Federal Employee's Career Development Center

Need an answer, have a question?

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What do I need to get started?
  2. Why won’t my supervisor complete my plan for me?
  3. Will my agency fund college/university courses that would help me achieve my career goals?
  4. Is a college degree required for most upward mobility positions?
  5. Why do some managers and supervisors hesitant to support the IDP program?
  6. Will I be blocked from a targeted position by employees that served in the military?

What do I need to get started?

Desire and motivation. It’s not enough to simply want a promotion, higher pay, or to change careers, you have to take steps to achieve these goals. The factors that will ultimately determine whether or not you succeed are, personal initiative, motivation, and taking the actions required to turn your dreams into reality. If you’ve been bypassed for a promotion or aren’t satisfied with your current position don’t despair, there is help available if you know where to look. There are many options and careers for you to explore within your own agency or department.  Even if you lack the experience or skills necessary there are ways to obtain them an reach your goals.

To get started read the introduction on this site to familiarize yourself with the Individual Development Plan process and first and foremost start a dialog with your supervisor and HR about what career development programs are available. You will be surprised at what you will discover. Next complete the Assessments to evaluate where you are now  and determine where you want to be in 2 to 5 years down the road.

Even before you actually complete your IDP plan, start with pen and paper or on your desktop write out action steps to start taking now to get your plan off and running. Baby steps, nothing to aggressive at first.  Here is an example:

Career Development Actions (Example)

  • Talk with my supervisor about career development opportunities
  • Contact HR about currently available career development and upward mobility programs
  • Make a list of positions that I believe I would excel at and that have promotion potential
  • Evaluate my strengths and weakness in my current position and for the occupations identified in the previous step
  • Identify ways to improve in weak areas
  • Start the formal IDP process and complete an assessment

Why won’t my supervisor complete my plan for me?

The short and simple answer to this question is that it isn’t his or her responsibility, it’s your career and if you want to improve it you have to put the time and effort into developing a viable and actionable plan with your supervisor’s input. You are the only one who can do the assessment, know what you want, and target short and long term goals that you establish after working through the process. That is why one of the first things you want to do is schedule a meeting with your supervisor to discuss your desire to start a career development plan and to find out what support your agency can and will provide. The supervisor meeting will get you off on the right foot and HR will assist you to identify available training that you need to complete your goals.

Will my agency fund college/university courses that would help me achieve my career goals?

Maybe, it all depends on what your agency has available in their budget for discretionary funding. The agency has to fund mission essential expenses first and if funds remain they can provide tuition assistance. When I was working through my career development plan, while working with the FAA, they funded 50% of my college tuition as long as I maintained a C or better for the course. Prior to that I used my VA benefits to pay for my evening college courses. There were many semesters when I had to pay the full tuition because of budgetary restrictions.

I always tried to match up my requests for college, correspondence, or seminar training to support the agency mission and that would improve my performance in my current position. One course I was able to get funded was “Report Writing” while I was assigned to a Sector Office training staff position. My course project was titled “Non-Federal Instrument Landing System’s (ILS) Acquisition Process” that was accepted by the region and used nationwide for this purpose. Apply what you learn in your current position and you will surely be noticed by management.

Is a college degree required for most upward mobility positions?

Approximately 60% of the federal workforce don’t have a college degree.  The required education for federal jobs depends on the position applied for. The job announcement lists required skills and abilities including the level of education AND/OR work experience. You can use work experience, in a number of cases, to substitute for a BS degree. In the Administrative Management for example, 3 years of general work experience can be substituted for a 4-year course of study leading to a bachelors degree. Most are unaware of this conversion.

Read more about substituting work experience for a college degree.

Why do some managers and supervisors hesitant to support the IDP program?

I’ve run into resistance when I was managing the program for the FAA and in many other organizations that I’ve talked to since. I was on both sides of this issue, first as a supervisor required to assist employees develop IDPs and later, a staff manager, required to revise and expand the program.

In my opinion, the true underlying issue isn’t the supervisor’s fear of having to deal with unrealistic plans, although that is a possibility with some. The issue is additional workload and supervisors in general have more on their plate than they can deal with at times. It’s an issue of fitting another task into an ever expanding schedule of things to do and increased responsibilities.

The most difficult task supervisors and managers have is dealing with people on so many levels; being fair and impartial, and still being able to get the work of the organization done. Tasks such as performance appraisals, LMR, HR, time and attendance, handling poor performance issues, logistics, and other duties soak up much of their time.

What organizations must do to gain supervisor’s acceptance of their career development program is to provide as much support as possible to help supervisors and managers implement the program. For example, we include a number of Career Development Charts with training analysis and course recommendations. Each organization’s training department would benefit by developing similar charts for key positions. I established a number of similar charts, targeted to the principal occupations, within our organization; technical, administrative, and staff positions. The charts we provide on this site were developed to represent a cross section of the workforce.

The career development charts don’t have to be developed all at once. The training department can work with supervisors to develop these for principal groups and over time you will have most of the key occupations covered.

Most supervisors feel abandoned when new programs are launched because often they are left to their own devices. This happened to me initially in the FAA. I took the program to the next level, made a Career Development Video outlining the program and the resources available, and provided career progression charts for the most desirable careers. The career development program managers can turn the negative perception around by offering support when needed. The supervisors will realize they are not alone and that support is there for them along the way.

Will I be blocked from a targeted position by employees that served in the military?

Veterans Preference only applies to certain new hire veterans, preference does not apply for internal Merit Promotion Program (MPP) vacancies. Veterans Preference and the Veterans Readjustment Act (VRA) are two of the better known programs. Veterans’ Preference gives eligible veterans preference in appointment over many other applicants. Veterans’ Preference applies to virtually all new appointments in the Competitive Service and many in the Excepted Service.