What's your job about?
I’m a media/social media adviser in the Media Branch, which means I help the team answer all queries that come in through media or social media channels. I also develop proactive content to promote our work.
On a day-to-day basis, that means constantly juggling priorities, as journalists will call with a curly inquiry or customers will tweet us with the difficulties they’re facing and our team has to rearrange their day to see that issue resolved. Essentially that means playing detective for a large part of the day – pulling together information from a range of people and asking the right questions to figure out what the problem is ‘behind the scenes’, so to speak. Then we’re thinking about how to craft the answers or solutions we give to maximise the best result. We’re always proactively developing content, like a media story or a Facebook post, at the back of our minds. We’re also regularly engaging with journalists and media organisations to get as much information about our payments and services out to the community. It can be a very fast-moving environment at times.
I love being in this team because I feel like we’re very customer-centric. Ultimately, we’re all here to give our customers the best social security we can and that’s something my team and I really carry through everything we do, even in the national office. We also regularly engage with the Minister’s office and high-profile journalists, which can be very exciting if you’re politically interested.
What's your background?
I grew up in a small town on the northern NSW coast, which was pretty close to paradise on earth but, for some reason, I always wanted to escape. I did 2 school trips/exchanges to Japan in my final 2 years of high school and took a gap year to travel western Europe and a bit of Southeast Asia before I moved north to Brisbane to start university. There, I studied a double degree in journalism and international politics while throwing myself into uni life. I scored the role of deputy editor-in-chief of the student magazine, got involved in the community garden and tried my diplomatic skills at the Model United Nations. I was also lucky enough to land an internship in northern Thailand with a Burmese news organisation as part of my journalism degree and, afterwards, continued on to Germany for an exchange semester with my international politics degree.
At the beginning of my fourth year, my partner was diagnosed with a health issue and became unable to work, so I took up full-time work as a phone operator with this department for about 6 months before landing my dream entry-level position at a newspaper on the Sunshine Coast. I was proud to only extend my studies for an extra semester while I juggled assessments, work, caring for my partner and completing all my graduate program applications! Although I eventually fell out of love with my journalism career, I enjoyed it immensely. Some of my highlights included covering the 2017 Queensland state election in a marginal seat, photographing the first baby zebra ever born in Queensland and generally giving voice to the voiceless in my community.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention how much the graduate program has shaped me. I moved to a new city without knowing a soul here and had so many opportunities to broaden my perspectives personally and professionally. One definite highlight was being selected to go to Broome as part of the graduate program’s Indigenous and Multicultural Placement, where I was able to join our Remote Servicing teams in getting out to isolated Indigenous communities and helping people access our services there. It was a completely different side of Australia I’d never seen before, physically and culturally, and the experience was immensely valuable in helping me understand our customers and the (often multiple) barriers that can prevent them from accessing support.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
Yes, I believe anyone can do any job, really. One of my university mentors told me employers will be happy to teach anything except a good attitude, and I firmly believe that’s true. I feel like our department is always in a state of change too, and a willingness to learn and pick up new skills is always going to be valuable wherever you are. There are definitely aspects of my background that can be quite useful for my job – like knowing some journalists who I used to work with and understanding their points of view – but everyone brings a unique perspective to the team regardless, and I think it’s more important to have that diversity than to focus on specific skill sets.
What's the coolest thing about your job?
There are 2 things I really enjoy in my job – coordinating interviews with media outlets and answering queries on social media. It’s a bit corny, but the reason I love doing these 2 things is they’re tied to the core reason my job exists – to inform the community of the support available to them. Coordinating interviews can be an intense undertaking because you do have to consider all possible ways the interview could go wrong, especially if it’s a live broadcast. There’s loads of prep work involved, but at the end of the day, I feel like the sense of satisfaction in knowing you equipped someone with more knowledge or information that can help them get support makes it all worthwhile.
What are the limitations of your job?
There are 2 key limitations that come to mind. The first is typical of any public service role and it’s the amount of oversight projects require. Sometimes it seems as though our work needs to be run past a number of people before it’s able to progress. As I said though, that will be true of any public service role.
I’d say the second limitation is how networked my team is. Supervisors, directors, ex-account holders and various others have to be looped in every time you take on a project. This can mean you feel bogged down with administrative work – for instance making phone calls to provide background to a media issue or logging the details of the media request you’ve picked up on a centralised log. While it’s easy to feel like this, there are very good reasons to do it. The flip side to the networked nature of the team means I’m incredibly well-supported in my projects and can draw on a wide range of corporate knowledge. It also means it’s easier to maintain work-life balance, as work is easily handed over to the relevant contacts when you go home at the end of the day or take leave.
What are 3 pieces of advice you would give yourself when you were a student?
What's the best thing about the National Graduate Program?
Luckily for me, I was accepted on the Indigenous and Multicultural Placement and would have to say that was the best thing about the National Graduate Program. I loved everything about the placement, especially working directly with customers and seeing the complexities of their environment first-hand. I’ve been surprised at the level of respect and support you’re offered as a graduate, which I would definitely call a hidden benefit. But the most underrated benefit is the instant network of your graduate cohort. You’ll come to rely on this group for everything from personal support, professional advice, house hunting and diploma help. Value them.
What advice would you give current university students interested in applying for the National Graduate Program?
Think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to tweak the rules to your advantage, or to disregard them if you believe it’s better to do so. However, a word of caution there – if you’re ever throwing out the rulebook, make sure you explain clearly and thoroughly why you’re doing so and why it will help the ultimate overall outcome.