With more than 25 years’ experience spanning a wide range of business delivery roles, Jennifer Cheffers’ philosophy about making the most of career opportunities is straightforward: ‘just do it’.
Across the public service sector, Jennifer has notched up a diverse scope of skills –training, compliance auditing, marketing, client service, call centre management, change management, and work health and safety – and has always embraced professional challenges.
‘Most of my career “moves” were a result of not being afraid to try something new and, where that new capability resonated, pursuing further academic qualifications in that subject matter,’ she says.
Now Director of Work Health and Safety at the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Jennifer recently completed Deakin’s Master of Human Resource Management (MHRM) and says her interest in HR stemmed from a new role she took on about six years ago.
‘I was looking for a new challenge and a new way to add value to the work I did every day. While in this “open mindset” I undertook a role managing about 200 staff in multiple call centre locations. With so many people in my team, I spent a lot of time on HR-related activities, and loved it! This was the start of my interest in HR as a career, and my exploration of a master’s level qualification in HR,’ she explains.
Heading up work health and safety at the ABS, Jennifer leads a small team of safety and wellbeing professionals in delivering the framework for a safe working environment for the organisation’s 3000 staff – which can swell to more than 40,000 in a Census year.
The responsibilities of her role – along with the commitments of raising a family – meant that Deakin’s online delivery gave Jennifer the flexibility of being able to attend lectures when they suited her busy lifestyle.
The other deciding factor for choosing Deakin, she says, was the array of professionally-relevant topics offered in the MHRM.
‘I loved the subject choices that were directly relevant to work I was doing - or work I wanted to do more of. Most of the subjects included a practical assessment component which enabled me to directly apply my learning to a real-world business problem being faced by my workplace.’
Jennifer’s study diligence was rewarded by outstanding results and a Dean’s Merit List award.
‘I worked hard at all my subjects and aimed to learn as much as I could so I could take these lessons back to my workplace. I wasn’t too worried about how I was comparing to others and knew others in my program had much more real world experience in HR than I did. The award was a really nice finish to my time at Deakin.’
As well as the inherent benefits of gaining knowledge, Jennifer says the MHRM has boosted her career profile at the ABS.
‘Amongst the senior levels of the organisation, the qualification has given me greater visibility, which in turn has led to opportunities for roles in change management and work, health and safety,’ she says.
For now, Jennifer is comfortable to consolidate her learning and develop further expertise in safety and wellbeing. And her advice for anyone considering postgraduate studies is the same that motivates her own career development.
‘Find what you’re passionate about and jump in with both feet!’