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Re-entering the workforce: Nicki’s success story

The scene

Nicki (not her real name) had been unemployed for 5 years while caring for her young family at home. She decided to set in train processes to re-enter the workforce when – just like that – COVID-19 made its presence known. For the next 1.5 years, Nicki stayed home tutoring her kids and managing family life, trying to keep everything on track. She was forced to put her career aspirations on the back burner.

Information, communication and technology (ICT) in government is Nicki’s area of expertise. She was proactive when at home and completed an online course on DevOps, a methodology increasingly used in the software development and ICT industry. Through the course, Nicki learned about key DevOps principles. This included automation, collaboration, continuous integration and delivery. She also gained hands-on experience with the tools and techniques used in DevOps, such as Git, Jenkins and Docker. Nicki also completed some short online management courses through LinkedIn.

Although she had a lot to offer, Nicki was conscious she had been away from full-time work for 6.5 years and was worried about the gap in her employment and how to present this in the best light.

How we helped

Nicki approached f2f for support. We quickly helped her map a practical plan of attack, highlighting her skills, extensive ICT experience, and interpersonal strengths.

At our initial consultation, we backed Nicki to update her resume and present it in a more professional light by using one of our free resume templates.

Nicki asked for our advice on how to explain her time away from work, in terms the public service could relate to. With that taken care of, we worked alongside Nicki to enhance her written responses to selection criteria. We explained how responses without detail and examples to illustrate her talents, were not effective. After realising this, Nicki developed concise examples relevant to the roles she was applying for.

f2f also encouraged Nicki to highlight the skills and knowledge gained from her DevOps studies, such as automating the deployment of software applications, collaborating with cross-functional teams, and implementing continuous integration and delivery processes.

Nicki also told us she was rusty on interview techniques. We provided ideas and advice to strengthen her confidence. This included thinking through how to pitch her skills to demonstrate that she could support the department to achieve its objectives.

The result

Within 3 weeks, Nicki landed a 12-month contract in ICT with 2 extension options of 12 months. The contract was with a private sector organisation providing services to the Australian Government. Although not a permanent Australian Public Service position, accepting the contract was a wise move that got Nicki’s name back out there and gave her time to apply for full-time roles.

Lessons learned

Nicki learned that talking to a recruiter to get advice on the best steps forward after a career gap was invaluable (and free). She also learned that expert recruiters have in-depth knowledge of the employment market. Another insight Nicki gained was how experienced recruiters are on top of best-practice approaches to resume writing, resume presentation and interview techniques. And that, in the case of face2face at least, all services to candidates are free for those registered with the agency.

A final lesson Nicki learned was to be patient. Although super keen to re-enter the public service immediately, Nicki understood, through talking to face2face, that sometimes an interim step – like accepting a contract – can be highly strategic.


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