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At GHFP-II, Professional and Career Development Begins on Day One

September 27, 2016 | Jenn Kirk, Global Health Fellow Program II | This post first appeared on the Global Health Fellows Program II blog.

Pictured: Leeza Kondos (left), a GHFP-II fellow, attends The Future of Global Health event

Recently, I met with Global Health Fellows Program (GHFP) II Fellow Leeza Kondos, a Data Analysis Technical Advisor in the Bureau for Global Health at the US Agency for International Development (USAID). As a Performance and Career Development (PCD) Coordinator with GHFP-II, it’s my job to provide tailored resources for work-related performance needs and support activities including mentoring, coaching, technical training, and behavioral skills enhancement.

During our conversation, we spoke about the impact that performance and career development guidance has made on her GHFP-II experience. To be successful in the field of global health “it’s not possible to stay stagnant,” Leeza noted. In fact, she considers the most successful global health professionals to be agile, adaptable, and have a high analytical capacity.

For these reasons, she made time to participate in technical trainings and conferences throughout her fellowship. She emphasized the importance of staying technically relevant because the field of global health “has so many players and initiatives that it’s impossible to rely on a skill set that you may have received even five years ago.” In Leeza’s technical area of data analysis, the field is ever changing and continually learning new data analysis tools and techniques is necessary to remain competitive.

Individualized support is an integral part of the GHFP-II experience for participants, and the program spends a considerable amount of time and resources developing unique plans to support their professional and career development objectives. What other organization would talk to new hires about advancing their skills and clarifying their career goals before they’ve barely started working? GHFP-II does exactly that because it knows how important that kind of support can be.

Over the last three years of her fellowship, Leeza participated in several data analysis trainings to enhance her role in coordinating the development of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) plans across USAID’s Global Health Bureau. She works closely with M&E advisors across several technical offices in order to conduct the analysis outlined in these plans.

Leeza also participated in one-on-one coaching sessions with both workflow management and leadership coaches since her role involves maintaining strong working relationships with a wide range of players. This very specific GHFP-II-supported coaching provided Leeza with tools to produce better quality work. The workflow management coach taught Leeza valuable organizational techniques. Learning strategies to better track her work priorities and project timelines yielded both immediate and long term benefits.

Pictured: Trinadh Domtamsetti (left) and Alyssa Brunh (right) participate in the GHFP-II Internship Showcase

“I increased my capacity to anticipate the needs of my team and requests from the field. Workflow coaching also improved my credibility with colleagues because I learned to stay more on top of my work,” she said.

The executive coach helped Leeza gain better self-understanding and clarified her values. She also learned strategies for setting goals, managing others’ expectations, and prioritizing her work. According to Leeza, the coaching sessions increased her management and leadership skills and resulted in greater job satisfaction.

Leeza regularly promotes the benefits of the GHFP-II coaching program to other Fellows. In a recent program-wide newsletter, she was eager to praise this unique benefit: “I didn't realize how valuable the coaching sessions were until I took advantage of them. I know each coach is different but mine have changed my Fellowship and enhanced my work by helping me develop professionally (seriously).”

During my tenure as a PCD Coordinator, I’ve seen how this individualized guidance adds value to Fellows’ effectiveness as professionals, ensures longevity in the field by building the skills needed to succeed in the global health workplace, and plays an important role in supporting USAID’s health initiatives worldwide.

Discussing this benefit on day one is intentional and gives new hires time to think about their work and new skills needed to do their best early on, before schedules become too busy. Participants who take advantage of professional development opportunities consistently comment that these activities are well worth the time it takes to gain new skills and increase their effectiveness in the workplace. This kind of attention to career development is one of the ways that GHFP-II is helping USAID build the next diverse generation of global health professionals and it is gratifying for me to be a part of that work.

To find out how GHFP-II Fellow Shannon Mesenhowski made use of her professional and career development benefits in her work in the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance, glance at her profile!

Jenn Kirk is the Performance and Career Development Coordinator at GHFP-II.