Now that you’ve landed yourself a sweet government job, you’ve got to worry about your performance. We’ve all heard stories of employees which are qualified for the work that they do, but just don’t have enough composure or self-discipline to deliver quality work, consistently.
The good news is that you can learn from the mistakes of others. Here are 10 blunders which will be especially embarrassing for workers in government fields.
10. Don’t Write Too Much
Keep your project proposals, reports, and communications concise and focused. The more you ramble on, the less your main priorities and good ideas will shine through. Often times, co-workers will be irritated by writing that is especially verbose, even if your reasoning is sound. Stick to the main points, use bullet points, and keep your arguments simple.
9. Don’t Submit Messy Work
Unless you have your own private editor, you should always proofread the work you are submitting to a higher-up. You may write the greatest proposal in the world, but if you fail to present it in a neat, professional manner, you won’t get the benefit of your hard work.
8. Don’t Fudge Any Details for the First Year
Ideally, you’d never have to skimp on any of your work, but everybody comes to a point where they are completely over-worked, and need to ease up on one aspect of their work. However, if you’re tempted to do this within the first year of accepting a job, you’re probably taking on more responsibility than you can handle. When I say “don’t fudge details”, I mean: financials, milestones, dates, responsibilities, metrics, reports, and deadlines.
7. If You Screw Up, Be Honest About It
Everybody makes mistakes – I’m no exception myself. The problem is that it’s counter-intuitive to give up easily when you may have made a mistake – it’s much easier to ferociously defend yourself. I’ve actually seen somebody collapse into a wild theory about how somebody must have actually deleted an email from their mail list while they were in the bathroom, because they were too stubborn to admit that they had simply neglected it. The outcome is never pretty – suffer the blow to your ego, and be more careful next time.
6. Don’t Have Preconceived Notions About What Your Agency Needs
Especially if you’re just starting to work for a new department, agency, or even boss, don’t over-estimate your ability to read situations. Even if you are correct to pinpoint a lot of different problems in a given proposal, you need to think about how you are doing so – stepping on a long-time employee’s feet as a newbie will make you look like a hot shot, and will not earn you any brownie points.
5. Don’t Dilute Your Priorities
Personally, I am a pretty sociable guy. I like to smile a lot, try to offer a helping hand as often as possible, and generally like to break down the barriers between the job I do and the job my co-workers do. But there is a cut-off point; you need to always return to your main tasks, and make sure to get your main tasks finished before straying from them.
This is not always as easy as it sounds. Many times, co-workers will approach you while you’re in the middle of doing important work to ask for your help. If you turn them away too rudely, they might be hurt or annoyed. Try to be as kind as possible, and suggest a time later in the day when you are free to help them.
4. Don’t Be Late
From an employee perspective, there is nothing more obnoxious than busting your butt in the office each morning, only to be surrounded by employees who stroll in much, much later than you do. Plus, management teams can get very paranoid about the effect a late arriver can have on a work’s culture. It is very difficult to explain to employees why they are expected to be on time, when other employees do not obey the rule.
If you are going to be late, you should always give your manager or team a heads-up – that way, if an emergency comes up, they’ll know where to find you.
3. Don’t Be Combative
A lot of jobs will award employees a decent amount of slack when it comes to logging hours, accomplishing daily tasks, and taking on extra duties. After all, who is going to have the time to watch over you all day long? While this is definitely a good thing for your sanity, it has one serious consequence: when you are actually engaging your higher-ups, they are going to pay attention to how you act. Any attitude, excess negativity, or snarkiness will not bide well with them – or your career.
2. Be Consistent
If you’ve been hired for a job, is it likely that your personality actually does match the position you are filling quite well. Even if you have clearly observable strengths and weaknesses, make sure that your behavior is as consistent as possible. If you find yourself stretching way outside of your comfort zone on a daily basis, it’s almost guaranteed that you will not deliver the same results each day. Know your limits, and communicate them clearly.
1. Always Have a Plan
As a government employee, you may be a target for press and media, receive many phone calls per day, and be responsible to keep certain material confidential. Don’t get caught off guard – go over the status of projects you are working on, and know what to say when you are asked about them. If you have trouble giving somebody an answer, rehearse it until you know it by heart.