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Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is a great way to really learn what they do every day, and how we can make their lives better. This week, I joined the President’s “Day in the Life” effort. Throughout the summer, senior administrators are traveling the country speaking with -- and learning from -- the people we work for every day.
While in Los Angeles this past week, I had such fun spending time with two extraordinary individuals – Matthew Gonzales, a Federal employee at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, and Megan Rodriguez, an Air Force veteran who works for the state of California as an employment assistant helping other veterans find jobs. Both are young Latinos driven by a passion for public service.
Matthew entered the Federal government as a Pathways intern, a program that brings the best young talent into government and sets them on the path to a Federal career. Matthew is now a civilian program manager at the space and missile center. He also co-led the first chapter of Young Government Leaders in Los Angeles.
Matthew shared something that really made an impression on me. At his job, there is always a lot going on and he is experiencing and doing many things for the first time. But, he said, with pride, while he is not always expected to know everything right away, he is always expected to learn. Matthew knows he has the support and tools that he needs to keep growing, and that is part of the reason why he believes the Federal government is a great place to start his career. That spirit of service is exactly what our nation needs. And I know that Matthew is one of hundreds of thousands of Federal employees with that same enthusiasm.
Megan has a passion for helping fellow veterans find jobs. While attending Mount St. Mary’s College, she founded its Veterans Outreach Association and she has continued that work now that she has graduated. We discussed our shared passion for helping women veterans get Federal jobs, especially STEM jobs. She would be a great fit in the Federal government.
In Matthew and Megan, I saw so many positive qualities: passion, dedication, an overwhelming desire to help people, a call to service, and a truly hopeful vision of the future. These young professionals remind me what it was like to once walk in shoes similar to theirs. I know there are obstacles they face each day, but their commitment to public service makes me confident we will continue to have a diverse, talented, caring, and devoted Federal workforce. Their insights helped me understand firsthand what young Latinos are thinking and what we need to do to attract them to Federal service.
I was glad to be able to tell them that we are already working hard to increase the number of Federal employees from underrepresented communities and to support and develop them in their careers. They share my commitment that we have a workforce that truly represents the bright mosaic of the American family.
So really, we learned a lot from each other. If we take the time to stop, listen, and just for a moment, put ourselves in another’s shoes, we’ll keep learning. And that makes all the difference.
As the first Latina Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one of my highest priorities is to recruit a diverse Federal workforce. As part of that effort, last week I attended the League of United Latin American Citizens’ annual conference. LULAC is the oldest and largest Latino civil rights organization in the United States. For 85 years, it has fought for civil rights, education rights, legal rights, housing rights, and employment rights.
LULAC shares OPM’s goal of promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace. We both know how important it is to have a government that looks like and truly represents the people we serve. Americans benefit from the talent, the wisdom, the experience, and the insights of people from every community in our country.
We do a lot of great work with organizations like LULAC. Along with other Federal agencies, OPM is a partner in its Federal Training Institute, which helps to train and mentor the next generation of Latino leaders.
As part of the President’s Management Agenda, OPM is placing a renewed emphasis on leadership pipelines. We want to ensure that all groups, including Latinos, are fully represented in the workplace. We are working on an onboarding program to make sure that new Senior Executive Service members have the support and coaching they need, not only when they first begin their assignment, but throughout their tenure. And we are focusing on mentoring. Connecting with leaders in our own communities can give us the help and direction we need. We all need mentors and should strive to be mentors to others.
The National Council of La Raza is another leader in the Latino community, and I look forward to speaking at their annual conference in Los Angeles next week. While I’m there, I will also meet with Latino students at several colleges, sharing with them what the Federal government’s employment needs are and asking what would entice them to consider a career in Federal service.
When I visit with these organizations and their members, I get the chance to do something I can’t do anywhere else: Hear firsthand the perspectives I need to make our strategies the best they can possibly be. My commitment to a diverse and inclusive Federal workforce is unshakable. Together, we can make sure Latinos are represented at every level of Federal service, especially at every decision-making table.
Through his Management Agenda, President Obama is committed to delivering a smarter, more innovative and more accountable government for the American people.
We have had the honor to take a leading role with the “People and Culture” portion of the agenda - a portion we believe is the cornerstone of the agenda. Why? Because an engaged, innovative, and productive Federal workforce is the key to everything we do in service to America. And last week, we released our detailed Agency Priority Goal action plan on how we plan to improve the Federal workforce both for today and for tomorrow.
Within this action plan, we are taking a three-pronged approach to make sure the Federal government successfully unlocks the talent of the workforce we have today and builds the workforce we need for the future. Through these efforts, we believe we will be able to create a culture of excellence and engagement that will foster higher performance; an exemplary Federal management team, starting with the Senior Executive Service; and innovative recruiting tools that allow agencies to attract the best talent from every segment of society.
We’d like to describe for you these important elements of the People and Culture pillar.
Driving Employee Engagement: We need to draw on the varied talent, expertise and experience of our great workforce, and to do that, we need to give our employees some new tools:
Building a World-Class Management Team: Starting with the Senior Executive Service, we will position our management team to provide the highest level of leadership within and across Departments and Agencies.
Finding the Best Talent: Working with stakeholders, OPM is meeting with agency and department heads and untying the “knots” getting in their way of recruiting the talent they need.
These initiatives of the People and Culture pillar were developed over the past year by some of the most senior officials in government through the President’s Management Council along with staff from all agencies.
We want to thank our teams at OPM and the Presidential Personnel Office as well as our agency partners, the CHCO council, the President’s Leadership Workshop, and the Office of Management and Budget for what we know will be their tireless efforts to implement this ambitious action plan. Furthermore, we invite your feedback as we move forward given this will be a living agenda. I know that together, we will make sure that the Federal government is a model for the 21st Century.
It’s no secret that we need more millennials in the Federal government. Currently only 7% of the workforce is under the age of 30. And this sought-after demographic is a constant topic of the national conversation – their habits, their vices, their skills. But instead of talking about them, I want to talk to them.
So millennials, here’s what I want you to know.
We have a place for you in the Federal government. You tell us you want a job that matters, that you want to work for organizations that make a difference. You want to be in a place that encourages and rewards innovative thinking. You want to be able to develop your skills. And, most of all, you care about public service and believe that government can make a difference.
We know we can’t offer all the perks that the private sector does. We don’t have endless free food, company cars to get you to work or huge signing bonuses. But we can offer you the chance to develop, to lead, and to make a difference in people’s lives.
In the Federal government, you can have the job you dreamed of as a child. You can be a firefighter, an astronaut, or a doctor. You can help the homeless, care for our veterans, or meet with foreign dignitaries. You can help a budding entrepreneur start a small business, a student be the first in her family to go to college, or an inventor get his first patent. You can do almost anything in the Federal government.
I know you want a better hiring process. We’re working hard to make our job announcements easier to understand. We’re expanding our outreach to job seekers by increasing our use of technology to recruit, especially social media. And we’re launching a new applicant website this summer that will make one-stop shopping possible. It will have resources ranging from how to tailor your resume for a job with government to how to apply to the Pathways Program, all in one place.
I know you may not want to commit for the long term. You want to try new things and grow in a variety of jobs. I admire that and I respect that. So I am asking you to give us a try, to give Federal service a few years. We need your energy. We need your knowledge. We need your innovation.
Try us out. Check out the Pathways and Recent Graduates Programs. Apply to be a Presidential Management Fellow. Join the Federal family and see if we’re a fit. We have a lot of important work we can do together.
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