What’s your name? What did you study? When did you graduate?
My name’s Robert. I studied a Bachelor of Arts (Politics/International Studies) and a Diploma of Languages (French) at the University of Melbourne, graduating at the end of 2019. I went straight from university to starting work at the Clean Energy Regulator.
Where did you grow up?
I moved from country Victoria to suburban Melbourne when I was quite young and stayed there until the end of my university degree.
After I finished high school I was fortunate enough to hold a couple of part-time jobs in the hospitality and education sectors. The work was fun, but also valuable, as it helped me focus on how to communicate in a way that meets people’s needs and expectations – which is very relevant to my current position.
Whilst at uni, I got involved in lots of student societies and even founded a local Eurovision fan club! Outside of my studies, I volunteered for a couple of climate change NGOs, which helped me realised that this was the issue that I was truly passionate about.
Can you describe a typical workday?
A typical day doesn’t exist! The work that I’m doing varies quite a lot – I might spend half the day assessing applications, which involves some close reading, data analysis and report writing. The other half could be spent managing enquiries from industry and business representatives, either on the phone or via email. This means my days combine both micro and macro perspectives: I can be looking for specific details in a piece of legislation at one moment, and then the next I can be advising someone who has never dealt with one of our schemes before.
Suppose a student was considering CER’s Graduate Program. What would you advise them to study? Are there any soft skills that would be beneficial for them to develop? Should they pursue any sort of work experience?
The Clean Energy Regulator does a broad range of work, so don’t feel dissuaded from applying even though you don’t have a “typical” degree. There is probably a place for everyone, from energy systems engineers, to soil scientists, economists and legal practitioners – even language nerds like me! One of the best things about being a graduate is having the opportunity to work in multiple teams throughout the year, which is a great way to be exposed to different disciplines and functions.
It’s useful to have an understanding of Australia’s climate change policies, but it’s okay if you don’t - starting at the agency is a good place to learn! I think so-called soft skills are often important (and harder) than technical skills, so if you can think critically and evaluatively, work in a team and communicate clearly and concisely, that’s an excellent start. Seeking professional work experience also helps you refine these skills.
What do you love most about your job? What kind of task do you enjoy doing the most?
My current role involves assessing applications relating to the Safeguard Mechanism. To me, the work is a bit like drawing together various pieces of a puzzle into a more complete picture. I like the challenge of trying to understand the whole context surrounding a particular case or situation and then conveying the key parts of this information in the reports and briefs I provide to managers and decision-makers.
What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
I think I’d be working somewhere else in the climate change space – whether that be policymaking, education, advocacy, community organising, or in other levels of government. That’s what motivates me and keep me coming back to work every day.
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?