Careers website a two-way street
by Vincent Ciccarello
The pathway from university student to working professional is not the same for everyone.
Some employers value past work experience over an impeccable record of community service; others may want to see a candidate’s willingness to take on further study; and others still may value life experience above all else.
It’s a case of horses for courses. But how do undergraduates, wanting to get from here to there, find out the best way to do that?
UniSA’s Division of Business is helping its current students to unravel the career pathway mystery with a new Career Advice website.
Students can get firsthand information about job types, career pathways and employment tips via extensive online profiles of more than 65 alumni of UniSA programs ranging from applied finance and marketing to tourism and hospitality management.
Careers project officer in the Division of Business, Jo Slade says students gain much more than just invaluable insights into the day-to-day aspects of a job.
"Each profile gives details of the graduate’s own career pathway, the nature of the job they’re currently in, as well as numerous links to businesses in the relevant industry sector," she says.
"And students have the opportunity to post questions to alumni on discussion boards. It’s the kind of information and interaction that’s otherwise very difficult to find."
Slade adds that a number of students have already forged working relationships with the alumni.
"We’ve found the Career Advice website is a powerful networking opportunity – for the students seeking to improve their career prospects and for graduates wanting to develop professionally.
"We want to encourage students to take advantage of this excellent careers resource. And we’d welcome alumni to take part in a fun, positive opportunity to extend their own professional networks."
Sam’s road less travelled
Commercial Law graduate Sam Knight understands the dilemma facing most school-leavers.
"When you finish school and you’re 18 years old, it’s very hard to know what you want to do. Initially, I thought I might like to be accountant and go down that road," he says.
Sam took a different path to his current position as a pre-admission graduate with Thomson Playford lawyers. After consulting friends and family members about the day-to-day aspects of their own jobs, he enrolled in a Bachelor of Business (Commercial Law)/Bachelor of Commerce double degree at UniSA, eventually deciding to focus on commercial law.
"I realised that I really loved law and wanted to do more of it," he says.
During the UniSA program, Sam worked in small offices ("answering phones, doing accounts and general admin") as a way to earn some money and to get practical office experience.
A career as a lawyer beckoned and, as it was prior to the launch of UniSA’s Law School, Sam enrolled in law at another institution. He applied for and won a law clerk position at Fisher Jeffries, where he worked for three years before moving to Thomson Playford’s corporate law area.
"This is where I’ve been aiming to get over the past few years. Now I’m getting experience in general corporate work and specifically mergers and acquisitions, which involves reviewing contracts, reviewing constitutions and giving general advice," he says.
Before becoming a commercial law alumni member, Sam gave talks to future commercial law students, some of whom knew little about commercial law before they applied.
"I explain how useful commercial law is, how it helped me get a job, reasons why they should do the degree, or if it was for them. I’ve done that for a few years and students ring me, asking about my experiences.
"I feel I’m doing something that is really helpful."
He has found being a Career Advice alumnus equally rewarding, and he encourages other UniSA business graduates to get involved.
"It’s good not only because it helps younger people but it also
helps your personal and professional development. It is a great
opportunity to network with other alumni from other disciplines. It
also looks good on your résumé and it’s also a bit of fun,"
Holly’s happy networking
Making use of the Career Advice website is already paying off for second-year Bachelor of Sport and Recreation Management student, Holly Thompson.
In April, at the very first Career Advice event, Holly met Phil Freeman, manager of Asset Management and Development in the Office for Recreation & Sport.
"Phil is a graduate of the program I’m doing now,"
"I had a 30 minute talk with him about what he does and what I want to do and it matches up reasonably well."
The conversation revealed some common acquaintances and interests, and led to further contact.
"A few days later, I put a notice up for Phil on the website discussion board, saying it was great to meet you, how I’d enjoyed our chat, and that I would love to know if there are any possibilities for work experience, voluntary or otherwise," she says.
"Phil now has my résumé and a covering letter, and is exploring what opportunities might be available."
Holly, who is a program student representative, plans to do further study with a view to a career shaping sports policy in Australia. She is making the most of the Career Advice website.
"I’ve even looked at the profiles of alumni from programs other than sport and recreation management – ‘this is how I got into what I wanted to do, this is my advice for students’. It’s all very useful advice, especially for students who may have little experience in their chosen field," she says.
"If we can spread the word about the Career Advice website, then hopefully it will provide students with more practicum, volunteer and work experience opportunities."
As Holly points out, the service is a two-way street.
"Sport and recreation, for example, basically survives on volunteer work, so hopefully the alumni can put us to good use – and, through them, we can gain valuable experience."