Expanding careers

Friday , August 06, 2010 - 11:14 AM

Catherine McNally - Hilltop Times writer

"When you come through the gate in the morning are you coming to advance your career or is it just your job?" asked Essye Miller, director of Hill Air Force Base Communications Directorate, as she spoke March 11 to a gathering.

Miller led this year's career broadening seminar as part of the Federal Women's Program's series of events held in honor of Federal Women's History Month.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" she asked the audience as she conducted what she described as an "interview for your personal career planner." The response included a range of answers, but Miller reminded the group that it doesn't matter what they want to be.

"It doesn't matter what you decide you want to be when you grow up as long as you ... decide on something," she explained. "Because if you don't know where you're going the decisions you make between here and your destination are just going to drive you down a path that you really don't want to go down."

Miller also warned the audience about "chasing skinny rabbits" or getting caught up in distractions that don't lead to your goals. She also stressed the importance of being able to say "no."

"Learn how to say no when people ask you to do something that's not in line with the goals that you set and where you're going in your life," she said.

Miller stated that goals, both long- and short-term, are important in keeping yourself on the right track. She also stressed that it is important to write your goals down.

"Write (your goals) down so that you can come back to (them) periodically and check and see how you're doing along the way," she said.

Be sure to keep your goals in line with your abilities as well, she added. "You need to take your skills and abilities, your strengths and weaknesses into consideration," Miller said.

She then referenced an article by Dr. John C. Maxwell entitled "A Dream Is Not Enough," which appeared in the February 2005 issue of Enjoying Everyday Life. "Since it's those strengths that you want to build on, you want to be aware of the weaknesses so that you can adjust or accommodate for them. (Still), you want to focus more on those strengths."

A balance between your personal and professional life is also important, she said. We may lean toward one or the other during our lifetimes, but that's OK as long as you're comfortable with adjusting, she added.

To keep us on track, we need our "M", or mentor team, Miller said. An "M" team consists of three different kinds of people, which she described as:

  • Coaches: who provide vision, guidance, and act as course correctors
  • Cheerleaders: who encourage and celebrate us
  • Champions: who advocate for us

As for the qualities a mentor should have, "It has to be somebody that you trust, it has to be somebody you look up to, and somebody that you know has your best interest at heart," Miller described.

"Don't look for a mentor who will tell you all the good," she warned. "You want somebody who will help you highlight your weaknesses as well."

Communication is also important for your "M" team. "So many of us are afraid to share what's happening in our personal lives sometimes -- not that people need to know everything -- but they need to know where you're going," Miller said.

Along with goals and an "M" team, it's also important for us to have a roadmap. Though roadmaps are different for each individual, Miller provided an example roadmap called the "Civilian Career Pyramid," which includes a career broadening program meant to expand the potential of government service employees at GS-11 to 14 levels.

Sometimes our roadmaps need adjusting, Miller added. "If it's not working, you obviously need to change your roadmap."

She also reminded the audience that "you are the key to your success" and that no one should wait for their turn when aiming for their goals.

"Be postured for the opportunity," Miller said. "If you're ready for the opportunity there's nothing, I think, that you have to worry about."

Most important of all is having the motivation to work up to and meet your goals.

"You don't want to exist," Miller said. "You can either live life or life can happen to you. I want to live it."

A PowerPoint presentation with a diagram of the civilian career program can be found on the FWP Web site at https://hillnet.hill.af.mil/HAFB/Programs/FWP.

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