Vy, 30, has just completed one year as a graduate in the Financial Reporting and Cash Management Division of the Department of Finance and Administration in Canberra. She came through the graduate program after completing a Bachelor of Commerce at La Trobe University in Melbourne. While the commerce degree formed an essential basis for the work she does now, Vy says the on-the-job training she receives as part of the graduate program is far more practical and useful.
While Vy has joined the public sector, she says many students at university fail to look at all the opportunities it offers, and instead try to make it in big, private accounting firms. Having started the application process while still at university, Vy says it's vital that final year students apply early for graduate programs so they don't miss out.
How did you get into the graduate program?
During my final year of study, I attended career seminars and expos at university and obtained information on different graduate programs. I lodged my application online to the Department of Finance and Administration and was short-listed. The first assessment was held in Melbourne and I was successful in getting to the next stage, which took place in Canberra soon after. By mid-August that year I had received the letter of offer for employment.
I think that most accounting students tend to focus on applying for jobs in the private sector and in particular, with the 'Big Four' and medium-tier accounting firms. I highly recommend that students explore job opportunities offered in the public service. Working in the public sector is very exciting and rewarding because you are involved in current and often topical issues. You are also exposed to higher levels of responsibility earlier and to unique work opportunities not available in the private sector. The challenges are numerous and avenues for career development are many and varied.
I have participated in various training and development programs, which are structured to assist graduates in becoming more familiar with working in the public service. In addition, I have had the opportunity to work on real projects and make relevant contributions to the department's key activities.
My work deals with whole-of-government financial reporting, and involves assisting in the preparation of the federal budget and other major financial statements. I also assist in the provision of accounting advice. An average day consists of working with my team to produce accurate and timely publication tables, attending meetings, undertaking research, and performing financial and accounting analysis.
As part of my degree I didn't study public sector accounting or government financial reporting. I mainly learnt about theories on commerce, financial management and the fundamental accounting concepts and principles, all of which I can apply to my current job. One major thing I have noticed is that the knowledge and skills you learn on the job are much more practical. I've done various tasks and projects throughout the year which have given me greater in-depth understanding of the processes involved in public financial management.
Many people working outside the public sector have said to me that the public sector is routine, boring, inefficient and the like. So far I have found the work to be dynamic and interesting and the people to be very efficient and motivated. There are mountains of corporate knowledge about how to organise processes and achieve results and these results aren't just about the bottom line and maximising profit, which the private sector is driven by.
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