Antonia - Graduate profile
Training, Development and Performance Management Section
Other positions in DFAT:
Corporate Planning Section - Executive, Planning and Evaluation Branch
Where did you live and what were you doing before joining DFAT?
I lived in Rome, Italy where I was employed as locally engaged staff at the Australian Embassy to the Holy See.
What qualifications do you have?
I have a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Philosophy and Environmental Studies and a Masters in Crisis Management and Humanitarian Affairs.
How have you used your qualifications/experience during your time in DFAT?
I worked for several years as the Office Manager of the Australian Embassy to the Holy See in Italy, so in many ways I already had a reasonable understanding of how the Department works and this has been very useful to me. Of course years of study, research, writing and experiences at the Embassy all come in very handy, but versatility and enthusiasm are probably the key to making the most of everything the grad program has to offer.
Do you speak another language?
I speak French and Italian.
Why did you apply to DFAT?
DFAT offers very appealing career prospects and as a person who loves travelling, has a keen interest in international affairs and is fulfilled by meeting and working with new people, I believed the Department would offer me something very rewarding: the possibility to do a job I love.
What was the most challenging aspect of the recruitment/selection process?
I applied from overseas; one of the most challenging aspects for me was recognising my commitment to this life changing opportunity if it were given to me. From the moment the program is advertised it is a good 6-8 months before you are advised if you are successful and that is a lot of time for other opportunities to potentially arise and possibly pass you by. Keeping an open mind yet knowing what your level of commitment is, are both very important.
Do you have any tips for applicants on how to approach the application process?
Make those 400 words addressing each criteria count. Rewrite them twenty times, edit till you are sure not one of those 400 words is used in vain. Give practical examples of your experience. In the written tests organise your thoughts, the delivery of your answer is as important as the content. When interview time comes be yourself, be honest, be prepared (forget about getting a good night sleep beforehand).
Has the reality of working in DFAT differed from your perceptions of what it was going to be like?
The work environment is different than what I expected, especially the fact that throughout the department staff rotate positions very frequently. This means that before you know it you may carry more responsibility for the area you work in than initially expected. This is a great opportunity to prove oneself. The Grad program itself is also surprisingly more involved and challenging that I thought it would be. The department does invest a lot in the new grad intakes and you will really feel you are on a steep and fast learning curve which I personally find exhilarating.
What has been the highlight of your career with DFAT so far?
The highlight of my time at DFAT has been the contact I have had during my first rotation in the Corporate Planning Section with colleagues working in our overseas posts around the world and realising what a wide and varied range of experiences is at my fingertips. Realising that I am now part of this wider network of officers working in the most disparate locations and situation is very exciting. Knowing that my work is a cog in this bigger wheel is very rewarding.
Why would you recommend DFAT over other career options?
One thing we are told over and over is that in a career in DFAT you will most often than not find yourself working on something you know nothing about and which you probably never even contemplated working on. DFAT offers you the possibility; in fact the certainty of doing something (or many things) you never thought you would do. All prior knowledge and experience will come in handy in ways you never expected and you will discover new interests and skills.
How do you enjoy living in Canberra?
At first living in Canberra seemed to be the biggest challenge I would have to overcome (moving here from Rome, Italy). The truth is I was not alone, fellow grads became an instant community and I found the lure of driving three hours north to Sydney easily resistible because of all the social commitments of the weekends; from snow trips to dinner parties, rodeos, film festivals and indoor sports. You really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else (having just landed a job in DFAT).
Have you any other insights for potential applicants?
You will never know if you don’t apply. If you do, study the DFAT website, learn as much about the work of the Department as you can. Be committed.