Better your future through professional development

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Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 11:05 am

Opportunities foster civilian career growth

After only eight months into his new job in the Aviation and Missile Command Human Resources Management Directorate, Roger Kitchen left his position vacant to take on a developmental assignment.

The move wasn’t caused by a dislike for his new job or a need for something better. Rather, Kitchen was interested in the professional development opportunities that he would gain as the executive officer for the director of the Lead AMC Integration Support Office. He knew those opportunities would make him a better employee in his permanent job with AMCOM G-1 Human Resources.

“While at LAISO, I got a lot of visibility with AMCOM senior leaders and even AMC senior leaders. I briefed senior leaders and members of the senior executive service,” Kitchen said.

“There were certain organization goals that LAISO had where they were able to use me to achieve those goals. They used me to help improve their organization. It was a good marriage because I learned a lot and I benefited from seeing AMCOM in a bigger picture, and I was able to learn about AMC, too. In the G-1, you only see one slice of the pie. At LAISO, I got out of what I normally did and saw how AMCOM works and all that it does.”

Kitchen, who returned to his job as a G-1 instructor in November 2011 after a year with LAISO, has used the knowledge and contacts garnered from his developmental assignment to be a better teacher with the AMCOM’s LIFT Leader Development Program.

“I have more credibility because I’ve seen how it all works together,” Kitchen said. “I have a better understanding of requirements. And it’s easier for me to pull senior leaders into the classroom to share with my students because they know me on a professional level.”

Even though the developmental assignment offered benefits, it also created a hardship for the staff of 10 Human Resources specialists who work in AMCOM’s Career Management Division led by Lori Reynolds. Responsibilities had to be shuffled and rearranged to cover for the temporary vacancy.

“Our workload is very big here. So, you know that when you leave, that work has to basically be divided among the other employees and you know you’ll leave a gap,” Kitchen said. “But you have to concentrate on what’s going to be the best long-term, and what skills you will learn on the developmental assignment that will benefit your organization.”

And what Kitchen did bring back to AMCOM G-1 was exactly what was expected.

“He came back not only better equipped for his current assignment but also to grow into his next assignment,” Reynolds said. “In the long-term you get back a better employee. He shadowed the LAISO director for a year and brought that expertise back here with him.”

Rather than hold him back because of the workload hardship, Reynolds did what every good supervisor does for their employees – she encouraged Kitchen to do what was best for his professional growth.

“It’s part of AMCOM’s mission and a basic strategic plan that includes stewardship, work force development and supporting the war fighter,” Reynolds said.

“In a high performing work force, you do need to allow time for professional development, and you have to temper that need with mission requirements. That’s part of the balancing act for any supervisor.”

As the lead for AMCOM’s Career Management Division, Reynolds hopes other supervisors are following her example. And with the onset of a new year, she hopes both supervisors and employees are taking a close look at how professional development can make them a better employee in 2013 and beyond.

“Professional development takes you to the top of your current field, or it’s the steps necessary to get you to the position you want in the future,” she said.

“Professional development involves three questions: How can you become the best you can possibly be in your career field? What are your career goals? How can you achieve those career goals?”

Professional development, she said, is more than training for a specific skill needed on the job.

“It should be a lifelong concern,” Reynolds said.

“Even for those who have just received their 35-year pin, ongoing and continuous training should never stop. Even if you are getting ready to retire, you still want to learn things that stretch you and enhance your life. You never want to stop challenging yourself. And, as a leader, one of your responsibilities is to encourage professional development.”

Employees can grow professionally both on the job by participating in a variety of development programs offered by the Army, and outside the job in the activities they participate in. For instance, someone who wants to improve their speaking skills may hone those skills by teaching at Vacation Bible School in the summer or in a church Sunday school class. If they want to improve their team building or organization skills, they could volunteer as a coach or a Scout leader, or plan events at their children’s school.

Employees can also read and study a number of career growth and management books on the market.

On the job, employees can take on a developmental assignment, enter into a mentor-mentee relationship or take online development courses through the Army e-Learning Program and its SkillSoft programs; the Army Civilian Training Education and Development System; the Army Civilian Training and Leader Development Program; or the Army Civilian Education System. In addition, the goal of the Army’s Civilian Workforce Transformation plan is to place all Army civilians in a career program that outlines the path and resource requirements for professional development in their career. Since then, the Army has developed an Army Career Tracker that will soon go online to assist employees in their career development.

At AMCOM, the UPLIFT (Upward Leader Investment for Tomorrow) and LIFT (Leader Investment for Tomorrow) programs are focused on professional development as is the People Empowering People Mentoring Program. In addition, AMCOM is looking at expanding its popular TACL (Tomorrow’s Army Civilian Leaders) program for interns and students into a professional development program for employees at all levels.

Participating in professional development programs can help employees stay up-to-date with new trends, organization values and processes, said Glen Reese, Human Resources adviser to Garrison commander Col. John Hamilton.

“We all have to work to stay competitive,” he said. “Professional development can help us ensure we are successful by providing us with a continuous journey toward a predetermined and worthwhile goal.”

Currently, much in the area of professional development is focused on providing the best in customer service, something that can help any employee in any career field, he said.

“You should always be thinking about your future and how you can take advantage of the opportunities that will present themselves in the future,” Reese said.

But employees don’t always have to turn to the classroom for professional development. It can also be found on the job.

“Employees can volunteer for work duties that can improve their knowledge in their current post and posture them for their future,” Reynolds said.

“If you volunteer to put together the historical report for your organization, then you will be in a position to learn the goals of your organization. If you volunteer to manage your organization’s government purchase card, then you will gain knowledge of the contracting and budget process that could lead to other job opportunities. If you volunteer to serve on an employee selection panel, you will get a better understanding of the selection process, and what it takes to be a better supervisor or a better employee.”

The best way for an employee to determine a plan for professional development is to meet with their supervisor to write their individual development plan.

“An IDP should be a requirement for all employees,” Reynolds said. “It will help identify where you want to go in your career, your short-term and long-term goals, and your strengths and weaknesses. Your IDP needs to be linked to your organization’s mission, vision and goals. What you plan in your IDP needs to benefit your command and meet its long-term goal.”

Supervisors, Reynolds said, should encourage employees to reach out to be the best they can be, even if that means changing their job.

“It is difficult when an employee leaves and they take their expertise with them. But I enjoy getting new employees into the office. I enjoy working with employees on their long-term development. It’s challenging to start over with a new employee and help them develop skills. A good supervisor should encourage their employees’ professional growth,” she said.

All employees, regardless of their age, experience level and aspirations, should make professional development a top priority.

“Taking classes and learning new things can infuse employees with new excitement and motivation for their job,” Reynolds said. “Everyone is not looking for a new government position. But they should all be looking at how they can be the best in their career field and in the position they are in right now.”

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