MSPB’s tips for success in the federal workplace

The Merit Systems Protection Board recently conducted a survey of federal employees asking them what they think are the biggest career accelerators to launch fe...

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

Contrary to popular belief, succeeding as a federal employee is not a matter of “who you know.” It’s also not completely dependent on “what you know.” According to the the Merit Systems Protection Board’s (MSPB) 2007 Career Advancement Survey, it’s both with one more critical element added in.

In a survey of federal employees asking what they think are the biggest career accelerators, 85 percent said that having both supervisors and mentors in their corner have a positive impact.

That finding wasn’t surprising to Dr. Cynthia Ferentinos, a senior research analyst at MSPB.

She told FederalNewsRadio that’s “because that person is controlling a lot of the assignments that they get, they can talk to them and get developmental feedback, and not just the ratings and the awards and all the other typical evaluation responsibilities of a supervisor, but they have this on-going day to day interaction that can really help their career development.”

In a list of the “Top 10 Career Accelerators” asked about in the survey, after a supportive supervisor and a mentor looking out for the employee, seven of the remaining eight reflect the employees skills, attitude and education.

Ferentinos told the Federal Drive when taking all things into consideration, “when you’re talking about promotion to very critical few positions, maybe the thing that’s the actual tipping point is those contacts – those who you know… the thing that might make the difference on finding out about the opportunities, or someone having confidence in selecting you, would be more that the people skills, the being aware, that you’ve marketed yourself, that other people are aware that you’re competent and making yourself well known.”

In a nutshell, blow your own horn. LOUDLY.

Ferentinos said don’t wait for for other people to recognize your effort.

You have to do a good job of marketing yourself. Because there is a lot of hectic pace in the government. People appreciate you getting the work done, but they don’t always recognize it or realize what you’ve contributed. I think people have to substantially market themselves from an in-depth perspective, not just bragging, not just glossing over your accomplishments and saying you did more than you did, but truly demonstrating the value that you’ve provided.

And if it’s hard for you to market yourself, remember, your supervisor will appreciate it as well. Ferentinos said feds “have to keep in mind that developing their workforce is also a very critical part of their (supervisor’s) job. They can’t overlook that development of all different staff members to make sure everyone is meeting their potential.”

On the Web:

MSPB – Career Advice from Federal Employees (pdf newsletter)

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