How to survive a graduate program with the Australian Public Service

The federal bureaucracy is expanding its graduate ranks after last year's intake dropped to the lowest level in a decade.

Graduates preparing to enter the Australian public service have been urged to rise above internal politics, avoid friendship cliques and to monitor their social media use.

While a graduate role may not be their first professional job, recruitment and industry experts have warned against making simple mistakes that may take months to repair.

Institute of Public Administration Australia ACT council member Samantha Palmer said the public service had different professional standards to other sectors and encouraged graduates to adapt quickly.

"If you're an avid user of social media do find out about your agency's social media policy and consider how what you post on social media may reflect on your new responsibilities as a public servant to be impartial and professional at all times," she said.


Jim Roy, regional director of recruitment firm Hays, urged graduates to avoid stepping on potential "banana skins" at work and understand their professional obligations.

"Your cultural fit with the organisation and your working relationship with your supervisor or manager are very important," he said. "Be familiar with the values of the department so you can demonstrate them effectively."

Kate Prior, managing director of Canberra based recruitment firm Face2Face, said graduates must understand the culture of their department to avoid making mistakes.

"Don't go in all guns blazing," she said. "Give yourself time to understand the processes before being an eager beaver and making suggestions. Once you have had time to understand how things work and if you find a problem always have a solution ready."

Ms Prior said graduates should also avoid friendship cliques in the workplace because they "become too exclusive and stop you building a wider network".

"Raise above any internal politics," she said. "If others around you are talking about someone in a negative manner, don't get involved."

Most graduates are expected to start work in late January when the majority of mentors and supervisors return to work after taking leave.

Mr Roy also told graduates not to discuss their private life at work, to keep personal phone calls to a minimum and to avoid using work emails for personal use.

"Leave errands for lunchtime or when you're away from work," he said. "Don't share intimate details of your social life over the water cooler or in the office kitchen."

"Most companies monitor employee usage of technology, so you should skip the personal emails and text messages. Also, bear in mind that venting feelings about your workplace or boss on social media could be read by anyone."

All three advisors told graduates to always be open to new opportunities, to prepare for a year of hard work and to develop professional networks.

"New grads are introduced to many people in the first few weeks," Ms Palmer said. "Do take the time to repeat their names when you say hello (to lodge them in your memory) and write notes about who you've met – i.e. names, roles and include something that will help you remember them."