When you focus on where you want to be (and not just where you are at the present time), you create a vision. When you are working through your career and building your experience and knowledge, it is important to have a vision. A vision will help your job and role have an impact on others, and it will help you reach the level that you want within your career. So, take some time out – where does your vision lie, and what do you think you would like to achieve?

Where Does Your Passion Lie

Passion is important in any job or career, and if you are lacking passion, you will most certainly like drive and ambition. Every day you will find that you are merely going through the motions, and of course, this is not what you want. So, does your passion lie in helping young people in your local community? Or does it lie with helping older generations – or perhaps even those that are stuck in unemployment. When you know what areas you are passionate about, you can begin to seek out a role that compliments what you are trying to achieve. If you do not look for a role that allows you to fulfill your passion, then you are going to struggle to build a successful and sustainable career. If you are passionate about several areas (or if you are unsure what you are passionate about), then take some time out. Evaluate what you like and don’t like. A process of self-evaluation at any time can be great for progression because it allows you to get a snippet of what can happen.

Create a Career Plan

A career plan or strategy can sound like a pretty off-putting document – because it can sound (and feel) like you are going to spend the next 20 + years doing whatever your plan dictates. However, it is important to remember that a career plan or strategy can be as fluid as you want it to be because it is not set in stone. A career plan provides you with a structure to follow. It gives you guidance about what areas you should be focusing on and what goals you should be aiming to reach within the next few years. When you are creating a career plan, you need to focus on short-term aspirations just as much as the long-term ones. Aspirations and visions will give you a goal to aim for, and when you break down this goal in your plan, you are more likely to achieve your goals. A career plan or strategy that covers at least the next 10 years is beneficial because it will give you a sense of direction. Without direction, you may struggle to reach and achieve career success.

Advance Your Education and Knowledge

When you know more about your role and the role that government plays in society, you are much more likely to progress successfully in your career. To gain more knowledge, you must focus on advancing your education. Taking control of advancing your knowledge by studying for an Online Master of Public Policy and Leadership is important for your career and for your commitment to growth and change. A masters will give you more targeted and specific knowledge, which is what you need for career progression. When you are looking at advancing your knowledge and education, it is important to see this as something that you regularly do within your job and not just something that is carried out on an ad-hoc basis. The institution or provider that you choose to study with is just as important as the program you choose to study. Take time out to weigh up your options and evaluate which provider can offer you more. A supportive provider is important – especially if you are choosing to study flexibly online.

Start Building Professional Networks

You need to be able to reach out to others, and you need to know that you have the support of others too. Starting to build professional networks is important, and the sooner you can focus on this – the more benefits you are likely to see.  When you are building professional networks, you need to look at who you want in your network and why. It can be tempting to build a network that has lots of people within it – however if you are not going to use all of these contacts, then what good will it be? Instead, focus your efforts on building a network that is focused on quality professionals – those that support you and those that help you. There will be times when you will need to reach out to others, so ensure that you have somebody there for when that time comes. You may find that building a diverse support/professional network is more beneficial than a network that simply consists of other government professionals.

Be Ready to Adapt

You are aware of how important it is to change and grow, but are you aware of how important it is to adapt? Changes within government sectors, changes in attitudes, and even changes in policies mean that you have to adapt quickly. If you do not adapt, you will find that your position and role may be redundant. When it comes to adapting, you may find the process easier if you focus on what you are going to achieve in your period of change and re-focus. When you have something attainable to work towards, you will find that adapting doesn’t feel or seem so scary. You may find that you have to quickly adapt to your role, and this may come through the daily processes you undertake or the daily work that you do. Or you may find that you have to adapt to new working conditions and locations. The key to being able to successfully adapt is your attitude and mindset. When you are in a positive place, you can achieve so much more, so remember that your mindset is just as important as everything else.

Building a Reputation

What you do within your job and career and what impact and influence you have will make a difference to your reputation. A strong and solid reputation that has been built on strength and honesty is important. If you do not have a positive reputation, then you will find you will be facing an uphill struggle. Overcoming a negative reputation or trying to work against a tarnished reputation can be testing and trying – even for a seasoned professional. To build an honest and strong reputation, you have to be sure that you can achieve what you set out to. You have to be sure that you remain open and honest, and you have to be contactable and within reach to those that you are working for (or on behalf of).

Listening to Local Communities

No matter what role you are currently in or what role you wish to pursue, you must take time out to listen to local communities. Local communities are at the heart of the government. Often what they say and what action they want can influence how policies are created and, of course, what policies are implemented. Going against others’ wishes or just not listening to feedback and wants can be detrimental. It can mean that you can find yourself working against people and local communities that you should really be committed to serving. Reaching out to others and making connections with people at the heart of policies can give you an insight into what is needed the most. If you do not take the time to listen, you can find that your role and career struggle to be as successful as you would like them to be, and of course, this will leave you feeling frustrated.

Be Proactive

How much you do in a day and in your job is important. Yes, you will have days that are not as productive as others (and you must learn to accept these), but you will also have days that are more productive because you have been proactive. Sitting around and waiting for change to happen (or even waiting for others to change) is never going to be beneficial to your career and progression. Being proactive is what you must be focusing on now more than ever. If you are not proactive, you will that opportunities will pass you by. To be proactive in your career, you have to care about your role and the impact you will be having. When you are proactive, you actively work to protect yourself and even future-proof your career. You can find it difficult to land the opportunities you want if you are not proactive. So, try and switch our mindset to ensure that you focus on proactive and productiveness in equal measures.

Learn to Accept Challenges

No two days will be the same within your role or within your career, and it is important to know that you will face challenges. How you handle these challenges and how you overcome them is important. If you do not learn to accept (and even embrace challenges), then you will stall and falter in your career. Taking a proactive approach to your role instead of a reactive approach will ensure that you are prepared (and well-equipped) to tackle and accept any new challenges that come your way. If you are not prepared (or ready) to accept new challenges, you will find that you struggle to progress simply because you are unable to overcome the barriers and obstacles put in your way.

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