How to choose the right graduate government employer

From the Department of Ed to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – here are 5 factors to consider when deciding which government employer is right for you.
Team GradAustralia
Save 

If you’ve made it this far then you must be thinking that a graduate role in government sounds like a good fit for you. So where do you go from here?

It’s time to do a bit of soul-searching.

The next step will be to decide on which organisations you want to work for. Though most government departments and agencies require similar skills and levels of experience, they differ significantly when it comes to the substance of the work they do. As you can imagine, working for the Department of Education is a far cry from the kind of outcomes you’ll be working towards in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Choosing the right organisation for you comes down to thinking about what makes you tick, and what is going to motivate you to go to work each morning (other than the need to pay rent). Your choice of organisation will also have an impact on the way you respond to questions during the application and interview process, so it’s important to have a clear idea of not just where you want to work, but why.

So how do you decide what organisations will best fit what you’re looking for? Here are some of the key considerations you should take into account when making your decision.

Factors to consider when choosing the right graduate government employer

Values and interests

When it comes to waking up on a work day with a smile on your face, there is nothing more important than working in an environment that you feel reflects the things you care about. You aren’t going to be passionate about a job if you don’t care about the outcome of your work.

If you don’t have an interest in finance, for example, then don’t apply for the Department of Finance. On the other hand, if numbers are your thing and the prospect of helping to develop the nation’s budget gets you excited, then it might be the perfect fit for you.

Everybody is different, and everybody has different interests. Be honest with yourself and determine what it is that will keep you interested and stop you smashing the snooze button over and over again each morning. Once you’ve figured that out, then look to apply for those departments and agencies that best reflect you and what are motivated by.

You wouldn’t date someone whose interests and values were entirely different to yours, so why would you work for a department that doesn’t care about the things you care about?

Key projects

A great way of figuring out whether a department or agency is a good match for you is to actually read about the work they do. You might find that the idea of working for a particular department sounds cooler to you in theory than it is in practice, and reading up on what work a department has actually done is an easy way of figuring out whether that’s the case.  

Most government departments publish reports and outlines of various projects they have completed on their websites, and this is a fantastic source for you to read up on the specifics of the kind of work they do.

Program details

This one may seem obvious, but it is important to know the details of the program you’re applying for. Is it a rotation program? How long is the contract for? Is there a job waiting for me on the other side? Is there a policy preventing me from snacking at my desk?!

Depending on what you’re prioritising, these questions are all key things to ask about each organisation you’re looking at, as they may determine whether or not you ultimately apply. For example, if you’re only interested in programs that operate on a rotation basis because you want to try out a few roles before committing to something, then you might not be interested in departments that only offer stationary positions.

Career progression

This is the long-term equivalent of considering the details of the program. Basically, you should look into what your options are after completing the graduate program at the department or agency you’re looking at, and see whether this matches the direction you want your career to go.

Do they offer an ongoing role following the program? Will the program equip you with the skills you need to get the next job you want? Will you be pigeon-holed into a specific kind of role? These are the kinds of questions you should be asking yourself to determine whether each department fits the vision you have for your career.

Location, Location, Location

Uprooting your life to move to a different city is a big decision to make. If the departments and agencies you apply for are located in cities other than where you currently live you’ll need to make sure that you are actually prepared to move to be able to get to work. There’s not much point in applying for a role that’s located in Canberra if you aren’t willing to leave your beach-going lifestyle in Sydney.

Location can also be an issue even if the position you want to apply for is in your city, as you might find that the department or agency you’re looking at is located in an area that may not be close to where you live. In fact, some departments and agencies even have multiple offices and you might not know which one you will be placed in until you have accepted your job offer, so make sure you’re okay with the possibility of a long transit each day if that’s the case!

Ready for the next step? Get your application ahead by reading our tips for government graduate applications.