Friday, April 3, 2009 Weekly Column: Career Paths

I had a whirlwind week last week; but one thing that really stuck out for me was a conversation I had with Amanda Parr. Over the course of our discussion Amanda asked me where I saw my future in the public service. It was a question to which I don't yet have a good answer; and truth be told I haven't been aggressively pursuing promotions as of late. In fact I am routinely being screened in only to pass on the opportunity to write the exam because I feel as though my time is often better spent elsewhere.

But what really got me thinking wasn't her question so much as her assessment of where I could be, or what I could do in order to have the largest impact on the public service.

Having had the opportunity to meet and converse with both Don Drummond on the way to Toronto and my Deputy Minister (DM) on the way back to Ottawa, I began to invest more thought into the question of where I saw myself down the line and of the type of impact I would want to make.

But before sharing my thoughts, I just wanted to say how incredibly brilliant these two people are and to thank them (again) for the opportunity to dialogue with them.

I truly believe that senior managers and working-level employees have completely different experiences of their daily work lives within the government. I know that you may think it an obvious point to make, but it is an important one that I never explicitly understood as of yet.

I am not trying to say that one experience is more or less real than another or more or less important - only different. Furthermore, I think that within this difference, public servants draw satisfaction and derive meaning from their work in unique ways.

So where is the best place for someone like me in the public service?

Well I think I am slowly finding it. Understanding exactly where I want to be requires a lot of introspection: getting to know my talents, my shortfalls, my likes and dislikes. All of these things impact my decision on where to go and where to stay within the public service.

During my conversation with my DM she asked me if/why I wanted to be an executive in the public service. The more I thought about the question, the fewer reasons I had to want to be an executive. Essentially what I am trying to say, and what I wish I'd told her, is that right now I am simply not in a place where I could draw personal satisfaction from that experience of work. Furthermore I think that a renewed public service is one that helps people identify how they derive meaning from their work and help them to find the work that can best deliver that meaning. This is a fundamental pillar of any engaged and effective public service.

So for me, for now, I am more then happy trying to engage other public servants within my organization during my day job and engage public servants across the country in my night job. I said in my presentation in Toronto that I firmly believe that you can lead from anywhere in your organization if you are willing to lead from the back. I also said that if your only motivation to lead comes from your desire to be out in front, then you probably aren't going to be a very effective leader.

Personally, I'm not yet ready to lead from the front. I enjoy being where the vast majority of my colleagues are, where all of you are, somewhere in the middle.

What about you? When was the last time you gave an honest thought to where you really want to be in your career?

(Make sure you click that last link - it's a gem, thanks Rick)

Note that while we work as public servants this is entirely our own initiative and what we post here does not necessarily reflect the view of the government, our offices or our positions there in.

Notez bien que nous travaillons commes functionnaires, ceci est entièrement notre propre initiative et ce que nous publions sur ce site ne reflète pas nécessairement le point de vue du gouvernement, de nos organisations ou de nos postes.