Archive for May 4th, 2010

On Saturday, 1 May I finished the book: “Managing Your Government Career” by Stewart Liff (2009©).  The book is a primer on how to plan a career in government.  I don’t feel it really taught me anything new, but it is definitely a book I would have liked to read 15 to 18 years ago when I was starting out in Civil Service.
Most of the book are Homer Simpson, “Duh!!“, moments.  But it is refreshing to find so many of them in one convenient place.  This, in itself, makes the book a valuable resource.  I got the book from our Training Dept resource library, and it turns out they have a second book by the same author.  That one is a previous work about managing government employees.  I look forward to reading that as well.  I’ve requested it, so now I just have to wait for it to be delivered (assuming no one else has it checked out).
The author was fortunate enough to have started his career directly in human resources.  This means all the day to day operations he was learning about were actually things he could transfer to another agency (should he decide to move around).  He then managed to take a supervisory position in a program delivery office.  Program delivery is government speak for retail facing of the public a.k.a. front-line delivery.  He then was able to transfer back into HR, this time as an employee relations (ER) specialist and then move into management.  Ultimately, he ends up directing the HR department of a moderately large agency.
One of his particularly cogent observations is to never take a job without having an idea of what the next job will be.  In other words, where will you be after you take this one.  This idea of planning each move with multiple options next and multiple options again after that is very similar to the “Indirect Approach” to warfare suggested by B. H. Liddle Hart in his writings on military strategy.
The obvious benefit is you leave yourself several options to promotion and you prevent any competing individual from blocking all of your potential plans for advancement. The only one they will seriously try to block is the one they are most interested in.
Other than my extrapolation of this strategy, the suggestions are conventional – work hard, dress well, build a network, cultivate mentors.  Or as my non-techie friends say to me, “Blah, blah, blah…”
It would have been nice if the author had provided a few more insights into the workings of the decision process for getting through to the Best Qualified List (BQL), but the best he can offer is to read the job announcement and write specifically to it. (“Duh!!”)
More importantly, how do you decide which factors are important (and realistically achievable) when you are thinking about the multiple positions you want to line up for that second and third job down the line.  Another topic might have been, when it is a good idea to lateral or downgrade in order to pick up a critical skill for that future position.
All in all, though my criticisms are details which might have improved the book for me in particular and not necessarily faults for the general reader.
The book is well written, relatively brief (230 pages) and a “fast” read.  I would highly recommend it to anyone considering a government job, anyone in their first couple of years of service, anyone in their first or second supervisory position and finally to anyone at the very senior level who might want to refresh their memory with what it’s like to have your future ahead of you so you can look out to help others as a mentor.

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