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When To Move On: How To Decide When To Leave Your Public Sector Job

When To Move On: How To Decide When To Leave Your Public Sector Job

7 months ago By Emily Harris
When To Move On

There has been increasing talk of The Great Resignation in Australia, following the rising quit rates in the US following the COVID pandemic. The term was coined by Professor Anthony Klotz who predicted that as people got a taste for working from home and the pandemic forced people to re-prioritise their values and lifestyles, the majority of workers would start to reconsider what they wanted from their careers. Which, in turn, would cause more workers to leave their current organisation. So far, many of Klotz’s predictions in the U.S have come true; the monthly quit rate jumped to 3% in September this year which was the highest level on record in the U.S. Total quits, which reflects the number of jobs that workers left voluntarily, hit another record at 4.4 million[1] (Bourlioufas, 2021). 

Interestingly Europe is yet to see the same number of resignations as the U.S. but workers across multiple industries are still experiencing discontent and reconsidering the way they work. According to Linkedin, 32% of UK workers have reassessed what they want from a job because of the pandemic, while 35% of job hunters are now looking to try something new[2] (Levine, 2021). In Australia, the Great Resignation trend is yet to hit, at least overall (within both the private and public sector), however in Public Sector People’s own survey conducted within our network of professionals in the public sector, the majority of respondents (41%) were actively looking and wanting to secure a job as soon as possible. What’s more, when looking for new opportunities professionals within the public sector are prioritising professional development opportunities over things like salary and council/government reputation.

Indeed, as employees, we all have the right to work that fulfils and invigorates us. However, some experts believe that the risk of so much discussion around the great resignation phenomenon is that people become inclined to jump on the bandwagon without properly thinking it through. The last eighteen months or so have been particularly taxing on those working within the public sector – with so many government organisations deemed essential services during the pandemic and experiencing increasing demand as the country dealt with the fall-out COVID-19 caused. This has meant many workers are now feeling burnt-out and fatigued at the end of the year. So, for those looking for career clarity and potentially a fresh start in 2022, how do you determine if your current feelings are a legitimate hunger for change or a hasty reaction stemming from burnout? 

To help you figure out what’s driving your determination to quit and whether the issues you’re experiencing can be resolved without quitting, Public Sector People have collated a list of key signs that it’s time to leave– maybe not today or tomorrow, but before you let another year pass you by:

The Sunday Scaries

We’re all familiar with that melancholy feeling that strikes on a Sunday evening when you realise another full working week is ahead of you. But if this feeling has transformed into a foreboding sense of dread rather than a wistfulness of the weekend past, there are probably bigger things at play. 

It’s important to examine these feelings more closely and look at what is causing the sense of dread or anxiety. Is this something that occurs consistently? Does it stem from thinking about the amount of work waiting for you on Monday? Or from a particular colleague or manager you have to face? Maybe it’s due to a combination of factors or a general sense of unhappiness at work.

If this feeling doesn’t come along every Sunday or is simply due to a busy period at work, you can reassure yourself that this feeling of dread will pass along with the deadline. But if this feeling persists every Sunday, it could be a sign to leave your job. 

Before deciding to leave, however, it’s worth considering if there are any steps you can take in your current organisation to resolve the issue. If you feel your workload is becoming unmanageable, is it possible to speak to your team or manager about delegating tasks? If there’s been conflict with a particular colleague, do you feel comfortable speaking to them about it, or going to a manager or HR professional for support? If the answer to either of these questions is no, or worse, you’ve tried both these options and haven’t achieved any sort of resolution, it’s probably best to cut your losses and look for opportunities that you think will make you excited or motivated to come into work. Or at the very least, unconcerned rather than dreading each Monday morning.

The Inability To Be Yourself  

While most people will censor themselves to a certain extent at work, or project a more ‘professional’ image, employees should ultimately feel comfortable to be themselves around their colleagues and in their office. If you start to feel like you have a split personality depending on whether you’re at work or not or find yourself doing things at work that don’t feel in touch with who you are, this is a sign that the organisational culture might not be for you. Putting on an act, or doing things that don’t align with your beliefs five days a week is mentally exhausting and can lead to burnout if not addressed[3] (Valcour, 2018). This is different from the out-of-sorts feeling you can experience when first joining an organisation, as it can take up to 12 months to find your feet and feel secure in a new role. This feeling of disconnection runs deeper, where you feel pressured to act in a way that is outside of your value system. 

