Q:I feel as if I have reached a plateau in my career as a chief of staff. How do I keep growing and stay motivated?
A: Many of the strategies you would employ when answering this question for a staffer would also apply to you. However, you face the additional challenge of having no one but yourself with a vested interest in your development. It is the rare Member of Congress who concerns himself or herself with your next career move or with further growth or fulfillment in your current role. The first step to growing in your job includes some self-discovery.
During this self-discovery phase, ask yourself some key questions:
1. What am I great at? Which aspects of my job do I most enjoy?
Rarely do people succeed in positions that fail to leverage their greatest strengths. As a chief of staff, chances are your talents lie in certain parts of your job more than others. Are your strengths in legislative or media strategy, people management, networking or project management? You may want to solicit feedback from your boss, staff and colleagues about what they view as your strengths. It is important for you to continue leveraging, as well as developing, your strengths to maximize your success in your existing and future careers.
2. What am I worst at in my current role? What do I least enjoy?
While addressing your weaknesses can help you to improve your performance in your current role and better prepare you for your next job, you are unlikely to turn your weakness into a strength. The key here is to create self-awareness around your shortcomings and begin to manage them (whether that means delegating parts of your job or working to address them). While spending time in those areas you find most challenging can enable some growth, it is unlikely to bring you greater satisfaction in your job. The goal is understanding and recognition so you can identify discrete steps to help you address your weaknesses.
3. What is my dream job? What are the qualifications for my dream job?
Pay attention to the jobs in the marketplace and identify your dream job. Notice what background and qualifications are required for these jobs and find out who the key decision-makers are in these organizations.
4. What fulfills me?
After identifying what motivates you in both your personal and professional life, you can begin to incorporate these into your current role. Even when we extend ourselves, we usually get energized instead of exhausted when it is with those activities we find most fulfilling. As you stay in public service, it is essential to stay connected to that which keeps you emotionally committed to your work.
Once you have explored these questions, you have the necessary data to put together a development plan for yourself. If you want more data, consider taking a leadership assessment or having your peers, colleagues and staff evaluate your performance in your role. Your development plan should address not only the areas you need to improve to be more successful in your current position, but also how those deficiencies could affect your next role. Ideally, your development plan will give you a strategic path for landing that dream job when you are ready.
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.