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The Great Resignation: What This Means For Job Hunters In The Public Sector

The Great Resignation: What This Means For Job Hunters In The Public Sector

7 months ago By Emily Harris
The Great Resignation   Psp Job Image

Over the last few months, survey after survey has revealed the growing number of employees considering leaving their jobs. Dubbed the ‘Great Resignation’ by some economists, the phenomenon is believed to have been triggered by the pandemic, which has caused many of us to reconsider what we want from our careers. As the world starts to adapt to a post-covid world, and especially now that the majority of Australian states have released their roadmaps for easing COVID-19 restrictions, employees are starting to feel more comfortable in considering a career change and more confident in their chances of securing a new role. A Microsoft survey of more than 30,000 global workers released earlier this year, showed that 40% of respondents were considering quitting their current role or changing professions this year. In the U.S alone, April 2021 saw more than four million people quit their jobs, according to a summary from the Department of U.S Labour – the biggest spike on record[1] (Morgan,2021). 

While the ‘Great Resignation’ has already taken full effect in both Europe and America, many believe the trend is migrating to Australian shores. Within the public sector, a recent Linkedin study revealed that job movement has already increased by 6% since 2020[2] (Linkedin, 2021). Furthermore, when we asked our own network within the public sector whether they’d be looking to change jobs within the next year, the majority (41%) said they were actively looking and wanting to secure a new job as soon as possible. A further 23% of respondents said they’d be wanting to move jobs within the next six months. Only 17% of respondents said they were happy in their current role. 

What’s Causing This Job Mobility

Researchers believe that because of the economic and financial uncertainty of last year, especially in the early days of lockdown and social distancing – many employees felt reluctant to quit their jobs. According to the Microsoft survey, the majority of respondents felt they had put their own career goals on hold in order to help support their organisation through the pandemic, or simply focus on staying employed. However now, with organisations across multiple industries beginning to rebuild and the job market starting to creep back to its pre-pandemic levels, employees feel more confident that if they now leave their current role, they’ll be able to secure other work. 

Another interesting impact of the pandemic was the way it forced employees to re-evaluate the particulars of their life and work-life balance. So many areas of our lives became restricted over the last eighteen months or so; how we travelled, how we socialised with friends and family, even how we exercised. Consequently, as our lives outside of work began to shrink, our jobs came under greater scrutiny. People started to question their work lifestyle; were they really passionate about what they did? Did they want to spend as much time as they did working? Others relished the flexibility remote working offered – especially those with young families - and realised they wanted more of it or didn’t want to return to what their job was pre-pandemic[3] (Combs. 2021).

 Others - especially in government roles that experienced significant increases in demand during the COVID-19 outbreak like Services Australia or the Australian Taxation Office – began experiencing significant fatigue and burnout and are now looking to alter their hours or transition to a role with less responsibility[4] (Leong, Ross & Tickle. 2021). 

While the Public Sector has always had a strong reputation of providing work-life balance in the past, it’s clear that the pandemic has triggered a new era of work, where the ability to work from home is now expected, and a company’s Employee Value Proposition – the values and unique benefits an organisation offers its staff has now become a key strategy in attracting and retaining top talent. The latest research also indicates that if employees don’t feel they’re getting what they want from their current organisation (work-life balance, development opportunity etc) they’re no longer afraid to go in search of it. 

Tips for Finding Your Next Job

If the above factors ring true for you, and you’re considering making a career change, Public Sector People have collated some tips to help identify what that change should be and how to tackle each stage of the job-seeking process, especially when changing to another role within government or local council. Or, perhaps after the pandemic you’re wanting to make some lifestyle changes and are considering transitioning to the public sector to reflect these lifestyle changes. Whatever the reason, deciding to leave a job and look for new opportunities can feel overwhelming and daunting, and with so many other candidates making similar decisions, it’s important to prepare an application that will help you stand out from the competition. 

Step 1 – Establish Why You’re Looking For A New Job

Before making any formal announcements, it’s important to ensure you’ve established the reasons you want to leave your current role and consequently, what you’re looking for in a new role. Knowing this will help to ensure you’re finding opportunities that are suitable to your needs and capabilities. You need to ask yourself what you want from your ideal job whether that be a higher salary, a new challenge, more opportunity for career development, a better workplace environment or the ability to work from home. 

Job expert Alison Doyle who writes for the publication The Balance Careers, suggests job seekers initially compile their own decision matrix before starting their job search to help establish the top values or traits they desire most from a job. To start with, she suggests focusing on the key values that are most important to you like job title, job security, workplace culture, financial and non-financial benefits, the potential work commute, career potential and learning & development opportunities[5] (Doyle, 2019). Once you’ve established your values you can then assign a weight to each value to determine how important it is to you. You can then refer to this matrix when looking through potential opportunities, to help you determine which jobs will align best with your professional goals.

It can also be worthwhile to consider any internal opportunities within an organisation before looking elsewhere – especially if the key thing you’re looking for is professional development or a new challenge. Most government organisations and local councils will have their own 'career hub' or intranet platform where they promote and send internal communications and updates. Usually, this will be where new roles or vacancies within the organisation are posted and if a role is also being promoted externally, it will usually be posted on the internal career hub first, so it's a great first step when you’re considering making a change.

