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Fools, drunks, and children tell the truth – one of my favorite sayings. At the recent Symantec Government Symposium in Washington, I moderated a panel which a very young and very recent government hire told what he felt was truth. Not exactly a child, he was in fact one of those perceptive young people who see things and articulate them so clearly they are capable of irritating their elders.
Panelist John Shueler is all of 25. He’d worked for two years doing new media for the Obama campaign, which helped him get a job as new media specialist at the Energy Department. And already he is speaking on panels. Yet who better to be on a panel to talk about the next generation of Federal employees? Isn’t Schueler the sort of person Federal agencies want to attract? He has a normal haircut, wears a suit and tie (at least that day), and had no apparent piercings or tattoos.
New media is something that not every boomer-aged manager natively understands. So afterwards I did hear a little in the vein, “Humph, what does he know?”
Shueler, though, had told what I thought was a devastating anecdote about the Federal hiring process. A political science graduate, he had gone to a collegiate job fair where the State Department had a booth. As Shueler related the incident, he started to hand his resume to the State Department representative. The hiring officer refused the resume, instead instructing Shueler to go to the Federal jobs Web site, submit the resume electronically, blah blah blah. And maybe if you’re lucky you’ll hear from Uncle Sam. I know what my response would be to that song-and-dance. Clue: It would contain the words “job” and “shove.” In fact, decades ago I sent a resume to the CIA. My rejection letter came a year later.
At the Symantec panel, Shueler pointed out – perhaps obviously – that other potential employers at the same job fair were offering conditional employment on the spot.
About new media: certainly it’s not the point of government. But the stodgy old guard ought to listen to babes like Shueler, even if they do sound wise beyond their years. If use of new media tools can help your agency better reach its constituencies; help your program improve performance and prestige; or help attract the talent you need, then learn about it from the people who live and breathe it.
If you’ve raised kids, or taught them, or coached them, I hope you’ve experienced one of those exquisite moments when one of them teaches you something. If you haven’t, ask yourself whether your mind is open enough to that possibility.