Career Thinking at 20+

by David Paschane

Career Thinking at 20+This is a much different post for me. I get asked a lot about career advice from 20 something folks inside and outside the government. Then my cousin Jay Saunders asked me. I thought a blog that is personal like this may resonate with Innovation Excellence’s twenty-something readership.


In response to your letter: You will be a highly valuable asset to any company that appreciates hard work and determination.

You asked for advice, and mine is based on making a few mistakes, mentoring several 20-somethings, and vetting many resumes.

First, keep a healthy attitude. Make sure you are dedicated to being the person who makes work a great experience for others. Employers need employees with integrity, grit, and kindness. Do what you commit to do. Overcome barriers. Treat people well.

Second, always innovate. You don’t have to invent something new, just try to gain deep awareness of the work structure, and earn the discretion to make it better. Care about the outcomes, and think clearly about the creation of those outcomes.

Third, educate wisely. Throughout your career you need general knowledge about government, economics, business, and behavior; and you need a tool box of skills that you perfect over time. Too many school topics seem to add no value to work.

Fourth, show leadership of your own life. Your career is made up of proof points about how you managed resources – time, money, and relationships. Concentrate your time. Avoid debt. Do not take people for granted. Career growth is based on leading with increasing responsibility of these resources.

Fifth, don’t fool yourself. If your career plan is based on ideas of saving people, traveling the world, or getting praise from others, you are fooling yourself. These may happen in your life, but they are merely self-tempting illusions. A career is based on the value you bring to others in very practical terms.

Sixth, pick a team you like. Your career is basically a team of people who trust you, enjoy working with you, and appreciate the value you bring. Start seeing your current and future network as your career team – help them and they will help you.

So, build on your strengths and find those who appreciate them.

– David

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Clearworks - Customers, Connections, Clarity

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Managing BureaucratizationDavid Paschane, Ph.D.  is the Government Editor of Innovation Excellence. He is an Organizational Architect from the Washington D.C area. He is an Associate Research Professor at UMBC; a Founder and Volunteer at Military Alumni Transition Career Headquarters (MATCH) and the Director of Strategic Initiatives at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

No comments

  1. David,

    Solid well-thought out advice!

    Keep it up!


  2. Thank you. How can I get it promoted to the target generation?

  3. David,

    Great thoughts. This post is spelled out more clearly, and more profoundly, than many others I’ve read.

    One question though… can you explore #5 more? “A career is based on the value you bring to others in very practical terms.” My fantasy is to help people and to travel the world, but as part of my career? Probably not. I’m interested in what you mean by “very practical terms.”

    Thanks for your time and input!


    • What I mean by “very practical terms” is that work is a value proposition, where one person is adding value to another, or a group, and as a whole, they add value to the customer. The practicallity of work is how much that value is concentrated, in other words, doesn’t come with distractions, drama, or unwnated consequences. Too many folks manage their work in self-serving ways, thus diminishing its value.

      Thank you for asking,

  4. Great post. Good points no matter where you are in your career.

  5. Michael Mc Daniel

    I wish more of the young “so Called” leaders on our Executive “Team” Here thought and Believed what you have written here. We have a group of people who were promoted By a Kiss the Ring program of promotions instituted by a past city manager. these young self absorbed department heads have no concept of the ideals which you so Eloquently stated above. They treat staff with contempt, they have no real skill or experience in the department they lead and only listen to those who who have a similar work ethic and kiss the ring. Employees with integrity,skill and kindness (which is believed to be weakness here) are shunned and receive negative feedback if they do not credit the leader for their success. You say to treat people well but the leaders I see here do not believe this or any of the things you outline above. your ideas should become a true part of all aspiring work place leaders in their 20’s and 30’s.

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