What’s a career?

I’m sitting at my deskCAREER-MAP considering what type of blog post students would want to read right now. Commentary on the budget? How to get a job? Will I ever get that break?

For 5 ½ months, I’ve worked in Careers and Employment and learnt an incredible amount from those around me. Lately, I’ve considered what it means to develop and define your career. Is a career something you realise at a young age and do anything to achieve? Or do you experience a life bulb moment and suddenly realise you knew all along? What about the culmination of your experiences? Working in Careers and Employment, I’ve learnt there is no set answer. The cliché is true: each person will go through a different experience.

Personally, I didn’t know where I would end up. In September 2006, I graduated with a Bachelor of Communication but it took me another year to find the courage to leave the comfort zone of my retail position. After endless hours, months and years studying to achieve my testamur, I realised I was where I started three years before. I really didn’t know what to do with my degree or whether I would even get a job working in my field. Somewhere along the way, I lost confidence in myself and my abilities. One day, my situation came to a head with my manager again telling me I wasn’t good enough. I suddenly thought I am worth more than this. When I left retail, I was fortunate enough to still live at home but I still didn’t know what I was going to do. After being turned down for a role, I got an unexpected call from a manager at Griffith University and it morphed into a phone interview. The next day I flew back to Brisbane, did a one day trial and my affiliation with Griffith University began.

It took me time to get a break. When you are looking for work and not hearing back from employers, it’s sometimes hard to keep your spirits up. You wonder why you keep hearing the word no. With the Federal budget revealed this week, it will spell greater difficulties for students to find employment during and after uni. Where do you start? At 18 and starting out at uni, do you really think about your career? The answer is yes and no. In one of my uni roles, I spent time talking to parents and students about what they wanted to do. Often parents would clearly articulate the degree they believed their children should take but when I really looked at that high school student, I was regularly met by a blank stare. And that’s okay. You don’t need to know what you want to do right now. And that’s not only for high school students. I’ve met many people who have experienced several careers and many are still trying to figure it out. I’ve been that person many, many times before. I’ve looked for my inspiration everywhere. Sometimes I succeeded, other times I used blind faith. If we now need to work until 70, we will be probably all wear many different career hats / attempt many different careers.

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We can’t deny it’s a tough job market out there but do we keep digging, being persistent and keep at it, no matter what? Or do we put our heads down in defeat? I’ve done both. I’ve lodged numerous applications for roles I desperately wanted but I got used to receiving the standard answer of “after careful consideration we regret to advise that you have been unsuccessful”. After receiving these responses, it became hard to keep the motivation and momentum going. I felt stuck. Disappointed. Depleted. I kept thinking, “What is it I’m doing that is so wrong?”

Regardless of age and experience, we all face moments of uncertainty in the job hunt. The most valuable lesson I’ve learnt in my time at Careers and Employment is that our team is always here to keep you going. As I’ve gotten to know them I’ve listened to how their own experiences / careers began and how they progressed to where they are now. No story is the same. It really reminded me that everyone needed to start somewhere. Our team provides invaluable advice and experience to Griffith University students and it can just take one person to give you a little courage and belief to make all the difference in your job search. One boss told me, “learn everything you can and be a sponge”. In my next role, I spent five years implementing this advice and it became my apprenticeship in which I learned how to use my degree.

Over the years, I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to be part of students’ lives and watch them as they progress from first year to graduation and beyond. In my current role, I am trying to find ways to communicate with as many students as I can and let them about how much is happening behind the office walls. The team is truly passionate and want to provide their knowledge and advice on career related matters.

Yesterday morning, I was fortunate to attend the Griffith University Student Accounting Association Corporate breakfast. Engaged and passionate students organised a highly professional event and recruited industry speakers to provide invaluable advice on starting their own accounting careers. It was also wonderful to see two recent Griffith graduates amongst the speakers. It again reminded me how we are all in different stages of our lives. I spoke to students who are commencing their Master of Accounting; another is looking for work experience in an accounting firm and another is just starting out at uni. There are so many wonderful student initiatives happening across all campuses and I really wish I could attend and get the word out about every activity and event.

So what does the word ‘career’ mean to you? In my experience, it’s really getting the chance to do something I am excited and passionate about although it has taken a long time to get there. I’ve done lots of things which would not be defined as my dream role but I did them anyway. I worked in retail for ten years and whilst it may not be the most glamorous or highly paid role, it provided me with skills and experiences I utilise every day. In my administrative role, I opened the mail for six months but it helped me to learn how that business worked. My ideal is waking up and getting to pursue passion with a purpose. So whether you are a first year student, someone who is navigating a career change or gearing up for graduation, remember that each of us need to start somewhere. There is really great help around at uni; sometimes you just need to ask.

 



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