The Perfect Pairing — Professional Skills and Public Service

Why do people choose to work in the public sector? Instead of chasing profits, the work of public service impacts every American. Think about it. Our food, housing, education, healthcare, natural resources, manufacturing, and national security are all defined and regulated by the federal government to some extent.

Many pursue a public service career because their interests and expertise align with an agency’s mission. Others have witnessed the benefits of public service and feel a sense of duty or desire to carry on a family tradition. We cannot account for every motive, but we do know that when the people who serve our nation do so with excellence, we all reap the benefits.

What Does It Mean to Excel in the Federal Government?

Some may consider success to be exceeding expectations while carrying out the duties of their jobs, but that’s only half of the story. As advances in technology eliminate repetitive tasks, more emphasis is being placed on our uniquely human characteristics — the way we interact with others and solve problems. In order to excel, you must demonstrate competency in professional skills, sometimes referred to as soft skills, such as communication, problem-solving, collaboration, and negotiation.  Let’s explore how developing these skills can help you excel in your public service career.

Effective Communicators Maximize the Impact of Their Messages

To maximize the impact of your messages, you’ve got to know what to say, when to say it, how to say it, and to whom. And, as you plan that out, it is important to factor in your emotional perspective and that of your audience. Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a measure of your ability to control your emotions while sensing and responding to the emotions of those around you. Active listening, empathy, compassion, and patience are a few examples of EI elements that are essential when building and maintaining relationships. Regardless of your role, your ability to communicate effectively with colleagues, supervisors, direct reports, and the public is vital.

Practiced Problem Solvers Identify Superior Solutions

With the rapid pace of change in the global market, technology, and political influences, public service workers are repeatedly asked to shift focus, realign, upskill, and reskill, according to the latest evolution. Making that shift requires agility and keen critical thinking skills. As programs, projects, or initiatives are introduced and phased out, there are multiple levels of change. Practiced problem-solvers need to assess, analyze, and execute changes related to process, material, and personnel.

Exceptional Collaborators Build Stronger Relationships

Aristotle is credited with conveying the concept of “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” This refers to the great benefits offered by the practice of collaboration. Asking people who have diverse perspectives to contribute to an activity typically produces an outcome that is superior to the solution that could be derived by any individual contributor. In addition to producing better outcomes, collaboration demonstrates that every contribution is important, which positively impacts productivity, retention, and commitment to the mission.

Skillful Negotiators Create Better Value

Armed with excellent communication and problem-solving skills combined with a collaborative nature, a skillful negotiator can establish mutual understandings, build trust, and show flexibility to maximize the value of their negotiations. The foundation for success in this realm relies upon the ability to build and maintain relationships combined with negotiation techniques and tactics.

Refining Your Professional Skills

What can you do today to understand your colleagues better and prepare for overcoming challenges? Refine your professional skills. Here’s how:

  • Investigate opportunities at your organization. Are there any development programs underway that focus on these critical skills?
  • Are you aware of any experienced colleagues who may be able to advise you? Even an informal mentoring relationship can be helpful.
  • Assess your professional skill strengths and weaknesses. Compare them to the qualities required in potential future roles.
  • Start by taking a class. You will be in contact with an experienced instructor and several peers with whom you can share your thoughts and concerns.
  • Discuss your professional objectives with your direct supervisor. Reflect on their feedback and consider their recommendations for your logical next steps.
  • Enroll in a certification program for developing your professional skills.

Becoming aware of the areas you need to work on is a substantial first step. All of us add value through our knowledge and experience, but we also have room for improvement. By identifying gaps and pursuing refinement of your professional skills, you will be more likely to excel — personally and professionally.

Written by:
Natalie Komitsky
Leadership & Management
Media Type:

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