Stay professional on Facebook, career coach advises

If you are a young federal employee with ambitions to become a government leader, do yourself a career favor: Don’t let any wild party pictures or other unprofessional-looking content taint your Facebook profile and, possibly, your career, a career coach advises.

Social networking Web sites, such and Facebook and LinkedIn, are among dozens of tools that young feds can use to manage their careers, said Jeffrey Ward, a principal at Northward Leadership and Development, an executive coaching firm. Unprofessional Facebook profiles — and backstabbing — are career blunders to be avoided, he said.

Speaking Jan. 9 at a professional development event for Young Government Leaders in Washington, Ward urged the audience of early-career federal employees to manage their own careers. Beginning now, he said, “You have to be in control of your career because no one else is going to be.”

Young feds often hear that many opportunities for advancement and leadership will open up in the federal government any time now as the large baby boom generation begins to retire in record numbers. But Ward told a different story. He said many senior employees who are eligible for retirement are not retiring, for various reasons.

Faced with fewer opportunities for advancement than they might have hoped for, young careerists should create their own opportunities using all of the tools that exist, Ward said, including volunteering for projects that no one else wants to do. It is possible, he said, to be like the young man who organized an agency picnic in one of GSA’s regional offices. He handled the task so ably that a senior official hired him as his deputy.

Ward urged the Young Government Leaders audience to engage in social networking off-line, too. Stay involved in your college alumni association, he said. Join industry associations, such as the Industry Advisory Council. Attend industry conferences.

To manage their careers effectively, Ward said, young government employees should ask themselves three basic questions: What interests me? What am I good at? What motivates me? Then they should look for agencies and positions that best match their interests, skills and values.

To that list of questions, Ward added “What’s my brand?”

Personal branding is the topic of a separate executive leadership workshop that Ward offers through Northward. Ward didn’t elaborate except to say that Simon Cowell, the acerbic judge on the popular TV show “American Idol,” is an example of someone who has used personal branding to his career advantage.

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