Eight tips for moving from the ADF to the APS

A career in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) builds a wealth of trade, occupation and professional skills. People who have had a career in the Army, Navy or Airforce, may seek a new career in the public service. The recruitment, selection and performance management processes are different for the APS, which means making some adjustments to how you present your case in order to get your foot in the door.

Civilians may have little or no real understanding of what an ADF career involves, and will likely be mystified by acronyms, the hierarchy of rank, and what people actually do. So one of your challenges is help people make sense of your career so they readily see the value of what you offer and how it transfers to a new context.

Here are eight tips to help with those adjustments.

  • Understand the capabilities that underpin leadership and management in the APS. These capabilities are often used as selection criteria. The APS capability framework is known as The Integrated Leadership System (ILS). The APSC provides information and tools. You will need to understand this framework, particularly the section on the level of the job you are applying for, to complete your application. For example, if you are applying for an APS 6 job, then you will need to look at the APS 6 section of the ILS.
  • To help with working out what is an appropriate level of job to apply for, check salary levels and work level standards.
  • Drop the acronyms. Resumes and applicants become difficult to read and understand of riddled with unfamiliar acronyms. Where possible use plain English.
  • Reduce military jargon. Detailed references to equipment, with codes and numbering systems may not mean much to a civilian reader.
  • Translate military experience into civilian language. For example: Created curriculum and conducted training of 150 new personnel, with 100% competency ratings.
  • Avoid using language that implies a directive style of management or leadership. The preferred style is a consultative, participative approach. There are times though, when a directive style is appropriate, so flexibility in style is desirable.
  • Show the value of what is unique to the ADF. For example, regular changes in postings means you have to be adaptable and learn new roles quickly.
  • Highlight your people skills. For example, draw on your experience in negotiating, representing, presenting, training, coaching, mentoring, working across cultures.
Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.