Step 2 – Compile A Stand Out Resume 

Your resume, or CV, is an essential tool in the job searching process. The difference between a good resume and a great resume could cost you an interview! The most important thing when writing your resume is to make sure that it’s relevant to the particular job you’re applying for. Government roles are often very specific on both the eligibility of candidates for roles and how they want candidates to apply for these roles. To ensure you’re catering to a government role’s requirements, it’s a good idea to look at the role’s key selection criteria (the personal values, knowledge, skills and experience required to perform a job) which should be included in the job description or application. You can then compare this criteria to your own resume and make a checklist of all the things that align on both documents, and keep a tally of what specific skills, experience etc is mentioned in the key selection criteria but isn’t mentioned or demonstrated on your resume. If there’s a number of criteria that your experience or knowledge doesn’t speak to, it’s probably a good indication that the role isn’t suitable. However, if there are skills or values that you do possess and are listed in a job’s key selection criteria like project management experience, yet not emphasised in your resume – it’s a great indicator to update your resume and further demonstrate your ability in this area.

You’ll notice within a government job’s key selection criteria there’ll be a number of ‘keywords’ scattered throughout – terms like ‘project coordination’ or ‘stakeholder management. Being able to match these keywords within your own resume (where applicable) will demonstrate to HR professionals and recruiters that you’ve taken the time to digest what the role will entail. 

It’s also critical when listing your previous work experience in resumes, that you not just list your key responsibilities in the role, but provide quantifiable outcomes or achievements that resulted from your responsibilities. This gives you a chance to provide measurable examples of how you’ve contributed to the success of the previous companies you’ve worked for and provides evidence to support your claims. Some people can struggle with this when working in a role that often has intangible KPIs, but examples don’t always have to be sales or numbers based. For example, you could say, ‘your strong leadership skills were demonstrated through leading weekly team meetings of 10 or more’ or, ‘managing the implementation of a new learning and development strategy led to a 10% reduction in retention rates from the previous year.’

Step 3 – Ace Your Job Interview 

If you’ve made it to the job interview stage – congratulations! This is your chance to show prospective employers that you are the right person for the job. A key part in ensuring you make a great first impression at the interview (and also minimise pre-interview nerves) is investing in the right preparation. This includes researching the government department or local council you’re interviewing for (looking at their website, press releases etc), preparing hypothetical answers for common interview questions they’ll ask and also ensuring you arrive on time for the interview (if in person). Many interviews within the public sector are panel interviews – so will have more than one person interviewing you at once. Usually, you’ll be told each interviewer's name, but it’s also worthwhile to do a quick search of them on Linkedin and/or the organisation’s website so you can get a better idea of who they are and their relation to the role you’re interviewing for. You should also double-check the address of your interview beforehand and ensure you know how to get there ahead of time – because arriving late for an interview will automatically set you at a disadvantage and is something that can be easily avoided!

Alternately, if your interview is online it’s important that you’ve double-checked the technology you’ll be using and that your internet connection is secure prior to the interview, to minimise the risk of disruptions. You should also look for a spot with good lighting where there are minimal distractions so that your interviewer can easily see you and won’t have their attention drawn away from what you have to say.

Finally, when it comes to the actual interview itself, a useful thing to remember is the STAR method, a structured approach commonly used within the public sector to answer behavioural questions that demonstrate how a candidate used their previous work experience to overcome a particular problem[6] (Indeed, 2021).

It involves the following:

The Situation- sharing the context around a particular work challenge you faced;

The Task- describing your situation or role in that situation or challenge;

The Action- explaining how you were able to overcome or resolve that challenge. If the action was carried out by a team, focus on your efforts;

The Response- summarising the outcome that was directly achieved by your efforts

When responding to questions during the interview, addressing your answers using the STAR method, will help showcase your capabilities and suitability for the particular role. To read more about how you can apply the STAR method to your next job interview, read our blog here:


For more in-depth advice and support on the job-seeking process, especially if you’re just embarking on the early stages of your job search (resume and interview prep) within the public sector and unsure where to start - our public sector consultants are always willing to help. You can contact us at info@publicsectorpeople to find out more. 


[1] Morgan, Kate. (2021). The Great Resignation: How Employers Drove Workers To Quit. BBC. Retrieved from:

[2] Linkedin. 2021

[3] Combs, V. (2021). The Great Resignation of 2021: Are 30% of workers really going to quit? Tech Republic. Retrieved from:

[4] Leong, Ross & Tickle. 2021. Here Comes The Great Resignation. Why Millions of People Could Quit Their Jobs Post Pandemic. ABC Radio National. Retrieved from: 

[5] Doyle. A. (2019). How Often Do People Change Jobs During A Lifetime? The Balance Careers. Retrieved from

[6] Indeed. (2021). How To Use STAR Interview Response Technique. Indeed: Career Guide. Retrieved from: