Don’t wait to be tapped on the shoulder…

“When you’re younger you think, I wish someone would notice how hard I’m working and you know, pay me back for all of those hours I’ve put into this and you know, trying to get ahead.” – Katarina Carroll, QFES

It is easy as a young professional engaged in public purpose work to dutifully come into the office every day and diligently perform your role.  It is what you were hired to do.  Your colleagues respect you and your bosses speak highly of your performance.  You feel like you are achieving great things…so why haven’t you been tapped on the shoulder for the next challenge?

Whether you’re in public, private or not-for-profit organisations, it is important to be self-aware.  Know when you are ready to take the next step and face the next challenge, or when you need to put yourself out there to grow.

Commissioner Katarina Carroll APM, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, shared her experience at IPAA Queensland’s ‘On the Couch’ event last May.  She spoke of having the courage to opt-in to new opportunities.

“I have done this. It’s incumbent that people have the courage to go to their supervisor and say, look I’ve been doing this work, can you give me this opportunity when it comes up? You get that opportunity and you do extraordinarily well in that opportunity and guess what, you will always get those, that supervisor will keep coming back to you.”

Katarina Carroll gave an example from her own career journey; “I was an Inspector in Cairns at the time, and there was this large amount of relieving coming up as the Superintendent. There were six inspectors and we all knew it was coming up and we were hoping for the EOI to come out and we could apply and say look I want to do this. Not only was there not an EOI, but it [the role] was given to someone outside the district. Incredibly deflating.”

I eventually approached my mentor. I had a discussion with him and he said, “Look you either shut up and stop whinging or you do something about it”. Great mentor! He was spot on. You either stop whinging or do something about it. So I did, I went and saw the Assistant Commissioner who I respect, who I had a lot of time for.  He said, “Well you’ve just come back from your second child I thought that would be the least you’d be interested in, you know, why would I put you up?”. It was also an Assistant Commissioner, whose family and children lived in Brisbane and he spent a lot of hours at work. He was there from 6 till, you know, 8 or 9 every night. There was extraordinary pressure to conform to that and he didn’t see me in that position because I’m a mother. I had young kids at home so why would I even bother being interested in a position like that? However, when he knew I was interested, it completely changed. I got the next opportunity and certainly, it goes from there.”

Director-General of the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy James Purtill echoes Katarina Carroll’s experience.

“ Have a go!  Put your hat in the ring.  The worst thing that can happen is that you miss out. But as a result, somebody knows you are willing to have a go.”

Katarina Carroll agrees “Yeah what’s the worst that can happen? What are they going to do? Make fun of the fact that you genuinely sought out their advice and wanted to discuss with them your future? In fact, a lot of people are quite surprised that you’d do that and they’re honoured.  So I think we have to have confidence in ourselves to have those discussion with our managers.”

With a new year just starting, what are you going to do to take the next step?

About IPAA Queensland:

IPAA Queensland is the professional association for people engaged in public purpose work.

Our mission is simple. We promote and enhance the professionalism, capability and integrity of public administration and pride in public service.

We do this through a program of thought leadership forums and events that enable our members to build their connections, challenge their thinking and keep informed about contemporary issues.

Becoming a member of IPAA Queensland demonstrates your personal commitment and contribution to public purpose work and offers you exclusive development and networking opportunities.