How early is too early to start thinking about your career?

Imagine you’ve just finished your degree and have managed to score an interview for your dream job. You now have the tertiary qualification, and because of this, you know you’re a much stronger candidate for the position than someone without one. Now, imagine you’re sitting in the waiting room with the five other candidates ready to be interviewed, and after some brief chatter, you realise every single one of these other people have the exact same qualification you do. You soon find out they have also completed work experience at several other companies, volunteered for university clubs, they also interact with industry professionals on LinkedIn and frequently attend events to network with others in the local area.

It’s no secret that having a degree can automatically enhance your employability, but for a lot of jobs, this is only one of many basic requirements. By getting involved with clubs, attending industry events and developing your skill set beyond your studies, you’ll put yourself miles ahead of others in your position.

But don’t leave all of this until your last year. The sooner you get started, the fuller your resume will be after all! Here are four things you should be doing alongside your studies to ensure you’re the best candidate for the job:

  1. Set Goals

Whilst you are studying at university, it’s important to know why you have chosen the degree you are doing. Is it a stepping-stone to further study, or a way to ensure you have the qualification needed for a certain job? You don’t need to pin down the exact position you want in the exact company you want to work for, but you should have an idea of the general industry you want to work in. Once you’ve done this, the next step is to create both short and long term goals to make this happen.

For example, if you are a business student, your long-term goal may be to own and manage a number of profitable clothing stores across the state. However, just because you have a business degree does not guarantee success alone. It’s working on short-term goals like undertaking work experience, getting advice/feedback from industry professionals and networking on a daily basis alongside your studies that will truly maximise your chances.

According to Employability Consultant at the University, Nicola Evans, the key to success is a building a mix of technical and transferable skills.

“The Foundation for Young Australians analysed big data to definitively uncover what employers want. The report found employers ask for transferable skills as often as technical skills and the demand for transferable skills has been rising over time,” she explained. “This doesn’t mean you should forget about your technical skills, rather build your employability by complementing your technical skills with great transferable skills.”

  1. Be Resume Ready

Your resume should be a concise summary of your qualifications, work history and achievements relevant to the job you wish to apply for. It should include your personal contact details, a summary of any work experience or qualifications in a particular field and at least one referee.

Nicola says by starting your resume early, you can start to work out what areas you need to enhance in the future.

“This is all about increasing your employability. Do a personal skills audit and work out what skills and attributes you want to develop. Then it is just a matter of getting involved. Participate in extra-curricular programs such as iLEADPlus, seek vacation work opportunities, undertake a placement elective, become a student member of a relevant professional association, [and] attend networking events,” she said.

For specific assistance with your résumé or applying for jobs, you should take full advantage of the University’s Careers and Student Development team. Whether you’re a current student or recent graduate, you can drop in for a one-on-one, 10-minute consultation (known as Careers Express) with a careers advisor who can help you with résumé and application advice, interview preparation, job search strategies and discussing career options for you. If you need a longer appointment, you can be referred on to a Careers Consultant via Careers Express. All the information you need to know on when and where these services are available at your campus can be found here.

  1. Network

Knowing how to grow a network and gain professional connections in your desired industry is vital in boosting your employability. By attending career expos, industry events and using professional networking sites like LinkedIn, you’ll give yourself the best opportunity to introduce yourself to prospective employers who you form professional relationships that may even lead to job opportunities. If you’re able to sustain a successful relationship with these people, you can gain some really invaluable industry insight and even a potential reference for your résumé.

Networking may seem challenging but it doesn’t have to be. Just by volunteering with an organisation, you’re building industry connections. Content Contributor for the University of Newcastle, Sarah James, started off just by volunteering as a writer for Yak Media. Since then she has performed a number of different writing jobs at the University.

“After twelve months of volunteering and asking people to be interviewees, eventually they start to recognise your face and get a feel for your work ethic. Volunteering with Yak Media ended up leading to so many opportunities which wouldn’t have come up otherwise,” she said.

There are heaps of volunteering opportunities on campus – make sure to check them out.

  1. Get Involved

While you gain great knowledge and experiences from completing courses in your degree, there is nothing more valuable in developing your skill set than putting this knowledge and experience into action.

Basically, just having a degree isn’t enough.

“Every year thousands of graduates compete for jobs, it is important that Uni of Newcastle students stand out from the crowd,” Nicola said. “Employers look for well-rounded candidates, who in addition to their university qualifications have a range of other skills. Employability skills such as communication, team work and critical thinking are highly valued across all industries.”

By getting involved with a club or society, participating in extracurricular activities, maintaining a part-time job or sending out emails to businesses asking for work experience, you will demonstrate to future employers that you are a versatile and driven individual who is willing to go the extra mile. Employers want workers who can show they have interests outside their field of interest, interact well with others and are determined to learn and develop skills outside of formal education. If you can manage to balance all of this throughout your studies, you will automatically boost your future career prospects.

Whether you’re in your first or last year of study at the University of Newcastle, it’s never too early to start thinking about your future career. As well as having the degree, you need to prove to employers you have the skills, experience and drive that makes you the single best person for the job.

Being at university is not only about attending lectures and tutorials and passing courses to get your degree, it’s a perfect opportunity to continually work on all of these other things and ensure your future career will be a total success.

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