How to challenge the way you look at your career

One thing we’re taught in school is that if you work hard in your studies, and do well in your tertiary studies you’ll be able to get a good job. That might still have been true when our parents were at school, but not any more

In 2015, The Foundation of Young Australians found the average time between leaving full-time education and entering full-time work was 4.7 years, up from 1 year in 1986.

Universities are producing more graduates than ever before. International education is also a huge market for them (it’s also Australia’s 3rd biggest economic export). When you combine those things, you have the recipe for a huge amount of competition for jobs. In order to actually get an industry job, it’s important to challenge your own thinking. Here are some challenges to what you might be thinking about your own career.

Don’t just apply for the jobs you’ve always wanted

Be open opportunity and don’t restrict your desired job areas to only a small selection.

If you limit your options on the jobs you seek or the opportunities you’re open to, you just make things harder. There are so many graduates of all sorts of disciplines being produced. Not only from your university but throughout Australia, and even more globally. The most important thing you can do is to be open about roles you think are relevant to your career.

Your long term goals to be a certain kind of professional are important, so keep that goal. Also consider and get closer to that that by being flexible, you’ll make it easier for yourself to take the first step.

Get clear on the unique value you can add

What can you do that most others like you can’t do?

In a previous career of mine, I worked in IT, I was one of the technical people who could fix your IT and make it work really well. That skillet wasn’t all that special, there are plenty of other technical people who could do that too

I was very good at helping people become less confused about their IT, this helped them confidently make decisions about their IT. This was something they needed me for because many technical people had (and many still do) poor communication skills.

What made me unique was my communication skills within that IT specialist environment.

It was easy for me to stand out, because I had an important skill that most of my peers didn’t see as being important. Any time we had a customer who had an IT problem they were confused or frustrated by, I would be sent in to help. I was never the strongest technical person there, I just communicated better than most technical people.

Communication skills was the real value I added in my IT career.

My unique value took me several years to really refine and help me stand out. If you start reflecting on yours now, you will be able to stand out when applying and in future jobs. Marketing students will recognise what’s going on here, as this is a key way to enhance your personal brand by becoming clear on your unique value proposition.

Jobs you will work in don’t exist yet, learn to see them before others do

Looking for how people take value from your skills will help you see the jobs of the future.

If you find yourself enjoying and being good in a particular area, whether that area has a job title or is something your school said is a worthy job, is irrelevant. Most of the jobs we have now didn’t exist several years ago, thanks to technology, this trend will probably accelerate. Being aware of the professional environment around you. Understand the small changes in how others rely on you and your industry can give you a long term competitive advantage. This is important because you’ll be able to see and pick up opportunities before others realise what’s even happened. Look out for ways these particular areas come into your industry. It will help you not only find a career that you love, but a career that you’ll excel at.

Take your time

You might not have all the clear answers on what kind of professional you are and how to position yourself right now. That’s perfectly OK, in fact if you thought you knew them perfectly, you’d probably be kidding yourself. These things will always change and you need to evolve the kind of professional you’re aiming to portray to others.

Ask people who know you, that don’t know much about the specifics of your career to identify the value they think you add. Make sure you ask widely, and remember that when asking friends and family, they have favour towards you that the big bad world out there does not.