Given budget pressures, many organizations are struggling to provide formal training for their employees. In fact, OPM’s 2018 Federal Workforce Priorities Report states that 88% of agencies struggle to provide needed training.

Given the very real difficulties many employees find getting the training and development they need, here are some DIY ideas for ensuring your developmental needs are met:

  • Look at your performance plan and the standards against which you are rated. In a perfect world, you should sit down with your rating official and discuss what good performance looks like. The next step of course is to identify areas where you think you might be able to improve and write them down.
  • Seek feedback from your supervisor, colleagues and subordinates. All of us need feedback to identify our strengths and areas for improvement. After a major project or presentation, ask for one thing you did well and one thing that you can improve. Try to solicit a variety of opinions so that you can see if a theme develops. Be sure to thank those who offered opinions.
  • Start keeping track of your feedback in a notebook, online system, or file. You may also want to consider grading yourself. If your job requires analytical skills, writing skills, interpersonal skills, and organization skills, how would you grade yourself in each? Focus on areas where you have rated yourself the lowest.
  • Pay attention to what your agency is interested in. If there are areas that are increasing in focus, while other areas are fading into the background, note them and make sure you have the skills needed for the future. Do what you can to focus on the future needs of your organization.
  • Get a mentor or a coach. If your organization has a formal mentoring program, use it. If not, try to find an informal mentor. Getting unbiased advice and guidance on the stops to take to enhance your skills can be invaluable.
  • Put together an Individual Development Plan (IDP). If your agency has a formal process for creating an IDP, use it! If not, nothing prevents you from putting together your own IDP. Writing things down will help hold yourself accountable. There are many free resources that you can take advantage of online. Many agencies have contracts / access to free online courses—use them! And, if you have a thoughtful, job-related IDP, your agency just might be more amenable to funding at least a small part of it.

No one cares more about your career than you do. Take the time to adequately and truthfully assess your skills vis-à-vis your current and stretch jobs and take proactive steps to take your career to the next level!

Nancy Segal is a federal human resources training and job search expert. Following her own 30-year federal HR career (much of it at the senior level), she founded Solutions for the Workplace LLC in 2003 to provide an HR management perspective to both federal managers and astute applicants to U.S. government positions. Nancy has unmatched federal career management insight, high standards, and respect for people’s time, and her clients use this to their advantage.