In February 2014, I became one of the first graduates of the inaugural class of the Credentialed Government Leader (CGL) program. When the CGL program was first announced, the idea of taking my career development into my own hands resonated with me, so I took a chance and signed up for the Program not knowing exactly what would come of it. Although I learned a lot through my participation in the courses and the discussions with my mentor, there are four key ideas that I will take with me as I continue through my career.
Key #1 – Career Development is a Process, not a Course Taken Once or Twice
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]During the CGL program I learned that career development is a lifelong process.[/pullquote]
While an undergraduate at San Diego State University, I decided that I wanted to become a city manager. In the years since I earned my bachelors degree, I have been taking steps to reach that goal. Before the CGL program, I considered my progression towards my career goal as a series of check boxes – items like earning a graduate degree, learning about budgeting, obtaining experience in an operating department, etc.
During the CGL program I learned that career development is a lifelong process. Just because I reach one milestone or make progress towards my career goal, it does not mean that I have finished my professional development and growth.
Key #2 – Mentoring and Coaching Provide Essential Professional Growth
One of the highlights of the CGL program is the relationships developed through mentoring and coaching. I started with one mentor through the CGL program. Through discussions with that mentor on how to improve communications between co-workers, I began to regularly meet with my supervisor in my new position. Informally, I began a second mentoring relationship with my supervisor, the Public Works Director.
Over several months we developed an informal mentoring relationship where the Public Works Director, who was approaching retirement, taught me about his challenges and triumphs in his career. I would have never thought that I could have multiple mentors at the same time, all providing unique perspectives that helped me think differently about problems and situations I face.
[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]I would have never thought that I could have multiple mentors at the same time, all providing unique perspectives that helped me think differently about problems and situations I face.[/pullquote]
When I look back to where I was three and half years ago, and how I viewed my professional abilities, I see that my thought process has changed. Through the mentoring relationships, I feel that I have a broader perspective and that I am more open to listening and seeing the possibilities in others.
My CGL mentor encouraged me to participate in ICMA’s Emerging Leader Development Program (ELDP), which I am now a participant; gaining additional insights into local government management. Through these mentors I am able to see different perspectives, which help me expand my horizons and think about challenges in a new way.
Key #3 – Take Time for Self-Reflection, Debriefing and Understanding One-Self
As part of the idea of developing an attitude of continual learning, it is necessary to take the time to process new information. As I learned through reading articles and attending CGL courses, one needs time to think.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]I have been setting aside time to write down thoughts, read articles, and just move away from my computer to think about why I feel a certain way or why I think events happened as they did. [/pullquote]
I learned that one of the greatest challenges that I will have in my career will be to set aside time to reflect and debrief about experiences with projects or people. I find it very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities of work. Throughout the CGL program, I have been setting aside time to write down thoughts, read articles, and just move away from my computer to think about why I feel a certain way or why I think events happened as they did. This reflection helps me to develop strategies to correct any problems that may have arisen. I have found that these short periods of rest have helped me become more productive, and have a more positive view on the progress of the projects I am working on.
Step #4 – Listen, Learn, and Pass It On
After I completed the CGL program, I started to meet informally more often with co-workers. These informal discussions have budded from venting sessions into co-mentoring sessions. Without the deeper understanding of mentoring I gained through the CGL program, these informal discussions may have continued as venting sessions instead of constructive dialog on how to improve the issues we are facing within the organization. As I am able to share insights I’ve learned with others, new ideas are able to sink in, becoming habits, creating a cycle of learning and reinforcement – not just with me, but with my professional network.
The CGL program helped me take my professional development to the next level. I always thought I should continue to develop my skills and abilities; although, I rarely thought about how I could be proactive in my career development. After completing the CGL program, I have a different mindset on how to approach my career growth and advancement—a mindset that I can use to continue progressing to meet my professional and personal goals.