“I moved to Vancouver and fell in love with the city; not with what it was, but what I thought it could be.”
– Mark Brand, Entrepreneur, at TEDxSFU and TEDxVancouver
When I heard Mark’s words, they almost moved me to tears. His passion for his work was so evident, so intoxicating, so infectious. I can only dream of being able to demonstrate that level of passion about my work. But every day I try to demonstrate, even just a sliver, of what he was able to convey to me.
Two years ago, I was a completely different employee. Two years ago, I bought into the negativity that surrounded me, perpetuating a myriad of stereotypes. Two years ago, I had lost who I was and was not living up to my potential. When the opportunity came to break free of that, I grabbed the reins and never looked back.
For me, choosing to make the change from a disengaged employee to a highly engaged employee was natural. It was an easy decision and I welcomed the opportunity to learn more about where I was working and about myself.
My endeavour to become a more engaged employee led me to a professional development and innovation network within my department. Joining that network would end up playing an integral role in my engagement level within my department and in the public service as a whole. Through this new engagement, I was able to find a sense of belonging within the organization. In getting to know people from other areas of the department, I was able to better understand the work that we did. The network provided me with a creative outlet, the opportunity to learn key career skills, and allowed and encouraged me to challenge assumptions and think outside the box. These skills have been integral to being able to add value to the day-to-day duties of my job.
But this isn’t a story so much about what hard skills I learned, as it is about what I learned about myself.
Passion was something that had been missing in my life for a long time. Imagine the surprise when I discovered passion somewhere I never dreamed of finding it: the public service.
It is not my current job that I’m passionate about; rather I am passionate about the countless opportunities the public service can provide. I am passionate about helping move forward and modernize this behemoth organization. The possibility and potential of the organization are nothing short of amazing.
When all is said and done, my discovery about who I am comes down to one moment, one decision, one choice.
Choice. It seems like such a simple thing, to choose to go from disengagement to engagement. But it’s not. Every day I see colleagues struggling to believe in their employer and their work. For some, it may be too late to make the choice to change. Others perhaps are too scared to forge into unfamiliar territory.
Employees need to feel something that connects them with their organization. If we can engage employees on that level, we can start changing the culture of the public service. In achieving that, we will have created an environment where one doesn’t feel like they have to make a choice; there will only be one option.
Erin Gee works at Public Works and Government Services Canada in Vancouver with aspirations of making the big move to Ottawa. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post Canada and was the 2012 TEDxSFU content manager.