How Your Career Moves Forward in Chaotic Times

Businessperson climbing up a spiralling staircaseAfter the Presidential election, regardless of where your sympathies lie, it feels like we are living more than ever in a VUCA world. VUCA is a military acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity, and it is used to describe our environment during times of turmoil and change.

There are so many different viewpoints and perspectives coming at us from so many different sources—the media, our coworkers, and our family and friends—that we often don’t feel like we are standing on stable ground and can’t clearly strategize our future. People have diverse reactions and mindsets during these times of uncertainty. Many people view these times with great negativity, sharing their doom and gloom mindset while wringing their hands—and some people just passively “go with the flow” instead of engaging in processing the moment.

However, others view turbulent times as the chance to look for new opportunities for career growth. How you view the political climate is dependent on your paradigm—your mentality that governs your thinking and actions, as influenced by your experience and personal outlook. If you have a scarcity paradigm, then you will see scarce opportunities and limited possibilities. On the other hand, if you have an abundance paradigm, prospects for new opportunities will appear regularly. Therefore, if you’re proactive about your career, and the careers of your colleagues and teammates, this is a time to be creative in your thoughts and actions.

So, what are some actions that you can take to further your career in this VUCA environment, beyond attending classes or training sessions to acquire new knowledge? We have several ideas about what helps and hinders talent development in the public sector in our latest research report—Unleveraged Talent: Exploring Gaps in Federal Workforce Management—but we’ll focus here on just a few of our tips.

Consult Your Mentors

In our report, over 50% of the respondents said they take advantage of coaching and mentoring opportunities. Do you currently have a mentor inside or outside your organization who you engage with on a longer-term basis to help with your career development? Some people have even developed a board of mentors. They have different mentors who focus on different aspects of their mentee’s career. For instance, one mentor can provide advice on how to be a more effective leader, while another mentor can share specific technical expertise.

Work with a Professional Coach

Have you considered working with a coach to address the development of a specific skill/behavior or assist with handling a job situation or relationship? Both coaching and mentoring are personalized approaches to helping you further develop your career.

Make Time for On-the-Job Training

Over 70% of Federal workers surveyed for our research report feel their organizations are facing critical skills gaps. Often when organizations need these critical skills, there is not the time or the money to put employees through formal training programs. So, organizations offer formal or informal on-the-job training—and if they don’t, it’s up to you to find job aidswebinars, and blog posts that help you expand your skills (and acquire new ones) in a short amount of time. Research has shown that on-the-job training is one of the most effective ways of learning and applying new skills in the workplace.

Look for Opportunities, They’re Growing in Number

During times of Presidential transition there are many, many people who change jobs and responsibilities in Federal agencies. This, in addition to the re-organizing and shuffling of duties and resources, creates openings that often need to be filled quickly and for limited amounts of time. As a result, the first months of change that comes with a new administration allow people to rotate into open positions on a temporary basis or contribute in new ways from their current position. It’s a great way to learn about other parts of an organization, develop new networks and relationships, and expand your skill set.

Align Your Goals and Take New Approaches

As new leadership confers its style and tone to Federal agencies, there are often new strategies and goals established for how to achieve the mission. And the attainment of these new goals requires new thinking and approaches. This often results in the establishment of special project teams and task forces—and potential changes to workplace culture—to develop the plans for how to achieve the new goals.

Do you have the skills, experience, or institutional knowledge along with the initiative to be on one of these newly established project teams? Are you willing to share what you know to make a contribution to the team while increasing your problem-solving skills—what new approaches are you open to? Check out our webinar—Communicating Program Value Amidst an Administrative Change—for tips on building rapport with new leadership and accurately examining the opportunities and risks present (or emerging) in your organization.

Those who create great, dynamic careers for themselves are those who plan how they will achieve it and therefore look for and take advantage of the opportunities that arise from working through VUCA times.


To receive more tips, strategies, and expert insights on how to unleash the potential at your organization during the first months of the Trump administration, subscribe to this blog—using the form at the top right of the page. And download our report—Unleveraged Talent: Exploring Gaps in Federal Workforce Management, where we’ve outlined the current state of issues facing the Federal workforce, and we’ve proposed solutions for how individuals, teams, and organizations can become stronger than ever.

Written by:
Debbie Eshelman
Human Capital & Human Resources
Media Type:

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