Dr. Karen Milner remembers the news item that motivated her to revamp a national mentoring program.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had identified mentoring as a barrier for the advancement of women in government.
That’s when Milner decided to become part of the solution for Federally Employed Women (FEW).
And the following year, she received the President’s Award for her contributions to a vital part of the organization’s program.
“This awardee is a quiet storm for FEW, phenomenal by nature,” said FEW National President Karen Rainey during the award ceremony. “During her time on the board of directors, she has renewed one the most valuable benefits of being a member in FEW. Her contributions are invaluable and will directly skyrocket the work we do toward advancing women’s careers and being a confidant in supporting other women.”
Milner, who was recently appointed by Rainey as special assistant for mentoring, said she was always focused on the big picture: “I wanted to contribute to the organization, but I also wanted to help women advance in government and break down those barriers.”
FEW’s National President Award is bestowed upon individuals who work toward the mission and purpose of the organization.
In Milner’s case, she got right to it. She started to revamp the mentoring program in October 2020.
The new mentoring program competitively selects FEW members who are also current federal employees to participate in the year-long program to enhance skills and capabilities to be competitive, improve resumes and individual development plans to show results, participate in project development to develop project management abilities and meet with senior leaders through presentations and mentoring. The FEW Mentoring Committee worked together to provide a comprehensive and progressive learning experience to support their development for career advancement.
“Mentoring is a two-way street,” Milner said. “The mentor focuses on the mentee, but oftentimes the mentor learns just as much as the mentee. You have to have an open mind. The mentee has to be willing to accept feedback. I don’t call it criticism because it can be perceived negatively. The mentor and the mentee have to be on the same page to ensure the communication is received in the same way. Feedback is feedback. It’s up to you do with it what you think is best for you and your career.”
Milner said she learned a lot about herself in the process of revamping the program. “The most important thing for me is that I still have a want, a need and a desire to give back,” she said. “People can get tired and busy and forget to give back. FEW has reinvigorated me to give back.”
She also credits FEW for being a catalyst for professional development and career growth. In fact, she offers one important tip when it comes to leveraging the organization. “Take advantage of learning opportunities,” Milner said. “An opportunity may only come once in a lifetime. So if you pass it up, you may miss it. FEW is one of those opportunities where you can continue to develop yourself for career advancement in a safe environment where you have others to lean on and others to help you network.”
Milner began her career in the Army on active duty. After leaving active duty, she began her civil service career. Her assignments have taken her around the world.
She has earned advanced degrees and certificates in human resources development, leadership and accountability. Her doctorate degree in education focuses on performance improvement leadership.
“It is important to always have mentors to talk to,” said Milner, who also serves as FEW’s Southeast Region Secretary. “Sometimes they can help you with your career and sometimes they help you learn certain capabilities so you can advance your career. I have a lot of people who I lean on when I need help or guidance and have provided me different lessons. I take these lessons learned, and I apply them in hopes that I will advance my career. Ultimately, it’s up to me to make those decisions. Mentors can give guidance, but they can’t help you across the finish line if you are not willing to put in the effort.”
FEW helps more than one million women in the military and civilian workforce become strategic leaders with its four-pillar program: training, legislation, diversity and compliance. Since 1968, the nonprofit has advocated for equity and diversity for women. FEW works toward advancing women in government with innovative training, nationwide networking and invaluable insight.
FEW members experience a comprehensive program that positions them for professional development and a fulfilling career in the federal workforce.
Consider how the association’s experience helps advance its members:
- Training: FEW provides members with knowledge about 1) the federal system, 2) career development and planning techniques and 3) personal effectiveness and awareness of the broader issues that impact women. The nonprofit produces nationwide training on the national, regional and chapter levels.
- Mentoring: FEW offers mentoring opportunities to advance professional development and leadership skills through the year.
- Networking: FEW delivers opportunities for members to network and develop mutually beneficial, professional relationships that will help them advance in their careers.
- Community Outreach: FEW provides countless community outreach opportunities on the chapter level that give back to communities, sparking fellowship among members.
- Legislation: FEW represents federally employees’ concerns and interests before legislative and judicial bodies. We also produce a “scorecard” that recognizes congressional members who support our agenda.
- Diversity: FEW develops strategies to identify and eliminate barriers and increase diversity by examining the demographics of the workforce, including socioeconomic status, communication, thinking styles and family composition.
- Compliance: FEW works with federal agencies to help deliver a more equitable and diverse workforce. We monitor the progress made by the federal government in achieving equal employment opportunity evidenced by its adherence to statutory civil rights protections.
Federally employed women, who are interested in developing and advancing their government careers, can begin by joining FEW. Contact us today.