Building your dream career — my experience.

I was the first in my family to go to university. This was a big deal for us.

I worked hard in school, got good grades and then studied law, economics and financial planning for 6-years. While studying, I worked in big-banks and investment firms. Everything I thought I was meant to do, I did.

My parents thought this would let me walk into any job I wanted.

After all “not everyone has a law degree.”

What they (/I) didn’t know was that each year approximately 15,000 law students graduate into a labour market comprised of just 66,000 solicitors. The supply of graduates far outweighed demand. As an example, the top-tier firms generally recruit graduate positions directly from their internship pool. The thing is, these summer internships only offer 4–6 clerk positions, but receive over 600-applications. Statistically, that means only 1% of these students have a chance of interning with that top-tier firm. Even if figures have improved — and prospects are better — it still paints a grim picture.

If my parents went to university, their education would have been free (1970–80’s). Job prospects for skilled graduates were amazing and top-tier firms actually went to universities to recruit from campus directly. My parents belief for job prospects were shaped by the realities of their time.

I think this influences the expectations of many young people today. Times have changed and the labour market continues to change. Our generation is in the middle of a shift to automation, digitalisation and technology dependency at a scale and pace never seen before. This shift is influencing the hiring needs of companies, which are being reformulated to leaner, more agile businesses that can hire on-demand or as required. In fact, in the past decade the number of full-time roles has been declining steadily, while part-time hires has risen to 31.9%. The rise in part-time, rather than full-time hires is starting to create an underemployment problem — where people are in work, but want more of it. This also slows wage growth because of an oversupply of workers willing to take-up additional hours of employment.

What does this mean for you?

This is the labour market that graduates are entering. