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I'm already in the Australian Public Service

I'd like to find out more about how to get promoted within the Australian Public Service

To be promoted you must first apply for a vacant position at a higher level. To be successful you must demonstrate that you are not only capable of performing at that level, but that you are the best applicant. This is usually done through a systematic selection process, involving submitting an application, being interviewed and supplying reports from referees.

Click on each of the questions to learn more about being promoted.

How do you know if you're ready for promotion?

It's hard to know whether you're ready for promotion. You might think that you are performing really well, but people can sometimes have blind spots that prevent them from seeing weaknesses that others observe. It is important to get feedback from your supervisor and trusted colleagues who will be honest with you about where your strengths are and what you need to work on.

Most agencies and departments in the Australian Public Service have a competency or capability framework that sets out the skills and knowledge requirements at different levels. Use this to get feedback from supervisors and colleagues about whether you have the skills and knowledge at the required level.

You can also gain experience by volunteering for individual tasks that are more challenging or if you have the opportunity, acting at a higher level for a period of time, while someone else is on leave.

How do I get feedback on my work performance?

Supervisors are expected to give all their staff regular feedback on their work performance, but sometimes forget or put it as a low priority. This is often out of concern for the relationship or fear of a negative reaction. You can help your supervisor give you feedback by making a time when they are less stressed or busy, giving them some criteria to assess you against (such as your performance agreement or the agency's list of required capabilities). If you would like feedback to help you advance, then provide the supervisor with the criteria for the position or level that you wish to apply for.

You should also make sure that you respond in a constructive way to all the feedback, whether it is positive or negative. Recognise that all feedback is useful information. Defending or denying your actions, blaming others or getting emotional can deter the supervisor from giving further feedback.

Every time you apply for a job, ask for post-selection feedback from the selection panel – most agencies have a policy of providing this on request. You can also request to see the selection report under Freedom of Information if you apply. This feedback can help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses in applying for jobs, and how to improve your interview performance.

How do I prepare myself for promotion?

Here's some ideas that could help.

  • Research how the job is different from the job you are currently doing. When you move up a level, the expectations around the type of tasks and the level of responsibility changes. Talk to people at the higher level about what is different.
  • Seek feedback from your manager or supervisor about how you're going and what you can do to improve – you must be demonstrating your capacity to perform well at all aspects of your current job. This includes the task, and the people management, and the behaviour or conduct elements of the job.
  • Review the Integrated Leadership System capabilities for your current level and compare these with the next level up. How are you faring against the capabilities for the level to which you want to be promoted? Develop a plan to improve your skills in the required areas.
  • Seek new challenges in your current job – it's difficult to demonstrate your suitability for promotion if you haven't taken on challenges that go beyond your current level, in your existing job. This doesn't mean that you have to have acted at a higher level, but have demonstrated a willingness to try new things, have successfully taken on new tasks, and stepped up to new challenges.
  • Develop your skills in writing job applications and being interviewed. To prove your capacity you need to be able to positively demonstrate your strengths and motivation in your application and your interview. Although, not all selections require interviews as decisions can sometimes be made by talking to your referees and reading your application.

What if I keep missing out?

It can be very frustrating to keep missing out on jobs. Remember, you need to not only demonstrate that you can do the job, you also need to demonstrate that you are the best person for the job.

Take some time to reflect on elements of your approach:

  • Are you getting feedback from others, including your supervisor, that your work performance is the required standard? If there are weaknesses in your performance that you don't know about, your referees' reports may not be strong enough to win you the job.
  • Are you applying for the right jobs? If you are shooting applications off for anything and everything, then it is likely that you are not doing sufficient research to develop tailored and specific applications and prepare well for interview. Focus only on those jobs that you have the strongest chance at – where you have specific experience that is immediately relevant.
  • Focus on improving your application and interview skills. Get professional assistance or go to a training course to improve your application and interview skills. Get others to review your applications, and do practice interviews to improve your confidence.

Most of all, don't lose hope. Everyone suffers setbacks from time to time and it's important to remember that this is not personal. Your ideal job is out there – you just need to find it.