People Stories

From Veteran to General Manager

Author: Careers at Council

A career journey guided by an unwavering drive to serve.

In 1999, The Australian Defence Force (ADF) was deployed to Indonesian-occupied East Timor as the leading force in The United Nations-mandated ‘International Force East Timor’.

For Kate Jessep, Uralla Shire Council’s General Manager, this deployment was the pinnacle of her Military career.

Serving with the Australian Regular Army 3rd Brigade, Kate had been training for this mission for 10 years. “We had never worked harder, slept less or been hotter. We had very basic living conditions – no running water, conditions were tough, but it just wasn’t an issue. I’d trained for years to be there, everything I’d experienced and been taught had led to this. I couldn’t have been prouder.”

A DIVERSE AND SUCCESSFUL MILITARY CAREER

10 years earlier, 17-year-old Kate joined the First Recruit Training Battalion at Kapooka as a Soldier. After becoming a Driver and being posted to the Army Apprentice School, she applied for Officer training and was offered a position at the ADF Academy in Canberra and then at the Royal Military College, Duntroon.

Kate graduated as an Officer in 1994.

What followed was a diverse military career that included serving as Sub-Unit Commander of the National Movement Control Unit, and in what Kate describes as the ‘prime posting in terms of location’ of her career – leading 50 soldiers responsible for ship-to-shore unloading based on Sydney’s beautiful harbor.

Kate also traveled on exchange with the British Army to Germany, where she was involved in shifting British forces across Europe, including the post- World War II draw-down of British munitions and equipment safely to the coast and onto ships back to the United Kingdom.

In 2009 Kate left active service with the rank of Major.

LEADERSHIP, RESILIENCE, AND A ‘CAN-DO’ ATTITUDE

Kate strongly believes that the skills she learnt in the Military have formed the foundations of her successful Local Government career.  “If you’ve served in the Military, you’ve done so because you believe in serving our country, our nation and our democracy.”

Kate adds, “If you’re working in Local Government, you’re operating at the grass roots of democracy in action. I served in the Military to protect that democracy - so that our Councillors can speak freely in the Chamber and so that we can best-serve our community”.

Skills learnt in the ADF such as leadership, resilience, and a can-do attitude are vital in Kate’s role as General Manager of Uralla Shire Council.

Kate is responsible for all operational matters in the Council, she leads the Executive Team to direct the organisation, and provides professional advice to her Councillors to help support the Council’s strategy and policy setting.

Kate explains, “I’m responsible for bringing to life the Strategy that the Council sets through our community engagement process. To do this, you must have a can-do attitude. That’s how we are trained in the Military - here’s the mission you have to achieve, here are the limited resources you have – go and find a way to make it happen!”

She adds, “You have to show leadership by gathering the right team around you to deliver on the task. And just like in the Military, things don’t always go to plan – it takes resilience to face failure and to pick yourself and your team up and try again.”

WEARING A SUIT TO WORK - THE TRANSITION FROM MAJOR, TO CIVILIAN

For Kate, the transition to civilian life was as seamless as she could’ve hoped. After spending her entire adult life in the Military, and having just started a family, she was ready to try something new. Kate explains, “For me the grass seemed greener, I wanted to wear a suit to work and experience life outside the military”.

Armed with a BA, Graduate Diplomas in both Human Resources and Urban & Regional Planning completed while in service, Kate began her career in Local Government in Urban Planning.

Kate remained in the Standby Reserves until 2014 and feels that this helped with her transition out of active service. She comments, “It kept the door ajar for me. I’d recommend it if you are coming out of the Services – go into the Standby Reserves, get your civilian career established, and then down the track if you’re really not enjoying it, you can easily go back to the military.”

TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL TRANSITION TO A CIVILIAN CAREER

As well as signing up for Standby Reserves as you embark on your civilian career, there are other things Kate believes you can do to support a successful transition out of the Services.

The first is to study, Kate explains, “Work out where you want to go and do some additional study. Don’t expect that your military courses will be satisfactory”.

She also suggests seeking out a diverse range of experiences while in the military, and making sure you have a good support network around you. Kate says, “Without the support of my husband, I wouldn’t have been able to make the progression I have in my second career”.

Being humble is crucial. “Expect that you might have to take a ‘backward step’. Don’t think that because you’re at a certain level in the services that you’ll be at the equivalent level in a civilian job straight away. I was a Major but I didn’t come into Local Government as a Manager – I went in as a team member initially to get established as a professional subject matter expert.” Kate explains.

And finally, go for all the opportunities that come your way, but Kate stresses that it’s important to get the military language out of your CV before you put it forward.  Ensure you describe your military roles, experiences, and skills in civilian language.

Kate comments, “I was successful when I was able to take a story of problem solving from my military career and sufficiently demonstrate - in civilian terms, how I could use that experience to help my employer.”

FIND YOUR PLACE IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT

When you choose a career in council, you will be joining many other Veterans like Kate who are continuing a career of service. The work you do will make a real difference to the lives of Australians.

Kate confirms, “I’ve really landed on my feet here. I joined the Military because I had a strong drive to serve Australia. In my second career in Local Government, I still get to serve my Country, but at a community level - and that’s a real privilege.”

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