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The first three months in a new job can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. Whether you’re entering the workforce as an assistant or as a senior leader, you’ll want to make a strong first impression. It’s a time to start fresh, with new opportunities and challenges.
Whatever the job, here are a few guiding principles for you, based on my many years as a leader in government. I especially encourage new Federal employees to take these tips to heart as you learn to navigate the public-sector landscape.
Your first 90 days on a job is the time to show what you’re made of and to prepare your path for the future. So listen, learn, and follow the advice of a mentor. Whether your new job is making copies or analyzing policy, success is about how you handle the work you are given and the commitment you show to the job and the mission. If you take that to heart you will go far.
One of the things I love most about my job as the Director of the Office of Personnel Management is the variety and complexity of the work we do to serve the American people.
I have the opportunity to work with brilliant people every day, teams and individuals tasked with solving some of our country’s greatest challenges. I’ve also learned that the process we use to get results – and the way all the steps in that process fit together just right – can be nearly as rewarding as the results themselves.
Let me explain this in another way. I love to cook, especially when it involves a complex recipe. Mixing many ingredients and flavors together in just the right way to make something new and delicious is incredibly satisfying to me.
Once my dish is cooked, I also love the presentation of the food. It may sound a little odd, but I always watch my guests take their first bite. If they talk through it, I feel like I’ve failed. But when they don’t say anything at all, and I see an expression of enjoyment appear on their faces, that’s when I feel I’ve done my work well.
Success in the workplace and success in the kitchen are a lot alike. Cooking is about the preparation, the presentation, and the first bite. These same steps can apply when we think about our jobs. How do we prepare? How do we present our work? What happens when our customers take their first bite? Is it satisfying? How can we improve the recipe?
Here’s an example of what I mean. At OPM last year, we wanted to give Federal employees more educational opportunities. The process began in the OPM kitchen: We knew employees were craving new training and advancement opportunities. We spent time preparing the recipe: We found a college willing to partner with us that offered a variety of programs and online degree options for Federal employees across the country – the University of Maryland University College. Once the partnership was fully cooked, we presented it to Federal employees, and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. As a result, we are exploring the possibility of additional partnerships like the one with UMUC.
I love seeing my team prepare, present, and learn from the experience. In doing so, together we can serve the American people one great recipe after another.
The second open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act ends on February 15. These next three weeks are critical if we are to get as many still uninsured Americans as possible signed up for quality and affordable health care.
This is something I am passionate about. I am doing all I can to encourage Americans, especially Latinos, to go to healthcare.gov and find the right plans for them. That is why earlier today I joined with Mayor Vaughn Spencer of Reading, Pennsylvania to help him spread the word.
As of January 9, nearly 6.8 million Americans have either signed up for a new plan or were re-enrolled in a plan through the Federal Marketplace. Yet, there are many who are still without health coverage.
Let’s take a look at Pennsylvania. In the Keystone State, 8 percent of residents still do not have health insurance. More than 100,000 Latinos remain uninsured. In the state, 15 insurance companies are offering more than 125 plans. So there is plenty of choice. And the good news is, there is financial assistance available to help with the premiums. More than 81 percent of people insured through the Marketplace in Pennsylvania are getting financial help. And now that Pennsylvania has joined many other states and expanded its Medicaid program, an additional 600,000 people are eligible for Medicaid. That’s lifesaving support.
The ACA has fundamentally changed our health care system. Children can remain on their parents’ policies until the age of 26. People can get the preventive and wellness care they need to keep small illnesses from turning into serious health problems. And individuals with serious illnesses and pre-existing conditions can’t be denied coverage or dropped from health plans when they get sick.
Insurance is important. You never know when an accident or serious illness may hit. The peace of mind of knowing you and your loved ones are covered and that you won’t go into bankruptcy as a result of something you can’t control is priceless.
So I’m hoping Federal employees will help spread the word in the coming days. Make sure your family, friends, and acquaintances don’t miss out on the chance to have the coverage they need.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a strong believer in service to others and to our nation. That is why every January, in honor of his birthday, hundreds of thousands of Americans come together for a National Day of Service to recognize Dr. King’s life and legacy.
As public servants, Federal employees already know the power of working for others. The MLK Day of Service gives us an opportunity to come together with family, friends, and neighbors to give something back to our communities and to those less fortunate than we are.
Every day, I see firsthand the incredible generosity of Federal employees. Every summer, they give hundreds of thousands of pounds of canned goods and other non-perishable items to food pantries at times when it’s needed most. And they donate millions of dollars to charities through the annual Combined Federal Campaign. So I know service to others is hardly a difficult sell to our Federal family.
That is why I hope many of you will find some way to volunteer in your community on Monday, January 19. Visit www.mlkday.gov to find a project that interests you or to promote your own. Opportunities in communities all across the country range from tutoring students and mentoring at-risk youth to working to protect the environment to assisting veterans and the military. I know that everyone can find a service project that matches his or her interests, time, and abilities.
By putting the core American principles of citizenship and service into action and by addressing local challenges, together we can help make our country a better place.
I hope that the MLK Day of Service can be the spark that leads people to get involved in their communities all year long. During the past year, more than 1-in-4 Americans did volunteer work. Altogether, 62.6 million Americans gave nearly 7.7 billion hours of their time, which represented an estimated economic value of $173 billion. That’s incredibly powerful. Become a part of that movement. Take the MLK Day Challenge and pledge to serve not only one day, but throughout the entire year by visiting www.serve.gov.
“Everyone can be great because everyone can serve,” Dr. King said of the value of giving back. Help us to continue to celebrate that legacy. Even one day of community service can make a difference.
Enjoy your day!
At OPM, our Retirement Services staff works hard each and every day to provide the best customer service we can to our Federal retirees and their families. I know that as tax season approaches and the new cost of living increases take effect, many of our annuitants have questions.
I also know that the phone lines to RS can be especially busy now. So I want to make sure you know about our Services Online website. This portal is easy to navigate and allows retirees to access their retirement accounts 24/7. Retirees can update mailing addresses and change their Federal and state income tax withholding. We’re always updating this website, based in large part on your feedback and requests. For example, retirees can now request a duplicate annuity booklet from Services Online. Also new is a feature that allows retirees to look at and print their Retirement Services ID Cards.
Signing up is easy. If you have a Civil Service Annuity or Civil Service Final Number, you can use this portal. Once you’re on the login page, you can request a password by email or regular mail and set up your account. You will then have immediate access to Services Online.
If you want to get an early start on filing your taxes, you can go to Services Online and print your 1099R, the form retirees need to complete their filings. The system also includes information from the past two years if you need previous tax information. Otherwise, watch your mailbox. The 1099R forms for 2014 will be mailed by January 30, 2015.
As I said, there’s a new cost of living, or COLA, rate. It was reflected in the January 2, 2015 payments. The COLA increase was 1.7 percent for retirees. The full increase is paid to retirees who began receiving retirement payments on or before December 30, 2014. You can get more information about the COLA increases on our website.
As always, we look forward to continuing to serve our retirees and their families. We appreciate and are thankful for their years of dedication to public service. We are always looking for new and innovative ways to provide more accessibility for our annuitants to get the information they need, when they need it.
Let us know how we can better serve you. And stay tuned, there’s more to come.
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