No matter what your individual politics, I think we can all agree that the shutdown is at best disappointing and at worst, a real threat to individuals, families, and the reputation of government employees, the vast majority of whom are committed to their work, their agencies, and the public. As I traveled during this holiday season, I went out of my way to thank the government employees I saw (TSA Officers, among others) to thank them for working without pay.
I heard stories from almost everyone I spoke to; to a person, they told me about how important their mission is, and how they wanted to show up and be positive, regardless of individual hardships. At the same time, I continue to receive inquiries from individuals in the private sector, as well as from those who are in the government, about how they get government jobs and promotions. So, despite all of the noise, for many, the government is still a good place to work. You want to be prepared for when the shutdown ends.
The beginning of the year is a time for reflection. Regardless of whether you are on a forced break at the moment or not, this is a good time to think about your career. Most people manage their careers on an emergency basis (becoming unemployed, not getting the promotion they expected, etc.); I encourage you to use this month to prepare for the unexpected—so you are ready, should you face an unanticipated career challenge or find yourself ready to take that next step.
Here are several things you can do right now:
• Begin to track your accomplishments. If you do not already have a system for tracking your professional achievements, start one. You can use achievements to prepare your annual accomplishment report / self assessment as part of your performance management process. And if you are not preparing an accomplishment report because your performance management system doesn’t require it, you should do so anyway. You can also use your achievements in your resume, as well as during any interviews you receive.
• Update your resume. If your resume is outdated, now is the time to bring it current. Update it to include any new jobs, awards, professional certifications, and training. And don’t forget to include your latest achievements.
• Check your social media and make sure there is nothing untoward included. This includes your Facebook page. Hiring managers are looking at social media more and more and you want to ensure that yours is professional and appropriate.
• Review your LinkedIn and bring it current. I know that many of you do not think LinkedIn is important but you are wrong. Agencies are posting jobs on LinkedIn and most hiring managers that I speak to are looking at candidates’ LinkedIn profiles as part of the process.
• Network. Research consistently shows that people get jobs through the people they know (or the people who know the people you know). There’s not better time to get started networking than now. ‘Nuff said.
• Check in with your references. Now is a good time to touch base with your references. Has their contact information changed? Do you still want to use them as references? Do you want to add a new reference? If so, reach out to that individual, ask their permission, and get their preferred contact information.
The above represents some ways to survive the shutdown and use the unplanned time constructively. And even if you’re not directly affected by the shutdown, these are still good things to do at the beginning of every year—you never know what will happen and we all need to be prepared.