Jack Oliver Department of Home Affairs Graduate

Jack Oliver

University of Melbourne
Border Alignment Policy
Jack studied a Master of Social Policy at University of Melbourne

What's your name and job title? 

My name is Jack Oliver and I’m a Graduate working in the Border Alignment Policy team within the Department of Home Affairs. I completed a Master of Social Policy at the University of Melbourne in 2016.

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Altona Meadows in Victoria. While at school, I worked odd jobs such as laboring, washing cars, making pizzas and stacking shelves at a supermarket. I joined a band, and juggled tertiary study with work and travel. I travelled across South-East Asia, Eastern Europe, Japan and India. Last year I spent Christmas in Nepal, volunteering as part of the earthquake relief effort.

How did you get to your current job position? 

In 2017, a friend mentioned that she was applying for 2018 Australian Government graduate programs. This was the first time I’d heard of the Home Affairs Graduate Development Program. I decided to apply given my tertiary background in policy and interest in national security issues.

How did you choose your specialisation

Given the many graduate programs to choose from, I narrowed my applications to those appealing to my personal interests. I was drawn to the Department’s vision of social justice and community support, which stemmed from my tertiary studies. I found the prospects of internationally based project-work and the work the Department does in relation to national security policy very exciting.

What was your interview process like? 

The interview process was a lot of fun. All applicants met and after a minute of introductions were given a task to complete as a team. The room had been setup in a conference configuration and after a while, we started to enjoy ourselves, which made me feel more comfortable.

In the assessment centre, we completed one-on-one interviews where the panel were very personable and immediately put me at ease.

Suppose a student was considering your career. What would you advise them to study? 

I would suggest pursuing a tertiary qualification in policy, international issues, or development topic. While this does not necessarily need to relate directly to the subject matter, the transferrable skills and knowledge are likely to be applicable. I would also encourage applicants to have some work experience.

I would suggest applicants develop skills around the application process itself, including familiarising yourself with the STAR method (situation, task, action, result). This provides an easy method of providing professional examples. I would also suggest glancing at some sample behavioral interview questions.

What does your employer do?

The Department of Home Affairs undertakes a wide array of functions. These include immigration and migration policy and facilitation, border security and transport security operations, national security policy and operations, counter-terrorism coordination, and even relief efforts for areas affected by natural disasters.

What are your areas of responsibility?

I currently work within Border Alignment Policy. There are a number of border programs and operational frameworks that exist between Departments. To reduce the burden on industry, on the public, and on the public service, I contribute towards having these work together more cohesively rather than separately.

Can you describe a typical work day

It’s difficult to describe a typical day given the variety of tasks and topics that come up in my role. It can vary between research tasks, studying and clarifying legislation that will inform my work, or engagement with one of our stakeholders to determine next steps for implementation of a project.

What sort of person succeeds in your career?

Succeeding in this environment requires you to be outcome focused. A clear indication and understanding of goals, expectations and responsibilities as well as the deliverables that apply to these are essential to success.

A positive attitude and good work ethic is acknowledged here and I’ve done my best to demonstrate this during the graduate program.

What are the career prospects with your job? 

The career prospects within my Department are endless. My supervisors both past and current have all supported on-the-job vocational training. Furthermore, my supervisors have supported my interest in pursuing higher duties within the Department, providing links to job pages, giving feedback on my applications, and offering suggestions of interesting business areas.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

The breadth of functions means that someone with a completely different background could thrive within the Department. I’ve worked with graduates who have backgrounds related to law, policy, international relations, human resources, accounting, national security, counter-terrorism, and even the armed forces.

What do you love the most about your job? 

The highlight of my graduate year has been the graduates themselves. I’ve never had so much fun making friends at work. We’re like family and the Department supports networking openly.

I enjoy the opportunities to engage with people in a professional yet personable context. Most of my roles at the Department have been heavily geared towards stakeholder engagement and communication with industry partners. As a result, I’m consistently getting exposure to different corporate and operational approaches and picking up a variety of skills as I go.

What’s the biggest limitation of your job? 

The biggest limitation to the job has been the relocation. It’s not easy leaving friends and family behind, but the opportunity to participate in exciting work and make new friends along the way helps. Supervisors are conscious of graduate vulnerability and provide support throughout the program.

The degree of stress can sometimes peak but it never becomes overbearing. If anything, getting the tap on the shoulder for high priority work is an indicator of your own value within the Department. The Department is very accommodating of flexible working arrangements.

What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?

If I hadn’t taken the job with Home Affairs I would likely have continued my role as account manager. While my previous role was an enjoyable one, the prospects for progression, variety and scope of participation were not as broad as what the Department offers.

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student? 

  • I would say that while a position in a government department is a big deal, it’s not something to be intimidated by. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t know everything about politics. I certainly didn’t, but I was willing to learn. People are approachable, happy to provide support, and are always understanding of your inexperience within the role. Development of staff is a key element of the Department which means a lack of experience is something colleagues look to nurture and improve.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and more importantly don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something. I’ve found myself in many scenarios where I’ve needed to provide information on unfamiliar topics, while knowing that I could have been prepared if I’d asked the right questions earlier.
  • Don’t let a few bad grades, or the fact that you never did an internship make you feel as though doors have started to close.