MyCareer@VA Helps VA Rise in Best Places to Work Rankings for 2013
Best Places to Work In the Federal Government® recently announced that VA was the Second-Most Improved Large Agency and one of only two large agencies to improve its scores this past year. VA’s improvement was in part due to MyCareer@VA, according to Gina Farrisee, Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration. In a recent article, Farrisee explained that MyCareer@VA “leads employees to programs, activities, and skills that improve their overall work experience.”
Curious about why employees like MyCareer@VA so much? Or how it might improve your job satisfaction? Check out two of our most popular tools, the VA Career Guides or the My Career Mapping Tool, where you can learn more about specific positions at VA and possible career paths available to you. Or for more options, visit our Getting Started pages for Current Employees or Prospective Employees.
New Jobs and A New Tool Now Available!
MyCareer@VA is pleased to announce that our program has expanded to include jobs in four more occupational families. For more information on these new jobs, be sure to check out the VA Career Guides.
We are also excited to announce the launch of InterviewStream, a new, innovative way to practice your interview skills and receive immediate feedback. With this online interview practice tool, you can:
- Record your answers to practice interview questions using a webcam, then play back your answers to assess your performance.
- Send links for viewing your recorded interviews to your mentors or friends to receive additional feedback.
To get started with InterviewStream, visit the Interview Prep section of CareerPrep and start practicing today!
New Career Development Resources from MyCareer@VA
In June 2013 MyCareer@VA launched three exciting new programs, including a total of 15 new resources, which offer cutting-edge career development resources to help you achieve your career goals:
- Be empowered to take advantage of career opportunities with CareerPrep. Use this resource to hone your interview skills, perfect your elevator pitch and overcome obstacles to position you for professional success.
- Be inspired by career stories and advice from VA leadership with CareerTalk, a unique interview series that gives you a front row seat to candid conversations. As you learn how they achieved career goals, overcame obstacles and made the most of their opportunities, you will be empowered to take charge of your professional future.
- Six new web-based trainings teach you strategies for developing your own career and helping others advance. These interactive trainings complement existing courses and offer guidance for current VA employees, Veterans transitioning to a career at VA, newly hired VA employees, and VA Supervisors.
- Additionally, there are new step-by-step tutorials of the MyCareer@VA tools to help you navigate a particular part of the career development process. Just click on the Demo for the tool you wish to learn more about!
Is your internship wrapping up? Be sure to take advantage of these helpful resources on MyCareer@VA before your internship ends:
- Use MyCareer@VA’s My Federal Resume Builder to create a resume that has all the information required to apply for a job with the federal government. You can even include VA job competencies for the specific job you want with just the click of a button. Create an account on the My Federal Resume Builder today!
- Learn more about jobs you’re interested in so you can start preparing for your upcoming interviews.
- Hone your interview skills, practice your elevator pitch and learn how to overcome common obstacles with CareerPrep.
Lastly, don’t forget that MyCareer@VA resources remain available to support you after your internship ends and you take your next step in your career. Best of luck!
If you’re like most people, you probably use one of two approaches to develop yourself. The first and most common approach involves examining your weaknesses and trying to improve on them. The goal is to become well-rounded – to use the strengths you already have and to make your weaknesses less weak. If you focus your development efforts this way, you may find that you can become pretty good. But what if there was a way to go from good to great?
Enter the second approach. It involves being aware of your weaknesses, but focusing your time and energy on developing your strengths first. The goal is to turn your high potential areas into truly extraordinary talents while finding ways to manage your weaknesses. Recent research from the Gallup Organization indicates that focusing on your strengths can lead to higher performance and productivity1. What’s more, people who use this approach to develop themselves tend to have better attitudes on life and display more healthy confidence.
So how do you take a strengths-based approach to your career development?
Step 1. Get to Know Yourself and Your Strengths
It is very hard to play to the strengths that you don’t know about. Take some time to think about what you do well and what you enjoy doing. Make a list of your strengths and consult with others that you trust to see if they agree with your assessment.
Another great way to learn more about yourself is to visit the MyCareer Fit Tool where you can take a short questionnaire to assess your work interests and work environment preferences. Once you see the results for your work interests, try to find areas where you have both a high preference and a high ability. For example, if you prefer your work to involve artistic activities and you’ve always had a passion for design, you have found a place where you have a high likelihood of being successful.
Step 2. Prioritize Your Efforts
Unfortunately, there are only a limited number of hours in a day. Therefore, we can’t do everything. With the limited time you have available, how do you decide which strength to grow first? A good place to start is to figure out what sets you apart from others in your field. For example, if you are a mathematician and everyone around you is also good at math, then this is probably not a unique strength – it may be a job requirement. Ask yourself, “When I think of the job I have now and the job I want to have in the future, where do my strengths help me stand out?” The answer to this question can give you a good idea of where to start.
Don’t be afraid to talk to others who have been in your shoes before. Ask to do informational interviews with people in your field to learn more about what they see as a competitive advantage. You can also hear stories from VA leaders to find inspiration for your own career progression.
Step 3. Create an Action Plan
Once you identify the strengths that are most critical to your target job, you need a plan of action. A good method is to create an Individual Development Plan or IDP. An IDP is a place where you can capture your developmental goals and the activities that you plan to pursue to help you reach those goals. If you haven’t created an IDP before, you can find a wealth of IDP resources on MyCareer@VA.
