A life-long career in a particular industry or role may be something your parents once contemplated – but this idea is becoming increasingly challenged by a growing proportion of the population who value diversity and fresh challenges over the security of a linear path. Careers that zig-zag between different industries, roles and even occupations are more common than ever. So even if you decide to pursue a graduate position in the public service, you may not wish to follow that path forever.
The great thing about starting your career in public service is that, as we’ve mentioned, the kinds of skills you will learn and use are very widely applicable. Writing, speaking, organisation and teamwork are all skills that are important to a range of careers and industries. Not only that, but you will be armed with a wealth of knowledge about how government operates, as well as specific industry knowledge depending on what departments or agencies you’ve worked for.
So what options are there for someone who begins their career in government but wants to move onto something else?
Perhaps you got into the public service because you wanted to make a tangible difference, but have grown tired of working within the parameters of departmental work. Well, you might want to make the shift towards a career in politics!
Though this is still well within the public sector, working in politics is a very different proposition to the work done in government departments and agencies. There is no clear path into politics, and it really depends on networking and getting involved with your preferred party in any way you can as early as possible (in a similar way to becoming a political staffer).
The most important factor when deciding whether politics might be an option for you down the track is whether, quite simply, you have a passion for politics. A vague dream to one day become the Prime Minister isn’t enough. If you aren’t passionate about politics and about shaping public policy, then there isn’t much point in going down this path, as there will be plenty of people who are passionate about it, and they will be the ones who are able to better establish the kinds of networks that are required to make progress.
If you do have that passion, then get started laying some groundwork as soon as possible (even while working full time — one of the perks of working in the public service is you’ll have more free time!). Though keep in mind you will have to deal with other politicians every day…
Sometimes our priorities shift over time. You might find that after working in the public service for a while you decide you want to make the jump into the private sector. Maybe you want more earning potential, or a change of culture, or even just a fresh challenge.
Well, one of the best private-sector options for those with experience in the public sector is consulting. This is because consulting is one of the most analogous fields to the public service in terms of required skill set. Like public service positions in government departments and agencies, generalist skills are key to being a successful consultant. Being able to synthesise information and communicate clearly is key to both public service and consulting.
Consulting is essentially professional problem-solving. Companies (and even government departments) hire consultants to help analyse situations and to provide them with advice on how to best tackle problems they may be having in the most practical and cost-effective way possible.
One of the best things about consulting, like the public service, is that it isn’t tied to any particular industry. Have an interest in health? You can consult in health. Have an interest in IT? You can consult in that too. No matter what field or industry you look at, there will be consultants. The knowledge you gain from working in a particular department can prove to be very valuable if you choose to make a shift into consulting in that field in the future.
If it’s your altruistic ideals or desire to change the world that drew you to the public sector, then working for an NGO might be an attractive career shift after beginning your career in government.
NGOs are essentially businesses whose yardstick for success is social impact, rather than profit. They are structured and operate as a business, with people working in different departments in a variety of roles, however, they are often funded by the government and/or community donations, rather than generating their funds.
Working in an NGO might appeal to you if you want to work in a faster-paced environment using the skills you’ve developed in government but your heart screams ‘No!’ at the thought of working in the private sector.
These are three of the main career paths you might wish to pursue after beginning your career in the public service, but they are by no means the only options. The general skills you develop while working in government will put you in a position where you can jump at opportunities that arise in a range of industries, from roles in communications to writing and more.
Life after government can really mean any number of things depending on your interests and goals. You will make a bunch of connections who themselves will end up in a variety of different fields, and you will gain experience working on projects that cross different sectors. This means that you will find yourself faced with opportunities down a range of avenues throughout your career.
But hey, you might also find that you want to be a lifelong public servant! The sheer breadth of different roles available in government means that your career can also be varied and stimulating while remaining in the public service.
For more information on other career paths that you might be interested in post-Government, check out our GradAustralia website, where you’ll find guides and articles on a range of industries.