Broadening your career: Setting goals, education can lead to new career opportunities

  • Published
  • By Delia Hansen
  • Air Force Sustainment Center
Taking control of your own career future is the first step to career growth and job satisfaction. Career development is important to sharpen skills, learn new skills and prepare for advancement opportunities.

A successful career involves many factors. Such factors can include learning new skills, obtaining additional education and focusing/developing your desired career path. Managing your career can include participating in formal career broadening, long term full time training, overseas or joint base opportunities as well as movement within and between organizations to obtain depth and breadth of experience.

Whether you are looking at making a career change or obtaining a desired promotion, understanding your individual strengths and weaknesses is paramount to planning a personal career development plan. By creating a personal career development plan, you can set goals and objectives and the desired outcomes which will give you the confidence and motivation you need to make a positive change.

Discover Your Desires and Passions: What would you do if money were no object? Maybe you already know exactly what you want to do. What do you like to do? Do you volunteer anywhere, do you enjoy those activities? Do you like working with your hands or your mind? Do you like to create, or tear things down? Do you like to be indoors, or do you prefer to be outdoors. Do you like working with people? Do you like to help people? Do you like to work alone, or do you like working in groups? Think about these things and write them down.

Assess Your Technical Skills: Rather than focusing on your personality and interests, think about your technical skills, career skills and core job strengths. What skills have you mastered both at work, and at home? Identify and evaluate all the work you've performed in the past, to include high school jobs. It doesn't matter how long ago you obtained the skills, write them down. Did you participate in any volunteer activities? Think about the skills you've learned while volunteering. Every skill you have obtained can be cataloged into an inventory and every job you performed can be listed. Many skills we overlook as 'routine' should be included, such as, but not limited to: taking inventory, customer service, typing, public speaking, using email, and running a cash register. When you inventory your skills, you'll be surprised at the number you've obtained.

Setting Your Career Objective: Spend some time evaluating your desires and passions (based on the things you like to do) against your skills. What kind of work would you like to perform that matches up your skills? Is there a line of work that interests you? If so, you may have found a career objective. Investing time to research different career paths pays extraordinary dividends as it identifies the requirements you will need to perpetuate the direction for which you would like to take. Or perhaps you're in the right career path but you'd like to move to a different level that offers more responsibility and provides you with leadership opportunities. Take time to understand what available opportunities, current and future, there are within the organization to reach your goal. This may include setting up a meeting with a leader within the chain of command for input.

Career Development Plan: If you have decided to establish a new career path, take some time to establish goals and realistic timelines based on your desired career objectives. Establish personal short-term and long-term goals. Look for ways to develop new skills in your current job; which could pave the way for a change or desired opportunity. Ask for opportunities to shadow professionals in field of primary interest to observe the work first hand. Spend anywhere from a few hours to a few days job shadowing in desired positions to become familiar with the requirements and demands of the job. The college career office is a good place to find alumni volunteers who are willing to host those interested in job shadowing.

Educational Opportunities: Consider investigating educational opportunities that would bridge your background to your new field. You may want to take an evening course at a local college or a university which offers the specialty you are interested in or you may want to participate in seminars and or educational conferences to support the needed skill sets -- many times college credits are offered to those who attend. Many local professional groups can offer insight or suggestions to 'break into' into a chosen field. A wide variety of computer-based training is offered to federal civilian employees to encourage self-development. Supervisors are encouraged to offer employees time to utilize self-development tools, to become more proficient on the job. Professional Military Education is open to federal civilian employees. Non-resident Professional Military Education -- Squadron Officers School, Air Command and Staff College and Air War College at the appropriate level offers great educational opportunities. PME can also be completed in-residence, at seminars or through correspondence.

Other developmental opportunities:

· For self-development ideas and on-line links, the Supervisor Resource Center (managed by the Air Force) is an excellent site that provides a wealth of resources for self-development: https://www.my.af. mil/gcss-af/USAF/ep/globalTab.do?channelPageId= s88B4F00B2F6B2934012F939C799305F8

· Developmental Education is also available to Air Force civilian employees and includes the Civilian Development Education Programs, Civilian Strategic Leadership Program, Executive Leader Development Initiative and Intermediate Level Development Initiative. ELDI and ILDI programs are only available to members of the Science and Engineering and Program Management Career Fields. To learn more about these programs, visit the Air Force Civilian Force Development Home Page at https://gum-crm.csd.disa.mil/app/answers/detail/ a_id/13085/kw/civilian%20development/p/1%2C2.

· Consider enrolling in the Employee Enhancement Program. EEP is a leadership and knowledge enhancement program for employees in grades GS-09 through GS-12, or WG-10 through WS-14. The application period generally runs late December through mid-January each year.

· The Emerging Supervisor Development Program (formally referred to as Supervisor Development Program) is a competitive program used to identify high-potential employees who possess technical expertise and who have demonstrated leadership competencies. This program provides both formal and experiential training prior to placement into a first-level supervisory position. In most cases, first-level supervisory positions (through GS-14) will be filled by an ESDP graduate.

· The AFSC Leader and Supervisor Development Continuum has been developed to provide AFSC employees a systematic blueprint for self-improvement and the development of leadership and supervisory skills. It is the tool AFSC uses to provide standardized career long approach to leadership development.

In conclusion, as a civilian employee, it is critical to continue your education and broaden your knowledge, skills and abilities during your career. By participating in continuous learning you can demonstrate you are prepared to move forward, accept greater responsibilities, and tackle future Air Force challenges. Obtaining an advanced degree will make you more competitive for Air Force civilian leadership positions. By defining and setting your long term and short term goals, you will be able to build a roadmap to a successful career. Periodically evaluate those goals to ensure they are still relevant. Your supervisor is a good avenue for discussing, clarifying, and achieving your goals during career counseling sessions.