I'm having a hard time doing career planning because we don't really have "promotions." All open positions are posted to the public, but anyone within the organization can apply as well.


About 4 months ago I started working in finance for an agency within my state government. This last week I was talking to my manager about progression so that I can see what skills I should develop, and what positions I could work towards. My manager let me know that typically first we'd find a vacancy (which is posted internally and externally), and that I can apply for any vacant position I choose. My frustration is that I don't know what skills to improve if I don't know what position I'm working towards. 

I'm a very young professional. Is this a more common progression model than I thought? What suggestions do you have to help me with career planning? 


Gk26's picture

 When I worked for a state agency, I was a "Civil Engineer 1"  There was a progression up to Civil Engineer 5.   I am not sure where you work but I would expect there to be some sort of career path for your job vertical.





tlbeckner's picture
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You're right about promotion and advancement paths in government, MMCCONKIE.

I too work in government finance, at the county level. I'm fortunate to be a member of senior management, overseeing two internal service departments, as well as several indirect reports. For positions under my supervision and most in our government, there is no clear advancement path and "promotions" become available when a vacancy occurs.

As for preparing for a career progression, I would encourage you to broaden your horizons and learn about many different aspects in your department or areas of interest. Volunteer for new projects and training in new areas when available. And look for innovative, more efficient ways to perform existing processes. Governments continue to be squeezed for resources and must become more efficient. As your supervisor sees you as a go-to person, you increase your value and can hopefully get new assignments which will broaden your knowledge and experience, setting you up for when a vacancy comes along.

What I've found is that while vacancies don't occur very often, from a hiring manager's perspective, it is also very difficult to replace the expertise that goes out the door when someone terminates. An applicant who's familiar with the organization, has good relationships, and a broad understanding of many areas is frequently a front-runner for filling a vacancy.

Best wishes.


bookboss's picture

TLBECKNER, who is a perfect position to comment, gave a response that is right on target. 

A few additional recommendations:

1) It's great that you've already spoken to your manager about seeking a promotion. Now that they know that you are interested in moving up, they can potentially watch for opportunities for you. Perhaps you can also broach the possibility of attending seminars, trainings, and conferences in your field both in and out of your organization. Those will give you some additional learning and will help you broaden your network.

2) Besides seeking professional development, most organizations have cross-departmental social events during holiday time and sometimes even throughout the year. They're fundraisers or picnics or somesuch -- see about occasionally attending those so you can get the lay of the land outside of your department, and again, expand your network.

3) Finally, keep up with job listings for other municipal agencies also. You mentioned that you work for the state, keep on eye on local counties and cities as well. That'll give you a larger field to choose from if you decide to leave your current organization. In general, checking listings every few weeks is a good practice even if you're not thinking of jumping ship at the moment.

As for what to learn/improve -- you might look at descriptions of higher-level jobs that seem interesting to you based on the type of tasks you prefer doing now, as well as jobs whose requirements extend from skills which you already have.

Good luck!

mmcconkie's picture

 I appreciate all of your recommendations! I will make sure to keep them in mind as I look to move from one position to the next. 

teaguek122's picture

 You can check with the office staff, secretaries, at most mid-sized government agencies as they may have the job descriptions for nearly every opening. This would give you a quick check-list of ideas you could focus for skills and training.