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Career Planning

Working out what you want to do is the first step to finding a job and career that works for you.

Deciding what career you are aiming for and taking steps to make it happen isn’t always easy.

By picking up this book, you’ve made one of the most important decisions in your career. You’ve demonstrated you want to learn as much as you can about the career possibilities open to you. You’re not going to let others decide for you; you’re going to do the research, speak to the right people and make your own decisions.

Investigating industries, identifying roles that interest you, and getting realistic about your skills are all important aspects of the career planning process. This book peels back the corporate branding of key graduate employers to give you a window into their working life and what they offer. But don’t let this scare you; you’re still allowed to make mistakes! Switching jobs is always possible and career changes are common.

Beginning professional life is one of life’s most significant events, and career planning should be a fun and exciting process. To get started on your career journey, consider the following steps:

Step 1: Know yourself

When making decisions about your future, having a good idea about the type of job and career that will best suit your strengths and interests is important.

To help work this out, answer these questions:

  • What interests and motivates you? What do you care about?
  • What are you good at? What are your natural abilities?
  • What do you want from a job and an employer?
  • What is your personality type? How would others describe you?
  • What do you value?

Now think about the skills and strengths you have gained from your course, part-time or vacation work, volunteering, travel, sport, and other community and family activities, and make a list. The items that regularly appear – the ones you are good at and enjoy using – are likely to be your key skills.

Your personality will influence your career choice and job satisfaction. If you are naturally confident, you may prefer a job that offers lots of contact with others. If you are more reserved, an environment that focuses on information and tasks might suit you better.

Step 2: Explore your options

After identifying your strengths and interests, the next step is working out where you can put them to work. You might like to research:

  • Which careers involve your key skills
  • The current job market, including employers and opportunities
  • Where you can bridge the gap between the skills and experience you have now, and those you need to attain the career you want
  • The location of opportunities (city based, regional, interstate, international)
  • How and where you can get the information and resources you need
  • Whether your choices are realistic based on the information you have gathered.

For each option you’re considering, think about how it meets the criteria you identified in step one and then identify any conflicts. If you need more training or experience, now is the time to focus on finding opportunities to fill in the gaps.

Discuss your ideas with people who can be objective and supportive, including family and friends, staff at your university careers centre, lecturers in your area of study, employers at career fairs and recent graduates working in your industries of interest.

Image source: Aurora Project 


Step 3: Review decisions and make choices

Now it is time to link the employer options you uncovered with what fits you best. Be prepared to compromise.

For example, you may have two or three roles or industries that really interest you, but one might involve relocating to a new city or state, which you don’t want to do. If one of your immediate goals is to pay off your student debts, your decision might be based on which job offers a better salary. Or you may have your eyes set on a role that offers management responsibility quickly, but find that your actual work experience isn’t up to the appropriate level yet.

We live in a rapidly changing world. You should expect to change careers several times in your working life – jobs and areas that don’t even exist now could easily offer opportunities in the future. Steps you take now to develop skills and manage your career will help open new doors in the future.

Step 4: Take action

Create an action plan for your job search with clear timelines. This plan should include:

  • Researching your industry and potential employers to learn what they are looking for
  • Attending career expos and other employer-related events
  • Getting advice on the application and interview process
  • Finding out what you need to do and when (checking deadlines and how to apply)
  • Developing a good resume and practising how to write cover letters and applications
  • Networking.

Step 5: Get experience and develop skills 

You can build a base of work-related experience and develop your skills and knowledge in a number of ways. For example, through:

  • Work experience
  • Internships
  • Cadetships
  • Job shadowing
  • Joining student associations, clubs and sporting groups
  • Volunteering.

Work-related experience allows you to demonstrate you have the skills required to transition into a professional role. It also provides you with concrete examples of where you have applied your skills, which can help throughout the job application process. 

Three common career pitfalls 

  1. Getting stuck looking for the ‘perfect’ job – The type of job you are looking for will change over time. Prioritise what is most important to you right now.
  2. Fear of making the wrong decision – Even a ‘wrong’ decision will help clarify what you want and move you in the right direction.
  3. Making decisions to suit someone else – Focus on fulfilling your criteria, not someone else’s.