Speeding your way up the career ladder

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Even if you have the best boss in the world, you are, at most, only his second most important priority. So you can’t rely on him or anyone else to steer you around professional speed bumps and guide you toward career-boosting opportunities. You’re the only person in the world who has a 100-percent stake in your career, so it is up to you to manage your climb up the career ladder. Here are some tips to help you do so:

The General Schedule salary table has 15 grades, representing successively higher levels of seniority and salary. In most cases, feds must move up these grades sequentially from their entry grades without skipping any. The minimum waiting period for a grade increase is usually one year.

To increase your grade level, either earn a grade increase on your current job if it has promotion potential, or land another job that is categorized at a higher grade level.

Don’t stagnate in an unfulfilling dead-end job that won’t lead to a promotion. Once you fulfill your time in grade requirements and get the itch to switch to a new job, start applying elsewhere.

To qualify for better jobs and cultivate connections, use your current job’s training facilities and training funds, participate in skill-boosting detail assignments; and contribute to professional organizations and other outside activities. Also, keep in touch with colleagues after they leave your organization; they may serve as your tentacles into their new organizations.

Craft your LinkedIn profile to be impressive and current. This is important because federal recruiters are increasingly using LinkedIn to find and invite qualified feds to apply to their agency’s openings.

Each grade on the GS salary table is divided into 10 steps.

The main requirement for receiving a within-grade step increase (WGI) at any grade is fulfillment of a waiting period. This waiting period is 52 weeks for each step increase from steps 1 to 4; 104 weeks for each increase from steps 4 to 7; and 156 weeks for each increase from steps 7 to 10.

If you stay within the GS system, the pay raise that you would receive from a grade increase is nonnegotiable and would be solely determined by your current step and grade according to the so-called “two-step rule.”

But you might be able to negotiate a larger increase than afforded by the two-step rule if you move from one type of job to another, such as from a contract specialist position to an attorney position.

A Quality Step Increase (QSI) is a merit-based step increase given to a fed before the required waiting period for his next WGI has elapsed. If you deserve recognition for sustained productivity that you have not received, consider asking your boss for a QSI — an idea that might not otherwise occur to him. If you have a choice between a cash award or a QSI, opt for the QSI because its long-term value will probably far exceed that of a one-time cash bonus.

Another idea: If you’re offered a lateral position, explain to your hiring manager that the transfer would not raise your salary. But ask him whether he would consider giving you a QSI at your six-month anniversary on the job if he is satisfied with your productivity.

If your boss plans to retire or resign, ask him to finalize any promised promotions before he departs. Warning: Your boss’s replacement won’t necessarily fulfill your departing boss’s pledges to you.

Agencies whose Senior Executive Service appraisal systems have received OPM certification can pay higher SES salaries than agencies whose appraisal systems have received such certification. Also, some agencies offer newly hired SESers 10- to 15-percent salary increases over their previous salaries; others are more negotiable.

Lily Whiteman is a federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-paying Federal Job,” and a trainer of career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is IGotTheJob.net. Ask your questions by email to lwhiteman@federaltimes.com or by Twitter to @Lilymwhiteman.

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Lily Whiteman is a federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-paying Federal Job,” and a trainer of career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is IGotTheJob.net. Ask your career questions by email to lwhiteman@federaltimes.com or by Twitter to @Lilymwhiteman.

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