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Welles: Agencies will recover too

Private-sector turmoil will reverberate within agencies as employees step up

Federal employees, who might have felt left on the sidelines in recent years, are about to find themselves in the center of the action — for better or worse, perhaps. Now is the time to make sure it’s for better.

As the president and Congress move forward with plans to revitalize the economy, government officials can count on an increased workload. In many agencies, where colleagues have retired and vacancies have remained unfilled, the workload has already been increasing. To meet increasing demands as work moves from the private sector back to government, employees should expect new hires to join them. And yes, some contracting out of federal work will undoubtedly continue.

Along with the challenge comes the opportunity for federal workers to prove again to the public that they have very special jobs to do and know how to do them well. For many federal workers, such as those who work in energy or infrastructure, the back room has always been the front line. Now many of those employees are needed in more visible positions, as political leaders and the public develop a better understanding of just what they do and why their work matters.

Some federal workers might be thankful they have a job, and some might postpone retirement because of it. Although that could be viewed as a negative response, it is good to continue to apply needed skills. The challenge is to focus on the tasks at hand and what you can do to make sure the new programs work well. There are tremendous opportunities for you to distinguish yourself right now.

The Office of Personnel Management held a strategy meeting recently with human resources professionals. OPM’s statement read, “Federal human capital professionals must be ready to help ensure that their agencies are able to meet the challenges caused by unprecedented demands on agency resources.”

Certainly, speeding recruitment and streamlining hiring are among the challenges. Managers writing "help wanted" ads can point out the benefits and flexibilities of government jobs, which will appeal to prospective new employees. Current employees should be alert to new job postings, too.

Rob McGovern, chief executive officer at Jobfox, a career site, recalled the early 1990s, when the Internet was only on the horizon and nobody knew what a world-changer it would be.

Now, as then, “new job titles will emerge, many of which haven’t been invented yet,” he said. “Savvy professionals will be prepared to take advantage of new opportunities.” That could be particularly true for information technology.

People don’t work for government for money alone. Many see their jobs as a way to support and defend the nation. For them, the pay and benefits are secondary to the opportunity to serve.

For economic recovery to succeed, the dedication and skills of federal workers are needed more than ever. In the process, perhaps we will see more public recognition and appreciation for what government can do.

About the Author

Judith Welles is a retired federal employee who has also worked in the private sector. She lives in Bethesda, Md.

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