As president of Young Government Leaders (YGL), a nonprofit organization with more than 10,000 members and 15 chapters across the nation, Miguel Joey Aviles is helping emerging leaders become difference makers in government. He is also the chief for the Bureau of Land Management, Office of Recruitment and Retention Programs. In that capacity, he leads innovative recruitment and retention initiatives that support the enhancement of a world-class diverse workforce.
About Miguel Joey Aviles
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Miguel Joey Aviles attended the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez where he obtained a degree in business administration with a concentration in human resources and marketing. He is a graduate of the Defense Civilian Emerging Leader Program (DCELP) and the OPM Leadership and Education Development (LEAD) Program. Aviles started his federal career in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service through the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities Internship Program.
After working at the Department of Defense for almost a decade, he joined the Bureau of Land Management as chief of the Office of Recruitment and Retention Programs in 2016. He is the winner of the 2014 HR Leadership Award of Greater Washington, D.C., and the 2014 Office of the Secretary of Defense Award for Excellence.
What message do you want Millennials to hear about their role in the government workplace?
Since the election, young feds across government have wondered whether to stay in government and even whether the agency they work for will continue to exist. For many Millennials, myself included, this will be the first administration transition of our careers. We have the option to come together, work toward a common goal, and continue to fight for what we believe in—or we can choose indifference.
We're public servants, and we should always remember why we joined government. The work we do helps protect our nation's borders, offers shelter during tough times, provides defense so people can sleep well at night, and helps create drugs that eradicate deadly diseases. Everything we do as public servants brings unmatchable benefits to our nation. Knowing this will drive our passion in tough times.
I understand you were the first chief learning officer of YGL. What does the YGL training department look like?
No one dreams of having a mediocre career—every emerging leader dreams of making a difference. YGL University equips young leaders with the skills they need to achieve their mission. Its purpose is to provide easy access to training, mentoring, and networking opportunities to more than 10,000 emerging leaders around the United States.
A key initiative is the Mentoring Program, partnering with SEA and the Brookings Institution. Over four years, we have matched more than 200 pairs of mentors and mentees. Our leadership development program provides formal, informal, and collaborative learning experiences. We also offer developmental forums relevant to members' day-to-day jobs, with topics such as project management, personal branding, networking, team building, among other important skills and competencies.
You have spoken on the topic of "becoming a change maker in today's world." What does that entail?
In 2015, I had the opportunity to present my first TEDx talk "How to Become a Change Maker in Today's World." I interviewed several change makers across the world and found one common denominator within the people I interviewed: servitude. Change makers have the guts to disrupt the system, and they use their story to find a cause that moves them. But above all, they have the grit to put action behind their words. They focus on what can be done now because they are not the next generation, they are the now generation.
To become a change maker, you must embrace who you are, dare to care for others, and purposely choose not to be a whiner. You know you have become a change maker when you realize that your actions help people. Give the change maker inside you permission to come out.
What is the importance of volunteering in today's government, and are there enough volunteers?
YGL is led by change makers and people who are passionate about public service—a 100 percent volunteer force. Last year, we doubled the size of our national leadership team, had our most successful NextGen Training Summit, and secured more funding that led to the development of our first leadership development program.
The challenge of finding and retaining volunteers is discovering people willing to run the extra mile after working hours. We need people with the drive and desire to manage a very demanding full-time job and a personal life and, on top of that, volunteer for YGL. Finding young leaders to handle all life demands is certainly difficult, but not impossible. We have been doing it for more than 12 years, but we need more and we want more.