Taking control of your career in times of change to government

By Sharon Ardley

Monday November 7, 2016

Mature businessman texting in his office

Governments come and go.  It’s a cycle that we all have to roll with at regular intervals. With the changes of power we see new headlines, new policies, new faces and for the general public we adjust accordingly as things unfold. For many the change and adjustment is minimal.

But what happens to the public servants that run the function of government? Regardless of the length of tenure of governments, one thing remains when the leaders and their cabinets change — the hard working, dedicated professional administration that work to deliver the policies.

During Machinery of Government changes, departments often merge or split, and reform activities can require departments to restructure.  For public servants caught in the middle, this can be an anxious time, particularly if departments embark on spilling and filling positions.  In many cases such changes to roles can require staff to reapply for their own roles or new positions, in existing or new departments.

Finding yourself either in a new role as a result of restructure or without a job is daunting. But for those who are proactive with their career management, these times can be one of opportunity.

When your employment future is out of your control and unpredictable, it’s important to focus on what is in your control.

Assuming you will land a job in a restructure or MoG change is naïve and misplaced.  Managing your own career takes time and effort. The responsibility for your career is firmly in your hands and your control.  You need to manage the things you can, and look at what you can do to ensure you remain job ready and relevant in an ever changing political landscape.

Keeping yourself current

When change is afoot it’s important for everyone, not just government employees, to ensure that they have remained up to date in their skills and current in their interactions and outlook.

Having worked with staff in government for seven years, here are my tips for people to remain current and job-ready.

Don’t forget the housekeeping. These are the more simple tasks that should be done on a regular basis and not left until you’re unemployed and looking for a job.

  • LinkedIn profile — keep it up to date. Do it now and update regularly with new skills and interests. Make sure it accurately represents you and your skills. Recruiters and potential employers will often use LinkedIn as their first step when recruiting.
  • Seek professional endorsements and recommendations to include on LinkedIn and your CV (where relevant). These contribute to your profile, demonstrate that peers and colleagues recognise your skill and strengthen your marketability.
  • Remain professionally active. Although it can be a natural reaction to retreat when work becomes uncertain, it is important that you continue to connect with people on LinkedIn, join associations and follow key thought leaders. Go to events, meet people and be visibly out there in your professional networks. With busy day jobs, balancing and juggling multiple priorities, it is very easy to dismiss the importance of conferences or seminars and in some cases delegate attendance at the last minute.
  • Maintain your skills and capabilities. The public service is ever changing and complex. Keeping your knowledge, skill and capabilities current and contemporary is critical.  This will not only demonstrate your commitment to your profession, it also provides excellent networking opportunities.


A critical activity in your career management is networking. Many people find networking difficult and challenging but it’s important not to underestimate the benefit and importance of meeting people and sharing ideas. Being a member of associations such as the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) provide excellent opportunities to meet people and broaden networks. IPAA hosts many leadership forums, seminars and events that build capability and create a space to engage with fellow public servants.

If networking is not a natural talent, attend with a peer/colleague and set a target to connect with one new person at an event.  It sounds odd, but it works!  A key outcome of attending events and seminars is to learn, gain current insights and when managing your career, it’s also important to be visible.

Test yourself in the market

An additional perspective to keeping your knowledge, skills and capabilities current is to test your expertise and worth in the market.

Engaging with connected and professional executive search organisations to critically review your CV, appraise your experience in relation to other candidates in the market and provide career advice will not only provide a reality check, it might also be an opportunity to consider your next career move.

Many executive search organisations have a complimentary consulting practice which can provide psychometric tools, career planning and executive coaching. Utilising such tools and development activities will provide insight, growth and fine tune your marketability. A small investment of time and cost might yield a perspective to your career, skill or capability you have not considered.

Take control and take the lead

The importance of managing your career carefully and strategically by building networks, keeping skills and knowledge up to date, being visible amongst peers, colleagues, senior leaders and across the service can keep you ahead of the game. The person who is most accountable and responsible for this is you! Consider developing a personal strategy to develop and manage your career — take control and take the lead.

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