Career agility

By The Mandarin

June 26, 2015

Tom Burton: The very model assumes a dynamic arrangement between the sectors; government, community, commercial — are you seeing that in the types of students that are coming to you?

Janine O’Flynn: Absolutely. Our first cohort has students from three sectors. We have students now joining us as the program develops from across the world. In fact, I’ve been sitting in admissions today, signing off on offers for students from around the world. One of the things that is great about that program is that it speaks to a global set of challenges for those who are working in that environment, whether they are in Mongolia, whether they’re in Pakistan, whether they’re in Australia or in Indonesia, those challenges confront them all. They play out in extraordinarily different ways, but something that our participants in that program are getting is an incredible perspective about what that means for them.

So, I’ve had students already in our program from the three levels of government in Australia, big international NGOs, and from the private sector. That mix highlights everything we want them to see about that world. And talk about boundary challenges — when you’re around the table with a group of your colleagues who are reflecting each part of that complex.

Tom Burton: Yep. And we know this to be true, don’t we, that these days a lot of people will move between those different sectors. There are not that many people who are bureaucrats for life, for an NGO or commercial. Am I correct about that?

Janine O’Flynn: Yeah, we see that now. Our students are great reflections of that. Those already in a classroom have done that, some of them are planning on doing that. And so for us, it’s a sense of working with them to develop their skills and capabilities to really allow them to do that, perhaps more seamlessly, but also to have a chance to stop — some of them are already on that journey — to stop and reflect about what it is that they’ve learnt through that process already, and really give themselves up for what it is that they’re going to do next. Others are already in this sort of, I’m-going-to-switch mode, and how do I get ready to do that? And being in a room with people who are working already in other sectors or already internationally, domestically, and understanding that, is something that you can’t learn from reading a book. You sit around the table with people and do that.

Tom Burton: A personal observation is that, for someone thinking about working in the public sphere — let’s talk about that at it’s widest — that’s a much more exciting, interesting proposition then, perhaps, the thirties, where you probably were sent off to the Department of Treasury for life. These days, that’s not the case. Are you feeling that as well? There’s almost a sense of excitement that’s, gee, this is a very nice place to work.

Janine O’Flynn: It’s just great, and we see that there’s a desire amongst the students that we’re attracting to either do that later — so, as I said, they’re training for that flexibility, in a sense of an agile, much more agile career, where they might be interested in a particular topic, but they might move around the various parts of that in their career. And we have students who, already in their own life to date, have worked in being international institutions, as political advisors, and [are] now working in big international NGOs again.

So we’re seeing people move around. It might be that they’re interested in issues around development, but they’re going to do that from very different perspectives over their lives. So they’re going to dip back in and out of education, and they’re going to want to be able to sit around the table with people who understand that, but also with people they can learn from. And that’s a big part of developing a cohort of people like that.

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