Blog post by Gregory White, Data Analyst, Human Capital Strategy and Diversity Office
As a first-generation professional, my journey was complicated by a lack of three things that I think are valuable to success: a) a lighthouse, b) a sounding board, and c) a reference point for success.
A lighthouse is a navigational beacon. It helps to orient you and warn you of danger. Early in my academic and professional careers, I found that no matter how hard I was willing to work, success was restricted by my ability to navigate a path forward while avoiding pitfalls.
Secondly, having a sounding board is a key to success. A sounding board is akin to having a team of coaches. Coaches draw up plays and give insight, but players execute. Success is dependent upon a safe space to socialize ideas and receive critical feedback prior to and during execution, with an eye to the future.
Finally, you need a reference point to use as a bar to measure yourself against. When you are the first to do something, that bar does not exist. As a first-generation professional, you are setting the bar. I was taught that I have a responsibility to do something important so those who came after me would benefit from professional achievements and successes.
So, what helped me succeed as a professional in the federal workforce? Having a high emotional IQ, a spirit of resilience/resistance, and a sense of purpose. I see emotional intelligence as possessing the art and science of effectively reading and responding to people, places, and situations. I have found that having a stellar emotional IQ along with a strong spirit of resilience and a sense of purpose in your job allows you to play to the strengths you possess and be successful in the workplace.
Ed. note: This post is part of the very first Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of the Department of Commerce employees who are First Generation Professionals. First Generation Professionals are one of the first in their immediate families to enter the professional work environment. They are professionals with varying socio-economic backgrounds, life experiences, skills and talents that diversify our workforce.