Julie Bishop on how she achieved her dream career as foreign minister

Jessica Yun
Julie Bishop at the Financial Services Council Summit 2019. (Sources: Supplied)
Julie Bishop at the Financial Services Council Summit 2019. (Sources: Supplied)

“If you have an ambition, if you have a goal, it's worth persevering.”

It’s the kind of thing you might tell a starry-eyed five year old girl full of hopes and dreams.

Speaking from her own personal experience at a conference in Sydney on Tuesday, former foreign minister Julie Bishop had words of encouragement for those whose career goals seemed out of reach.

Upon joining parliament in 1998, Bishop revealed to an audience of finance professionals her secret dream: to become the nation’s foreign minister.

“But it was secret because it was considered rather career limiting to covet somebody else's job,” she said.

“Well, until last year,” Bishop added, in a thinly concealed jibe at the leadership coup that saw Malcolm Turnbull deposed from his role of prime minister.

So Bishop set out to prove to then-Prime Minister John Howard that she was fit to be foreign minister.

“I started writing opinion pieces on foreign policy that were published in The Australian, or Wall Street Journal, and then I got myself elected as the chair of the government policy committee on foreign affairs.

“I was elected the chair the joint state committee of international treaties, I volunteered on overseas election observer missions for the Commonwealth,” she continued.

Her efforts would go on for five years before Howard finally invited her to his office.

“He said, Julie, I would like to make you a minister. The minister for ageing,” Bishop recalled.

“I said Prime Minister, we've got a problem. I can't be the Minister for ageing, I'm so against ageing.”

Cue the big eye-roll, Bishop said – but she took on the job. It ended up being “an extraordinary learning experience”.

She then went onto become the Minister for Education, Science and Training – a new position at the time – and learnt even more, discovering the power of the impact a cabinet minister could make in their area of responsibility.

2007 saw the Liberal party lose to Labor’s Kevin Rudd, which found Bishop in Opposition. But the time wasn’t wasted, she said. “Opposition can be a very valuable time in your political career.”

“You use that time to develop policy, so that by the time you got back into government in 2013, I was appointed Australia's foreign minister, the first female to hold the role.”

“But it was almost 15 years to the day that I first had that dream to be foreign minister.”

“So I guess the message is if you have an ambition, if you have a goal, it's worth persevering.”

There’s no training to become a foreign minister, Bishop observed, which means relying on your own wits and your own initiative is paramount. “I had to keep upskilling.”

“I've learnt throughout my 20 years as a lawyer and 20 years as a politician that continually educating yourselves, continually developing professionally, is absolutely essential.”

Make your money work with Yahoo Finance’s daily newsletter. Sign up here and stay on top of the latest money, news and tech news.