Guest blog post by Melvin Jones, Chief of Workforce Strategy Branch & Center of Expertise, Human Capital Strategy Division, Office of Human Capital Services, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
My name is Melvin Jones and I am a First Generation Professional (FGP). I currently work with the Human Capital Strategy Division, Office of Human Capital Services in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
I am originally from Annapolis, Maryland. Despite growing up in the projects and being the product of a single parent household, I became the only non-military dependent among ten others from my high school selected to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. I earned a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission in the Army.
Prior to me, none of my family members had ever held a white-collar job. Although many family members were drafted into the military, none made it a career. I became the first officer in my family to serve over 30 years in the Army with tours overseas in active duty, the reserve military and in civilian capacities.
One of the biggest challenges I encountered during my career is being the only person who looks like me and has the background of a First Generation Professional and disabled veteran. Therefore, I learned to be comfortable being uncomfortable, yet confident in my abilities and willing to reach out to others to share and gain knowledge.
Some of the accomplishments I am proud of are graduating from West Point and becoming one of the few African Americans to attain Colonel, as well as graduating from the Department’s Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program. However, I am most proud of enabling the next generation to achieve their dreams and become even more successful.
My advice to FGPs would be to dream big and to not be afraid. Make a plan and work your plan to achieve your dreams. Things will work out because you will learn the lessons necessary to become successful and to grow through the building blocks of experimentation and failure that others call experience.
Greatness comes with practice and help. Do not be afraid to ask for help because most of the people that have accomplished great feats have a coach. Do not wait until you know you are ready because time is the only resource you cannot get back.
Ed. note: This post is part of the series highlighting 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.