When is the Right Time to Start Thinking About your Career?

By Alex Hargreaves

This question occurred to me a few times as a student, but each time I shrugged it off and thought ‘probably too soon’ until I graduated.  I always had different part time jobs when I was studying, until towards the end of my degree, when I had a full time job.  I thought that I need not bother looking at different career options in my final year because I already had a job that paid the bills and that would buy me time to figure out what it was that I really wanted to do.  Unfortunately, this way of thinking hindered me from applying for many really great opportunities that I could have tried for at the beginning of my final year.  I am very happy where I ended up, but I have no idea what opportunities I passed on simply because I didn’t know about them.  The reality is, the time to start thinking about your career is: the moment you start University!

When is the right time to start thinking about your career

Just as it is problematic to rely on the job you have at university to be the answer to all of your career search anxieties, it is also problematic to apply closed minded thinking to your future career. Even if you may have been dreaming about working in a certain company or in a certain position since you left high school, it doesn’t mean that you should reject every other opportunity that comes your way.  When the time comes when you really need to get a job, your dream job may not be the first one you walk into.  It is important to be able to embrace different career ideas throughout every stage of your degree.

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Here is a simple step by step guide that you can apply to help you start thinking about your career from 1st – final year!

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First Year:

  • Search for your program in the degree finder section on the home page of the Griffith homepage. Have a look in the opportunities tab. If any of the career options appeal to you, do some research about them. If all of them sound awful, remember that in some cases this list can be very limited and that most undergraduate degrees can be the stepping stone into a very extensive list of careers.
  • Interview people you already know about their careers. This is called ‘informational interviewing‘.  Ask yourself  whether any aspects of their careers sound appealing to you.
  • Attend careers events at your university and learn more about different organizations.
  • Have a look at our Careers and Employment resume templates and research tips on how to write/improve your resume.
  • Sign up for Unitemps. Unitemps is Griffith’s internal recruitment agency helping to place students into casual, part-time and full-time graduate employment.
  • Write down a list of your passions,  skills that you are good at, skills that you could improve on and careers that have always interested you.  It’s a good idea to figure these things out early in your studies, so that you can choose subjects which are a good match to your already developed skills and interests.

Second Year:

  • By now, you will have done one year’s worth of subjects. Ask yourself which of those subjects you found most enjoyable, and why.  Identify which subjects you were particularly good at.
  • Research Summer Vacation Programs and opening and close dates. Summer Vacation Programs are internships that you can undertake during your end of year summer vacation.  They are an awesome way to gain (usually) paid work experience and get a taste of what it’s like to work in an organization.  If you did well in your Summer Internship, you may be asked back for the Graduate Program!
  • If you don’t already have one, begin applying for casual/part-time jobs to gain some work experience
  • Similarly, volunteering is also a great way to gain work experience! Apply to volunteer for a not for profit organization that reflects your values or has a position relevant to your degree.

Third/Final Year:

  • Update your CV to begin applying for professional graduate roles. Your part-time job resume will be vastly different to the resume you need to apply for full time graduate roles.  You can find information on how to develop your professional graduate resume here.
  • Research Graduate Programs in your field and begin applying for programs/roles that interest you. Graduate Programs are programs (1-3 years) which introduce fresh university students to working with the organization.
  • Attend professional networking events within your field. You can find these by keeping up to date with Careerboard and doing a Google search to find events that organizations you want to work for are hosting.
  • If you still have absolutely no idea what you want to do and need help figuring it out, speak with a Career Development Officer. You can make an appointment here.

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While it is convenient to know what you want to do in your second or final year and be able to work towards that goal, keep in mind that your first job isn’t set in stone.  You can try something out for a while after you graduate and if you find that it’s not the direction you want your career to continue travelling in, you can look for other opportunities within your company. You can speak to your employer about changing roles, developing your skills or flexible working arrangements.  You might be working in the wrong job but the right company with the right job right under your nose.  After doing some exploration, if you still feel that it’s not the right fit, then it might be time to re-evaluate and start researching new working environments.  There are always options, but it’s never too early to start thinking about yours.



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