Step 4. Don’t Forget to Manage Your Weaknesses
Taking a strengths-based approach does not mean that you ignore your weak spots. It is important to be honest with yourself about the places where you struggle so you can find ways to manage them. For example, if you struggle with project management you may try to partner with other coworkers who do well in that area. When you partner for success, you both get to draw on each other’s strengths to achieve big results.
It has been said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” When you take a strengths-based approach to your career, you stop forcing yourself into areas that aren’t a good fit for you. Instead, try to find ways where you can be the very best.
So now it’s your turn. What strengths make you a genius?
Leadership means many things to many people. But did you know with the right experiences and training, you can lead at any level of an organization? It’s true that all organizations need leaders to inspire their workforce. However, cracking the leadership development code is a task only some organizations have perfected.
What makes a great organization good at developing leaders? They have figured out how to put the right leader, in the right job, at the right time.
They think of ways to identify and develop current and future leaders. They create career development programs with leadership training at the core. They know that every employee is vital to their mission and vision. This way of thinking provides benefits to the entire organization.
Great organizations know that turnover has a large impact on their workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 32 million workers are over the age of 50. 40% of these workers are eligible to retire in the next 5 years. At VA, 55% of VHA supervisors and 84% of SES leaders will be eligible to retire by 2018. VHA will need to add over 12,000 supervisors to offset these trends.
With this reality, organizations must be proactive. They need to take steps to replace talented leaders before they leave. Great organizations provide employees with the skills and training required to easily transition into leadership roles. As a result, they have an advantage. They are creating a pipeline of internal leaders.
Great organizations know the value of career development and leadership training. Both occur over many years through a variety of channels. Activities include on-the-job training, coaching, and mentoring. Employees can work with their supervisors to develop goals based on the leadership skills required for their current and future roles. This creates a visible path for leadership opportunities.
All employees must have job experiences, to help them advance and develop. But great organizations offer career paths with training and leadership activities to help their employees get there.
So, what does this mean for VA?
VA recognizes the leadership potential of all of its employees. All VA employees play a key role in serving our Nation’s Veterans every day. You are critical to the Department’s mission.
VA is investing in career development and leadership training at all levels. VA employees have a number of tools available to them. The MyCareer@VA website, VA’s TMS website and Leadership Portal offer a range of courses, tools, and job aids. These resources help employees understand VA’s development activities and leadership offerings.
As an employee, you can use these tools to:
- Sign up for TMS Course: 4 Imperatives of a Great Leader to assess your leadership skills. Create an action plan for improvement.
- Use the SMART goal model to create goals to help you develop and improve your leadership skills.
- Identify model leaders in your organization. Set-up a time to meet and learn about their experiences.
- Listen to CareerTalk interviews to hear how VA leaders got to where they are today.
As a supervisor, you can use these tools to:
- Assess your strengths and weaknesses as a leader by signing up for TMS Course: Leadership Foundations.
- Identify factors that lead to staff turnover. Learn the value of career development to retain top talent.
- Give employees feedback and help identify opportunities to improve their leadership skills.
- Encourage employees to set goals to improve their leadership skills.
Career development and leadership training are lifelong processes. Make the most of it by finding the right experiences and training so that you can position yourself to be a leader at VA.
There’s an old saying that goes something like “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” The opposite is also true. If you have a destination and map your route, you increase the chance of arriving on time at the correct place. Of course, you have to follow the map while still accounting for detours, road construction, zany drivers and the search for cheap gas. The same is true for your career.
You may know personally and professionally where you want to be next year or ten years from now. Maybe you’ve even developed an individual development plan (IDP) that lays out your short- and long-term goals. Perhaps you’ve used the IDP to identify developmental opportunities as well as knowledge and performance goals. And maybe you’ve had meaningful conversations with your supervisor about your career development goals. If so, you’re off to a great start!
But is that enough? How can you turn your plan into reality? Consider these three steps.
Step 1. Take time to think about what it will take to achieve your goals. Just like following the map to your destination, be prepared for detours and road construction. Our work world is evolving, and the speed and quantity of communication increases almost daily. Technological innovation is driving new ways to work, and work is becoming more and more complex. Consider the impact of all of this on your professional goals. Use the VA Career Guides on MyCareer@VA to look for new or different training and developmental activities that might prepare you better for our chaotic future. The Career Guides and other MyCareer@VA resources link you directly to training within the TMS, which helps you focus in on courses that are tailored to your needs. On your journey, you can’t forget about the cheap gas. Today’s budget realities mean that when you think about classes and courses you have to consider effective but affordable options. Look for local training. Think about distance learning, online courses and free seminars. Then review and draft an update to your IDP.
Step 2. Schedule a career development conversation with your supervisor. To help you prepare, read tips on what you can do before and during the meeting, and give your supervisor a leg up by pointing him or her to MyCareer@VA’s tips for career development conversations. When you talk, ask your supervisor to suggest developmental activities you might not have considered. Talk about on-the-job training opportunities, and explore mentoring programs. Think together about side trips and places to visit along the way to achieving your goals. Lateral moves used to be considered parking spots or dead ends. Today they often mean increased responsibility and can provide valuable insights into influencing people and business. Lateral moves can hone your leadership skills and enhance your strategic thinking.
Step 3. Once you’ve made a plan and talked with your supervisor, make the time to finalize and submit your IDP. Then start your engine, roll down the windows and enjoy the ride to success!
If you don’t have an IDP yet, check out our Tips for Creating Your Individual Development Plan. If you’re a new employee and you’re not sure where to start, visit Tips for Career Development for New Employees to learn the basics of career planning at VA.