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Q&A with Paul Grandoni – Graduate program tips

It’s that time of the year again when Graduate positions at most companies and departments are opening and closing, specifically in the Australian Public Service (APS) sector. Most students, and graduates to-be will understand the feelings of anxiety, stress and uncertainty in applying for any position at a workplace. But as graduation day looms closer, the pressure of landing a position grows.
Khoi Tung Ngo sat down with Paul Grandoni, a graduate from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) 2017 cohort. DFAT is notorious for its competitive, brutal hiring and culling process. Paul reflects on his experiences in applying for a graduate position at one of the top government departments most sought out by students.

Paul alongside Dame Quentin Bryce. Image credit: Paul Grandoni

Q: What were some of the challenges you faced?
A: You could say for me a challenge was landing the job. Having said that, it wasn’t my first time in applying for this position at DFAT, I learnt from my previous experiences, each time refining my application and becoming more familiar with the department.
Q: What aspects of the application process do you see/ hear most university students have trouble with?
A: In my experience, getting the job is not only about how well you performed at university or the skills you have, but rather it’s a combination of who you are. That can be the languages that you speak, or the sports that you play, do you travel, who you are as a person, do you volunteer, are you studious, do you socialise, or do you watch Netflix by yourself. All of these comes into consideration on top of your academic results and experience. And so when you’re writing the application, try not to focus too heavily on your academic experiences, but broaden your application to be inclusive of the whole ‘you’.
Q: What tips can you give to students when applying for graduate positions.
A: My first tip would be persistence. You want to show that you’re keen for what you’re applying for. If you don’t get through the first round, get up and apply again for the next round. You shouldn’t expect to get the job the first-time round.
My second tip is to not put all your eggs into the one basket. Although as cliché as it sounds, it is important to be branching out and putting in a few applications in different departments [and companies]. Not only will you have a better chance of scoring the job, but you’ll always get more experience in writing applications, familiarising yourself on the various processes of applying, and also experimenting with different techniques that you could use to give you an upper hand.
My last tip would be to gain as much experience as you can under your belt before you apply. Whether it be casual employment, volunteer, or simply getting involved within your university student representative committee or in a social clubs executive committee. Any skill, particularly ones that are relevant to your field of work will add to your application.
Q:It sucks when you don’t get the role. But how do you cope with this and move on?
A: Failure isn’t always a bad thing. It’s a learning experience and you should be taking on the feedback given from each of your attempts. You could also say that your selection for the position is based on merit, but the other aspect is also based on luck. So sometimes, when you don’t get the job, it’s not an attack on your skills or anything personal, you just merely didn’t get the job.
Q: Is there much success for graduates who apply last minute?
A: I wouldn’t suggest leaving things to the last minute, and there are probably people who have been successful, but what I will say is that the longer you wait to apply, the more you will rely on luck. But touching on your work ethic, although this strategy may work for you, as soon as you entire the workforce, you should reflect on how you want to approach your work ethic. The workforce is about team work, especially within the APS, and if you aren’t willing to change the way you work to cope in that team environment, then most likely you won’t go far.
Another thing I’d say is that you’ll want to put in 110% in you application writing. If you put in enough effort you will receive that back in a positive way. It doesn’t have to be getting the job, but it may be in the form of feedback, something you can work with. If you knowingly hardheartedly write your application, you will for sure know that the feedback will be on how little effort you put in.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: Your first attempt won’t be your last. So, make sure you’re out there actively applying for any graduate positions. Your end career goal may not always be from where you started at, [I am] meaning that one graduate position can land you a position elsewhere. The hardest part is getting your feet in the door, but once it’s in, it is easy to move around.
Standard Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on in this post are those of Paul Grandoni solely and do not reflect the views and opinions of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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