Adulting Commences! – A snap shot at the Federal Youth Network

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“Networks are about fostering an engaging space for the next generation of public servants to have their voices heard, to collaborate with one another, and to build relationships with colleagues across the public service.”

I often find myself thinking back to the early days of my public service career in the Government of Canada (GC). Freshly out of University, trying to navigate my way through the complex web of government employment. After filling out numerous applications and attending a few interviews, I finally landed a job and I was ecstatic and grateful for the opportunity. Adulting commenced! A few months into my new role, I remember thinking, I worked so hard to be here but how do I know when and where I should take the next step? I wasn’t aware back then, but as young public servants, there are resources and young professionals networks available to help guide us towards our career aspirations, and it’s never too late to get involved. These networks are about fostering an engaging space for the next generation of public servants to have their voices heard, to collaborate with one another, and to build relationships with colleagues across the public service. And that’s exactly what the Federal Youth Network (FYN), a government-wide network currently housed within Indigenous Services Canada, is working diligently towards.

Bringing the fire power

On June 10th, the FYN hosted the GC’s first-ever Young Professionals Network (YPN) Summit and I had the opportunity to attend. The overarching aim of the summit was to grow the YPN community; and I’d say it worked because it reached me! Speakers included, DM Champion Christiane Fox and DM Kelly Gillis, a sponsor and supporter of the various young professionals networks. They all acknowledged there have been many circumstances in the past year or so that have been catalysts for change, and the power we have within these networks—and as young professionals—to continue building a better public service.

The summit left me with a lot to think about. Afterwards, I reached out to Joshua Frame and Jennifer MacDougall, the leads behind the FYN to learn more about their work. At the onset of our conversation, their excitement and passion for the initiative was palpable.  They’re big on collaboration, information sharing, and leveraging resources, and as a result, they stay active interdepartmentally. The duo wants to be able to identify gaps, then develop resources and facilitate engagement and learning opportunities to help address those gaps, or as they would call it “bringing the fire power” into the public service.

“Ultimately, our goal is to deliver for all public servants, but it’s easier for students and young people to sometimes get lost in the larger entity, so we’re here to support them and create a sense of community.”

Jen and Josh both emphasized to me that their network is not limited to young professionals. FYN’s membership includes students, entry level employees, intermediate employees, and managers. At every level, the network can help establish opportunities for engagement. “Ultimately, our goal is to deliver for all public servants,” Jen says, “but it’s easier for students and young people to sometimes get lost in the larger entity, so we’re here to support them and create a sense of community.”  

“All aboard” with onboarding

Jen and Josh share with me that one of their biggest projects is to streamline the GC-wide new employee onboarding process.

They asked my colleague and I if we remembered what our onboarding experiences were like, and because we both started in different departments, we realized our experiences were quite different. Jen understands this, “people come in through different doors (departments), so chances are onboarding experiences will vary dramatically.” However, from Jen and Josh’s perspectives, the GC is one organization, or “one federal family,” which is why FYN is putting together a toolbox that will apply interdepartmentally. “Anyone who joins the public service will get a consistent onboarding experience, and departments will have the option of tailoring it to their requirements” Jen describes. FYN is working closely with managers to see how some of these (onboarding) processes could be applied.  Once the toolbox is complete, several departments will be involved in piloting it. Just like how first impressions are important, a consistent and solid onboarding process is crucial to recruitment and retention.

Diversity by default

Jen and Josh share that there have been many conversations within the network on how to foster diversity and inclusion (D&I) and the importance of representation. FYN is focused on expanding their own network and building relationships with other networks to ensure everyone is contributing to an environment that is ‘diverse by default.’  One of these conversations led to FYN’s establishment of the ‘Panel Pledge’ initiative, under which about thirty network partners are working together to ensure that all events have diverse panels.

That being said, Josh stresses the importance of not promoting tokenism, “we are working hard to ensure everyone has a seat at our table.” But he admits it’s not easy to navigate, “especially at the intersection of diversity and official languages.” “If we say we are only going to have people who are fully bilingual, well that’s a barrier because access to language training has not been a fair and equitable process,” he acknowledges. Elaborating on this consideration, he explains, “if we limit ourselves in that regard, we would be eliminating a lot of people from other equity deserving groups.”

“There is so much work being done across the GC with regards to D&I, but with each department having their own D&I lead or mandate, much of it is being done in silos. FYN is actively trying to close the gaps by creating a dedicated D&I team to leverage engagement channels and identify linkages across the GC.”

There is so much work being done across the GC with regards to D&I, and the FYN is actively trying to bridge the gaps between departments by creating a dedicated D&I team to leverage engagement channels and identify linkages across the GC. They believe that if these conversations were amalgamated, the reach could extend significantly, and more people could get involved, which is key to being more diverse and inclusive. 

Looking ahead

The public service is changing in an innovative way, especially in a pandemic climate. Jen says, “We are at an interesting point in time. The pandemic has highlighted opportunities for change because so many gaps in our way of work have been brought to light. It’s like the pandemic has forced us to push through delays and bureaucratic nuances and work within the framework of Beyond2020 (to be an agile, inclusive, and equipped workforce). We had no choice but to adopt virtual work. It is important to us to take all the learning that has happened within the past year and a half and apply them to our processes going forward.”

“We have this unique opportunity be a top employer of choice” Josh adds. “Despite the challenges the pandemic presented, we adapted, and as a result, we didn’t lose positions, people were able to make career moves, work through workforce adjustments, and continue to innovate.  It is safe to say we are on a faster track to reach our Beyond 2020 objectives, than we were two years ago. And I believe we have the pandemic to thank for that.”

Watch this space

So, what can you take away from all this? Connect with the GC-wide FYN and get involved with the young professionals network within your department. Trust me, you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. A 2nd YPN Summit will be held on October 7, 2021. More information on the summit as well as previous recordings and links can be found on  FYN’s GCWiki Site. FYN also hosts a number of career building initiatives, such as the Career Boot Camp and Virtual Learning Series. FYN also leads the interdepartmental GC Students committee. Follow them on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Don’t forget to follow FYN itself!

 

 

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