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Written By

Bianca de Loryn


College of Business, Law and Governance

Publish Date

3 October 2023

Persistence is key

After switching her degree, and then winning the AHRI Undergraduate Student Award, JCU Alumni Simone Vinton realised that you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it.

When Simone was a little girl, she loved watching the American sitcom Parks and Recreation. The show focused on Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), a confident deputy director of the Parks and Recreation Department in a small town in the United States. “I wanted to be like Leslie when I grew up. I have a fascination with how government works. I thought that it would be great if I could work for the public service,” Simone says.

Simone also deeply cared about improving people’s wellbeing. So, after working with Conservation Volunteers Australia in administration, customer service and project management for more than two years, Simone enrolled in a JCU Bachelor of Social Work.

However, in her third semester, she realised that her strengths lay in a different field.  “I was also struggling to match the theories I learned with my own thinking, because in social work a lot depends on self-reflection.”

Not one to give up easily, Simone recalled her childhood dream of following in Leslie Knope’s footsteps. “I thought HR would allow me to work with people and help them, but also take advantage of my business skills,” Simone says. She decided to switch to a Bachelor of Business, majoring in Human Resource Management.

“From there, I just clicked with the degree. My lecturers were amazing, and I am still in contact with some of them,” Simone says. “When you've got lecturers who have worked in the field, and they have stories you can relate to, and they tell you about their own experiences, it really adds to the learning experience.”

Simone Vinton on her first day at the NDIA. (Supplied)

Trust in flexible employees

Simone won the Undergraduate HR Student Award from the Australian HR Institute (AHRI) in 2022. She received the award for her essay about the ‘Psychological contract’ — which are essentially the unwritten rules in the workplace — where she focused on trust between employers and employees.

“Flexible work is a big talking point in the workplace, and it encompasses part of the psychological contract in today's modern workplace,” Simone says. “Someone may have a sick child at school and needs to take half a day off to collect them and spend the rest of the day looking after them.

This works best if you have built a solid relationship with your manager, and if they trust you enough to simply take that half day off and perhaps work the rest of those hours another time.”

Simone says that she put the AHRI prize money to good use. “I received a $3,000 cash prize. That money was used to pay for my move from Cairns down to my new workplace at the NDIA (National Disability Insurance Agency) in Victoria.”

As part of her Bachelor of Business, Simone also decided to do a professional internship at the Cairns Regional Council, which she says paved the way for her new career in Victoria. “Working for the Council, I was able to familiarise myself with government work before I graduated,” Simone says. “I've also made friends at the Council who I still chat with. They're just amazing people.”


Testing the waters

Looking back, Simone says that everything happened for a reason. “I am glad I switched to Business, and I realised this has all worked out well for me,” Simone says.

Simone is particularly enjoying the diversity of the experience she is gaining at the NDIA, which implements the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). “I like the fact that I move between teams over the course of 12 months to test the waters and see what the work is like,” Simone says, adding that working at the employee help desk, for instance, has been very rewarding.

“By the time my graduate program is finished at the start of next year, I will become an ongoing employee, and I will also have a rough idea of which team I want to work with and what kind of work I want to do.

“What I like about the NDIA is that they encourage us to keep an eye out for opportunities within other government agencies as well,” Simone says, “and I am sure I will see the right opportunity when it arises.” Or, to quote Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation, "Go find your team. Get to work. Whatever that work is that you find worth doing. Do it, and find some people to love who'll do it with you."

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