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Sidney Covington, MSW, Trainer at The Posse Foundation

Sidney Covington is a U.S. Army Veteran who has an innate passion for social justice. Sidney earned her Masters of Social Work from New York University in May of 2019. During her time at NYU, she was awarded the Student Veteran of the year award for her hard work and dedication to making NYU a veteran-friendly campus. Recently, she served as the Constituent Liaison for Military and Veterans Affairs in the Office of U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. In this role, Sidney oversaw the Service Academy Nomination process on behalf of the Senator.

Additionally, she implemented a diversity outreach plan to increase the number of diverse candidates applying for a nomination from the Senator’s office. She assisted the legislative team in creating or co-sponsor legislation that will positively impact veterans and their families throughout the nation. She a rotating group of 3-5 interns throughout her time in the office.

Number of years in management:

Tell us about your path to management: 
My direct management experience began when I was in the military. The military prepares its services members to be leaders and managers early on in their careers. Before my deployment, I was in charge of managing the periodical health assessment tracker to ensure all deploying soldiers had updated medical records. During our deployment, I was the Night Shift Manager for our Aid Station (medical center while deployed). In this role, I supervised three other medics, and I was the head medic in the absence of the Physician Assistant. After transitioning out of the Army, I attend Georgia State University, and I became the President of the Student Veteran Association. During my time as President, I develop programming to close the student veteran and student gap. After graduating, I was a Child Protective Caseworker for the Department of Family and Children Service in Georgia. After a year of casework, I decided it was time for me to go back to school and pursue my master’s degree. During my first year in graduate school, I study abroad in Shanghai, China; and my field placement was at an international school that never had a school social worker. I helped the school define the role of the school social worker, implemented an anti-bullying campaign, and created a peer health educator program. Following my first year, I moved to New York City, and I took on a leadership position for the Military Alliance. I continued to develop programs to help decrease the student veteran and student divide. Managed a $22,000 budget for a veterans ball, and hosted the first LGBTQ and women veterans discussion panel on campus.  After graduating with my MSW, I was appointed as the Constituent Liaison for Military and Veterans Affairs in the Office of U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. In this role, I managed, trained, and supervised 3-5 interns per semester. I oversaw the service academy nomination process, managed a caseload of over 150 cases, and conducted outreach on behalf of the senator.

What leadership qualities do you find to be the most effective in reaching your organizational or career goals? 
Being teachable is an essential leadership quality that I have found to be useful in reaching my career goals — being flexible in my learning has taught me how to take advice for those who I am managing and by those who are leading me. I find that this helps improve the people I lead and help me see things from a different perspective. Being teachable has allowed me to seek self-development opportunities and empower my supervisee. The military forces its leaders to take self-development courses before moving up the ranks. As I continue to evolve in my career, I never want to stop learning.

How do you motivate your team members?  
I motivate others by celebrating them, us, and our work. Celebrating small wins can help remind people why they do the work they are doing and highlights their contributions to the team. For me, I want people on my team to feel included and noticed. I want the people who work with me to know that I appreciate and value what they bring to the team. I’m working on learning how to treat people how they want to be treated. People are motivated by different things, and I try to learn what motivates my team.

Is there a leader or mentor who has inspired or assisted you along your professional journey?
I’ve had great mentors on my professional journey. However, my mom has and will always be my biggest cheerleader, inspiration, and motivator during my professional journey. She consistently reminds me that greatness has no limit, and she believed in me when I failed to believe in myself. Hearing my mom scream, “THAT’S MY BABY,” will always motivate me to be a better leader and professional.

How has networking impacted your career?
Networking is crucial for career development, opportunities, and advancement. There’s this famous saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” and I agree with what I heard during my military service, “it’s who knows you.” If I remember correctly, less than 20% of people are offered jobs on their own merit. The other 80% of people are hired for roles because of their established relationships. At the moment, I am going through the Fourblock program to build my social capital. At the same time, I am connecting my colleagues to my connections.

What are you reading and/or following now (book, blog, social media groups, etc)?

What advice do you have for those beginning their professional journey or who are already in leadership positions? 
You are your biggest advocate! No one is going to advocate and support you better than you will. It’s okay to leave a job when it no longer aligns with your values or if it becomes a toxic environment. Remember: You set the tone on how people will treat you.Do you have an initiative or project you would like to tell our readers about?
I am partnering with Prison Yoga to bring a mindfulness program to New York city jails. Stay tuned!

What do you wish you had known before you started your career?
How to be an advocate for myself. We talk about being advocates for our clients or communities, but I was never taught how to advocate for myself. This is a crucial skill in a world and field that is still filled with implicit bias and -isms. This is a skill I am still developing.

Share a mistake or failure that provided the most growth in your career.
My biggest mistake was not allowing myself to alter my career aspirations, as I was exposed to new fields and experiences. I developed a career plan at the age of 16, and 22-year-old me, prevented me from allowing myself to explore different career paths. I’m learning how not to be fixated on a particular career path.

Where can people reach you for questions (LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter)?
LinkedInSidney Covington, MSW

The views expressed herein are those solely of the author and not necessarily endorsed by the Network for Social Work Management.

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