Nikola - Graduate profile
Desk Officer, Consular Operations Branch — Africa, Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Americas and Europe Section
Other positions in DFAT:
Financial Performance Section; Financial Policy and Training Section; Contract Governance and Procurement Section.
Where did you live and what were you doing before joining DFAT?
Prior to joining DFAT I was working in the Audit and Assurance division of a Big 4 accounting firm in Sydney, completed my studies with Macquarie University and travelled the world representing Australia in a sport.
What qualifications do you have?
Bachelor of Commerce; Master of International Relations; Master of International Trade and Commerce Law (to be completed in early 2012).
How have you used your qualifications/experience during your time in DFAT?
The skills gained during my prior work experience and studies allowed me to work on various departmental issues relating to internal budget allocation, financial performance review and procurement strategic plan. Additionally, the interpersonal skills assisted me in liaising with Australians overseas requiring consular assistance, other government agencies as well as members of the Canberra’s diplomatic community.
Do you speak another language?
I speak professional level Serbian, working level Croatian and basic level French.
Why did you apply to DFAT?
Having a passion for international relations, trade and economy as well as accounting and finance, it only seemed natural to apply for the DFAT Graduate Program. DFAT offers the opportunity to be directly involved in advancing Australia’s national interest through both corporate and non-corporate engagements. The department’s comprehensive training, the opportunity to rotate and work in different areas and deal with varying issues which have an impact on everyday lives of Australians, as well as the opportunity to meet interesting people and represent Australia in an official capacity overseas, makes DFAT a very attractive career provider.
What was the most challenging aspect of the recruitment/selection process?
Every stage of the recruitment process is challenging in its own right. I personally found that the initial application was most time consuming and required the greatest amount of attention and dedication. Remembering specific examples that would address each selection criteria, and articulating the responses to fit within the required word limit turned out to be more daunting than initially envisioned.
Do you have any tips for applicants on how to approach the application process?
There is no one right formula to being successful in the application process. DFAT recruits graduates from all different qualifications and from all different walks of life. My tip is to assess your motivations for joining DFAT and identify how your specific professional, academic or life background would assist the department in fulfilling its objectives. Identify what skills each selection criteria is designed to asses, which selection criterions are being assessed at which particular stage, and address the selection criteria by applying those skills and experiences unique to you.
Has the reality of working in DFAT differed from your perceptions of what it was going to be like?
I expected the work which I would be doing in the department to be exciting and stimulating. My expectations have been exceeded to say the least. There are great opportunities for training, travel, secondments and networking. Even more so, I did not expect DFAT to be as social as it is. You can find yourself playing sport against members of the Diplomatic Core, part-taking in one of many networking and social events in official and unofficial capacity or just having a quite drink with your colleagues and mates.
What has been the highlight of your career with DFAT so far?
Highlight of the career in DFAT thus far was travelling throughout regional NSW and meeting various industry heads in mining and tourism sectors. The week long regional trip is a component of a 2.5 month training block, where you are taught economic, foreign and trade policies as well as communication, negotiation and writing skills. For the regional trip you are sent to a state/territory within Australia, with the junior diplomats from developing countries, to make representations on behalf of the department.
As an economist/accountant/lawyer etc, why would you recommend DFAT over other career options?
As an accountant in DFAT, you will have the opportunity to manage the department’s assets and resources in the areas of property, budget, finance, HR and consular. At the end of the day, you will be equipped with the skills that will enable you to serve Australia overseas, advance Australia’s interests, manage one of many Australia’s missions and assist Australians who find themselves in need of consular help. These attributes make a career with DFAT truly unique.
How do you enjoy living in Canberra?
Canberra is a city which is very easy to live in. It is a very clean, organised and fit city. While it’s not New York, it has enough of events and happenings to keep you entertained and busy for a large part of the year. Canberra is in many ways like Hotel California… you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave.
Have you any other insights for potential applicants?
If you are not successful in the application process, don’t get discouraged. Keep applying and trying. Many grads got into the grad program after numerous unsuccessful attempts.