What's your name and job title? What did you study? When did you graduate?
My name is Daniel Wall and I’m a graduate at the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications. I studied a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Management, and a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Political Science at the ANU. I graduated halfway through 2016 and started working the beginning of this year.
Where did you grow up?
I spent all my early life in Melbourne, before moving to Canberra for university after I finished high school at the beginning of 2012. I also spent six months of my university on exchange in Maastricht, Netherlands. It was interesting seeing how other university students around the world operated differently to Australian ones. I worked in retail since I was 15, at Rebel Sport and Hype DC selling shoes. I was usually working as a casual employee but had a brief stint as a store manager right after I finished my degree.
How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it?
I got my current job by applying for a range of graduate positions starting both 2017 and 2018. I didn’t even make any of the interview stages the first year I was applying, but learnt from my mistakes and eventually got this job offer (amongst a couple of others!). I’ve now been working at the department for two and a half months and it’s been really great!
How did you choose your specialisation?
I haven’t really chosen my specialisation yet. Our department has generalist streams, which allow you to perform three rotations over the course of the program, then you are guaranteed a permanent position after. I plan on trying as wide a range of positions over the course of my three rotations, so I can best decide what I would like to specialise in when picking my permanent position at the end of the year! I’m currently working in a policy development role and really enjoying that but I’m also excited to see what the rest of the year has to offer!
What was your interview process like? What kind of questions were you asked?
The interview process was quite relaxed in comparison to some others. The final step of the application process was an assessment centre, where I completed a one-on-one interview, a group exercise and a written exercise on the same day. The questions I was asked in the one-on-one interview were some such as: why I wanted to work in the public service; whether I knew any projects the department was involved in; and what my biggest weakness was. These were some examples but none of the questions really caught me too off guard and they all seemed quite common interview questions.
Suppose a student was considering your career. What would you advise them to study? Are there any soft skills it would beneficial for them to develop? Should they pursue any sort of work experience?
I think having a commerce degree in the public sector is fairly uncommon and having studied management it has been quite helpful so far in understanding business dynamics. If I move into a leadership position at any point I’m sure it will be incredibly handy. I think the public service is so broad in the scope of its operations that you could study almost anything and forge yourself a career in the public service. As long as you have a clear career direction, you should be able to use almost any degree somewhere in the public service. Any kind of work experience is beneficial work experience. Simply having experience in a work environment will help you significantly in understanding what is expected of you and how best to approach challenges. It would be worth completing an internship, especially in the public service, if you’re passionate about working in the public sector. I know our department offers a summer internship which some of my friends have completed and said was incredibly valuable!
What does your employer do?
Our department works on infrastructure projects all around Australia, as well as overseeing most transport policy, and regional development policy. We have recently absorbed the cities section as well, which oversee the city deals you may have seen in the news recently.
What are your areas of responsibility?
At the moment, I’m working in the Environmental Standards section of Surface Transport Policy. It’s an incredibly interesting area to be working on. There’s a lot of work around electric vehicles and vehicle emissions to be done at the moment!
Can you describe a typical work day?
A lot of what I do is work on drafts of briefs for either ministers or the executive of the department. Ministers and executives have a lot of information to absorb, so it’s important to be able to summarise what you’re working on and why it’s important for them to know very succinctly!
What sort of person succeeds in your career?
I think one of the most important things to succeed is having good interpersonal skills. Your team will work better if you understand their emotions and become a member of the team who your team want to have around. Everyone works harder if it’s an enjoyable work environment and the best way you can foster that is by being a fun, nice colleague! Learning skills are also incredibly important, a lot of the tasks you complete in the public service are ones very specific to the public service, so it pays to be able to learn what skill you will need, and develop them quickly.
What are the career prospects with your job?
There is a great range of career prospects with what I’m doing at the moment. There is a lot of emphasis in the public service of internal promotion, and my understanding is it is quite easy to progress upwards in the public service so long as you are capable and motivated. One of the benefits of working in my department is that there is a lot of scope to move into the private sector later on. A lot of infrastructure firms value people who have worked in the public sector, so having worked in the government can be seen as a huge boon for private firms.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
It’s my opinion that this is definitely the case. The skills required for my job are not ones that I learned in my tertiary studies. I feel that as long as you have decent written and verbal communication and a willingness to learn, you would be able to perform quite well in my role. I think this is well illustrated by the diverse range of educational background of the graduate cohort at our department this year.
What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?
The working conditions in the public service are excellent. Any hours you work over your contracted 37.5 hours are accrued as flex leave and the culture is great at the department. People value you as a graduate and give you interesting tasks, which will really benefit your development and learning. So far I have really enjoyed the research tasks, such as preparing information that is passed on to the Ministers office. It can be really interesting to learn a whole lot about electric vehicles!
What’s the biggest limitation of your job? Do you bear a lot of responsibility? Do you have to work on weekends? Are the stress levels high?
The hardest thing about my job so far has been that I don’t possess the skills to complete all tasks, even if they are urgent. My team understands this, and doesn’t give me these tasks, and I will develop these skills over time, but in the meantime it can be difficult to sit back while my team completes urgent tasks.
What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
It’s difficult to tell, management consulting has always interested me, although it is a lot more competitive and stressful. Chances are I would still be a store manager of a retail outlet!
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?