Civilian force development -- find ways to capitalize on your skills, knowledge

  • Published
  • By Ronnie Cumberland
  • 334th Training Squadron
If someone had told me 22 years ago that I would wind up being a GS-13 in the 81st Training Group, I would have laughed at them. Civil service was scary and completely out of my reach -- or so I thought. The steps each individual takes to achieve their goals or attain the position of their dreams is up to them. It depends on the skills you have and the knowledge that goes along with each skill.

Only 15 percent of employees are hired because of their technical expertise. The other 85 percent are hired because of other professional qualities they bring to the job, such as interpersonal skills or leadership abilities.

I'm a people person and part of my skill is communicating with people. How you interact with others and treat them with respect often means as much or more than the grammar you use or your writing skills.

Effective communication is the key to getting things done. Take advantage of every opportunity to refine your communication abilities. Practice your writing skills and refer to Tongue and Quill for tips on how to write papers to communicate information, present recommendations and other purposes. The T&Q link is /media/epubs/AFH33-337.pdf. Keep this link handy and reference it frequently to improve your writing skills.

Get out of your comfort zone and advocate for your program. Read the "best practices" of others and develop some that you can share. Practice your briefing skills, develop PowerPoint presentations and show off your good work. Take advantage of opportunities to brief visitors and be ready to showcase to inspectors the outstanding accomplishments of your unit. Step forward and lead -- remember, be first to lead but don't lead to be first.

Early in my career, my supervisor noticed I like to be involved in whatever was going on. Opportunities abound for involvement in organizational functions such as hails and farewells or birthday celebrations. I got started by organizing flight functions, then squadron, and moved up to base-level functions. Don't be afraid to volunteer for small things and gradually work up to the big ones. Over time, your organizational and networking skills will grow and enhance your reputation and value to your unit.

Skills and knowledge work hand-in-hand. By reaching out and getting involved in activities beyond your normal job, you'll enhance your skills and add to your knowledge. It takes hard work, dedication and the willingness to improve on your skills and enhance your knowledge about your job, organization, and group. Volunteer to head up committees and learn more about organizations beyond your immediate surroundings. Develop a network of professionals and share your knowledge and skills with one another. Know who to call when you need help.

What do you think is your greatest skill? Is it computers? Organizing functions? Researching information? Becoming an expert in a task by knowing an Air Force Instruction inside and out? What would you like to do next? The job you're in today may not be what you want to do the rest of your career. You may have your eyes on another position that sounds very interesting and rewarding. So what do you need to do to set yourself up to be competitive for that position?

First, talk to someone who's doing that job or has done that job in the past. Find out what it entails and ensure that you have the skills required for the position.

Second, develop an education and training plan you can follow to attain that goal. Maybe the position requires a bachelor's or master's degree or certain training modules. Increase your knowledge by attending additional classes -- faculty development courses, Squadron Officer School, leadership seminars or online training modules in IT-Learning.

Third, communicate to your supervisor your goals and dreams. Supervisors are willing to set you up for success because one day they'll retire (I have five years and seven months to go). Supervisors want to leave their jobs in good hands, so get their input and find out how you can set yourself up for your dream position.Civilians play a vital role in the mission of the Air Force and the Department of Defense. To land your dream job, do your research by talking to individuals who have that position and find out how they got there. Set your sights on doing the same, but go a step beyond so that when you apply and are interviewed for the position, you have the skills and knowledge -- plus a little extra.

Sir Francis Bacon once said, "Knowledge is power." That power will enable you to advance to positions that may seem out of reach -- nothing is out of your reach.