Just over three years ago, I started in the Public Service at a line department. I started exactly 9 days after my graduation from my undergrad program, and moved my life from Nova Scotia to the bustling city of Ottawa where I was promptly terrified by the transit system and so moved into an apartment that was (literally) 2 blocks away from my office – thus avoiding the embarrassment of getting lost on the transit system.
Initially, I had planned on working here for the summer, and likely returning to school later on or moving elsewhere. And yet, 3 years later, I am still in Ottawa. I have recently switched departments and am now in the process of adapting to a new culture and new way of doing things.
Over the past 3 years, I have been incredibly fortunate to have had the support of managers, colleagues, and a fairly broad community both inside and outside of my department. I am unable to express to fullness of my gratitude towards the people that I have met either in person, or even just virtually (on Twitter). The lessons I have learned from them has been invaluable.
Managers and Colleagues
In the first instance, I have been fortunate to have excellent managers and colleagues. The managers have allowed me to have a relatively high level of autonomy when working on files, put up with my (at times incessant) questions, and allowed me to develop a whole slew of new skills. My colleagues have provided support and guidance in so many ways and are we are constantly pushing each other on how things can be done differently.
Both the managers and colleagues I have worked with have embodied what it is to be a Public Servant. They are constantly evaluating how we’re doing our work and what sort of advice we’re providing. They’re not afraid to put forth new ideas or to challenge the status quo – and they do so understanding that their ideas may not be accepted, and are able to bounce back if they are not accepted. Being able to see these role models in action has solidified my belief in the Public Service.
I have also been fortunate to see how certain pockets of communities are able to support each other as well. I would not have nearly the same knowledge base that I have now, had it not been for the numerous colleagues and friends I have met through the #w2p network, or the broader #goc community. These Public Servants spend each and very day bringing forth new ideas on how we can work better in order to serve the public.
The support the community provides to each other is incalculable. Whether you’re looking to bounce around new ideas, looking for specific pieces of information, or simply just looking to talk – this community is an incredibly supportive and open environment that has enacted some amazing concepts.
With all that being said…
As with anything, there are always important lessons that we can learn and that we need to watch out for. If I reflect over the past few years, there are two crucial lessons that I have seen:
Dangers of Complacency
Nick wrote about this a little bit, and we see it time and time again. At the end of the day, the Government is enourmous, comprising of hundreds of thousands of people (indeed, Canada’s largest employer). It can be very easy to feel lost in the system, and to just become complacent in our jobs, rather than trying to move new ideas forward. Especially in a system where, in many cases, the first answer is always “no”, it can be difficult to keep that motivation going.
As mentioned above, part of the value of having a good manager or good community is the support that it offers you. In some cases, you’ll feel beat down and like nothing will change. As cliché as it sounds, things do – even if it’s just a little bit at a time. If you are someone who is feeling complacent, or if you know someone who is, remember that people generally don’t want to be poor performers (an important lesson taught to me by a manager) — they may not be in the right job, or not be feeling entirely motivated. It’s times like that that you really need someone to sit down with and talk about what your goals are and how to get there. To actually get back your motivation.
The Work is Never Finished
Part of what feeds into complacency is that even when little victories do happen, it seems like it is just too small in comparison to the larger vision of what could be accomplished. Especially when you have decentralized communities, or departments working separately, it can be difficult to see how all the victories fit together in the larger picture.
Which leads me to wonder – is there something out there that serves as the broader framework for Renewal initiatives? There’s the Clerk’s report, but I’m wondering if there’s isn’t something that articulates, clearly, the principles and objectives of the various new and ongoing renewal activities, which would include initiatives that happen at the community-level, rather than just reported through the DM-level.
In the end…
I can say that I am enthused to be where I am in the Public Service. The last three years have brought a number of challenges, frustrations, etc. For every one that was faced, though, I have learned an immense amount from those around me and hope that one day I’ll be able to repay them for all the support and knowledge that they’ve passed on.
What this essentially all boils down to is:
Thank you. For everything.