Maybe it is acting more cut-throat than you would like, to meet organisational set targets. Or feeling like you have to ‘tame’ or mute your personality to fit in with your greater team. Or having to adhere to decision-making practices that don’t align with your core values.

Whatever the reason, if you’ve given the organisation at least six to 12 months, and still feel like your interests, values and beliefs clash with those of the organisation, you should start looking at organisations that will be a better cultural fit. This is especially important within the public sector, as values are integral to how local councils and government agencies operate and can be easily determined from a generic job search, as each government agency will have its mission statement on its website. You can also search online reviews or reach out to a recruiter who will often have insider knowledge, to help you gauge what companies will better align with your values.

After all, when an employee feels their values and interests match those of the government agency they’re working for, they are more likely to find meaning and purpose in their work. Which will ultimately lead to greater job satisfaction and performance.

No Room To Grow 

When was the last time you felt challenged at work or learnt something new? While there is nothing wrong with having a stable work routine, after a year or two doing the same thing day in and day out, it can start to feel monotonous. If you feel you haven’t been able to learn or develop your skillset in a long time you could be in a professional rut, which can cause frustration, boredom and negatively impact productivity. Maybe this rut is because you’ve been pigeon-holed and passed over for promotions, or because you feel there are simply no more opportunities or positions within the organisation you can advance to.

Whatever the reason, having the ability to regularly learn, develop new skills and have new experiences is important to an individual’s esteem, morale and of course, their professional development. And as our research has shown, professional development is highly valued and prioritised with professionals within the public sector. However, before you start looking for new opportunities, it’s important to reach out to your current organisation first. The public sector has a strong reputation for promoting professional development and internal mobility opportunities. Furthermore, each government organisation has a capability framework that outlines the learning offerings available to staff within local and state government and what each organisation should be providing. These include a blend of on-the-job learning, peer-based learning and formal courses, workshops and resources. For those looking for a new challenge, you should look at your organisation’s framework first and then reach out to the organisation’s HR team or your manager to see how these options can be accessed. You can also speak to your manager about any secondment opportunities that might be available and if you are feeling frustrated about your lack of progression in your role, you can reach out to your manager or team leader about what criteria you would need to fulfil to receive a promotion in future.

However, if you feel you’ve tried all of these options and still feel stifled, or your efforts for learning or career advancement have gone unnoticed, it could be time to cut your losses and start looking for an organisation offering new opportunities and one that is encouraging of your professional development.

Workplace Feels Unstable Or Disorganised 

Perhaps you’ve heard some unsettling rumours on the office floor about mass redundancies, or you see managers constantly being moved from department to department and there’s a high staff turnover. This lack of stability and disorganisation will not only incur stress but impact overall productivity, as constantly changing people and teams mean there’s no clear leadership or direction in place. If these scenarios ring true for you, it’s important to take stock of your current role and ask yourself if you feel secure in it. Especially if a lot of your co-workers have recently jumped ship or you know of an impending restructure, leaving a role can actually be the smartest option.

By proactively seeking new opportunities, you can successfully remove yourself from an unstable environment, rid yourself of any associated stress and give yourself a better chance at progressing your career.


If any of the above resonates with you it is time to be on the lookout for new opportunities. Choosing to leave a job – especially one you’ve been in for a long time – can be a little overwhelming. Where do you start your search? Who do you reach out to? For advice or guidance on the early stages of your job search (resume and interview prep) or to find out about current opportunities – especially within the public sector- our Public Sector People consultants are always willing to help. You can contact us at to find out more. 

Ready to find your next role? Start the job search today! 



[1] Bourlioufas, N. (2021). Great Resignation May Be Just Around The Corner. Australian Financial Review. Retrieved from:

[2] Levine, N. (2021). This Is How Gen Z Really Feel About Their Job Prospects. Refinery29. Retrieved from: 

[3] Valcour, Monique. (2018). When Burnout Is A Sign You Should Leave Your Job. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: