I recently had the opportunity to attend Mega-ConnEX – a government-wide young professionals and senior executives networking event. It was an opportunity to directly interact with DMs, Associate DMs, ADMs and DGs for an evening of speed networking.
I learned so much from the senior leaders I had the chance to speak with throughout the evening – the advice and guidance in those interactive moments were tremendously valuable and I will be able to apply them during the course of my career with the public service. In particular, the key messages that really resonated with me include:
Have a clear sense of where you want to go in your career, start there and work backwards. Be focused, results-oriented and bring the sum of your experiences to your job. Learn the art of delegation – you can’t do it all – and don’t be a micromanager. Balance the big picture and pay attention to the pieces where you need to make the connection and be more hands on in those areas. The ability to collaborate with others is crucial.
Give yourself time to become an expert in your current job before moving on; develop your skill set, and take time to pause and learn the tasks at hand. Stay in the position long enough to gain meaningful work experience and see a project through to completion. Before moving on you want to acquire a success story, or metaphorically a “trophy” of the accomplishments you achieved. The collection of these stories will help shape your career and will benefit you in obtaining your next position. However, sometimes you need to struggle, it can’t always be easy – you need to look for the solid rewards in each experience. For instance, it may have been a very difficult assignment but you had the opportunity to develop unique skills you may not have learned otherwise.
It is essential that you are flexible, adaptable to change and resilient. Sometimes you may only have 10 minutes notice to write a briefing note so you need to be able to clearly express, synthesize and package the critical issues while proficiently pulling together the impacts – at the same time demonstrating the structure of thinking relative to the priorities and objectives. You also need to be able to translate the essential elements in plain language. This is not easy to do in a time crunch situation but if you can master this competency it will serve you throughout your career.
Seek out informal mentors, they do not necessarily need to know they are mentoring you; you just need to observe how they do things and learn from their actions, behaviours and how they perform under pressure.
Endeavour to work with good leaders. Before accepting a new opportunity, you need to do your homework ahead of time and survey the atmosphere and working environment – it has to feel right. Loving what you do and having a great working relationship with your manager and team members is the perfect formula.
The higher up you go in the organization, the more difficult it is to achieve a work life balance – you become accessible 24/7 and work long hours. It is essential that you take pockets of time where you don’t think about work in order to recharge your physical and mental batteries. At times this will be very challenging, but it is vital for you, your employees and your organization to strive for attainment.
Jodi LeBlanc is a values and ethics advisor with Veterans Affairs Canada and is a member of CGE’s editorial advisory board (connect with her via: http://ca.linkedin.com/in/jodileblanc).