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Here to serve: Veteran-first perspective, purposeful professional development cornerstones of VA Illiana Leadership Initiative

What separates a job from a career?

Answers to this question abound, and experts may differentiate these types of work by growth potential, permanence, or even one’s intention for taking on a particular role. At VA, though, staff never have to wonder which they’ve undertaken. That’s because every position in VA is a gateway to a rewarding career serving America’s Veterans with the potential for personal and professional growth. Today, VA Illiana is launching the VA Illiana Leadership Initiative, aimed at equipping staff with the knowledge and mindset tools they need to shape a rewarding public service career. 

With nearly 1,600 employees serving in more than 100 career specialties across the health care system, VA Illiana brings staff from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences together to serve Veterans. The breadth of VA’s services means that every employee from student trainee to specialty provider is a critical link between Veterans and they high-quality care they deserve. The Leadership Initiative will encourage VA Illiana staff growth by connecting them with stories of service in VA Illiana’s past while keeping them focused on VA’s present-day organizational priorities. 

In the experience of VA Illiana Associate Director Richard Griffith, VA’s focused, Veteran-centric culture helps foster purposeful career growth. He said by placing the Veteran first in every aspect of one’s work, employees grow professionally and prepare themselves for increased responsibility for the mission.  

“If you’re focused on taking care of the Veterans, taking care of the Veteran community, serving the needs of the Veterans and their caregivers, that focus will carry you into a lot of opportunities for career development or promotional opportunities,” said Mr. Griffith. He noted VA makes it easy for staff to access the training they need to develop, with a wide variety of programs and activities including formal training like the technical career field program, leadership development activities, and the Talent Management System.  

For staff considering taking on a role of increased responsibility, Mr. Griffith said one of the keys to successful career growth is dedicating oneself to excellence in one’s present role. He said this helps develop leaders who understand the meaning of excellence at every level of leadership.  

“Being as successful as possible in our current job is our first responsibility,” he said. “VA has training programs and activities that help [staff] understand quality patient care, help understand the application of High Reliability organizational skills, help implement I-CARE values, and help us learn to be part of a team.”  

Mr. Griffith went on to say that no matter one’s aspirations, visions of career growth must be guided by service for Veterans.  

“What makes VA different is that we are really here to serve,” he said. “It’s really that commitment to mission that makes it rewarding to come to VA and underlies employees’ success.” 

To hear more about what it means to grow as a leader with VA, check out more of our conversation with Associate Director Griffith on VA Illiana’s Facebook page. To learn more about VA careers, visit the VA Careers homepage for information about roles, opportunities, and the rewards of serving Veterans.