Public service newbies should seek out broad experience and build a culture of collaboration. Vic DPC secretary Chris Eccles and VPS commissioner Belinda Clark advise the 2017 graduate cohort how to get ahead.
Be a sponge and always remember the shared values that put the public at the heart of your work, Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Chris Eccles has urged Victorian Public Service graduates.
Speaking at the welcome event for the incoming cohort of 90 graduates — picked from a pool of 1975 applicants — at state parliament on Thursday, the head of the VPS emphasised the importance of relationships and collaboration across varied domains.
“The way in which we work together with different people and organisations across Victoria is a large predictor of our success,” Eccles said.
The DPC boss reiterated his thinking around the need for the public service not to hive itself off from the rest of society, but work with those outside government to achieve stronger outcomes.
“There is a wealth of different groups in our society, who bring their own insights and expertise about the problems we strive to solve and the opportunities we have to achieve positive development. For that reason, we prosper from valuing and strengthening our relationships with social groups, schools, universities, non-for-profits and businesses. Focusing on how we can share and collaborate is vital for creating value for our communities and industries,” he explained.
And although the public sector is broad and multifaceted, “we share the same overarching purpose for creating public good and supporting our communities.”
“We work best when we are able to build on each others’ strengths while demonstrating a mutual respect for each department’s and agency’s contributions towards our objectives,” Eccles said.
Eccles’ “seven Cs”
Victoria’s top public servant suggested grads keep in mind the “seven Cs” to help navigate the challenges of their first year.
- Clever — displaying your intelligence and talents to quickly learn and apply ideas.
- Conscientious — dedication to deliver excellence in your work.
- Calm — in the face of adversity, problems and challenges and having the tenacity to develop solutions.
- Cooperative — with your fellow colleagues, external stakeholders and the Victorian community to deliver the great work we do.
- Consistent — in the way your work and taking on board feedback.
- Confident — in the work you do.
- Courageous — in not hesitating to seek assistance and ask questions when needed.
Seek out broad experience and feedback
Public servants should be dedicated to open and continuous learning and seek out varied experiences, said Victorian Public Sector Commissioner Belinda Clark.
“Don’t be afraid to seek opportunities to work in other departments and agencies, the broader public sector, other jurisdictions and the private sector,” she urged grads.
“Always look for chances to stretch yourself in a number of different roles. These opportunities, challenges and experiences will not only be of benefit to you, but will add to your value as a well-rounded professional public servant.”
Clark also suggested public servants should “seek out and take on board feedback” from managers and supervisors.
Fortune favours the bold
Frankie Hipkins, a 2015 graduate working in the Department of Health and Human Services, agreed that broad experience was useful.
“Fortune favours the bold. Say yes when your boss asks you to go to that meeting in Benalla,” she told the 34th cohort of VPS grads.
Networking is invaluable and the grad year is the perfect time to meet a wide range of people from different areas. “I can’t count the number of times when I’ve needed to know something about a department and it took me just a couple of minutes” to find out information from someone working there, she explained.
You should also ask questions — whether because you don’t know the meaning of an acronym or because you think there might be a better way of doing things.
If the best answer a manager can give about why something is done a particular way is that it’s always been thus, “you have a duty to speak up if you have a better way”, Hipkins thinks.
At the start graduates will sometimes have to “wing it” when there’s noone available to provide guidance, she added, recalling her experience sitting in a meeting on water policy, a topic about which she knew nothing. But with creativity and critical thinking, “I effectively represented the interests of my agency”, she stated.
“You don’t have to know everything,” Hipkins said. “You just have to give it a go.”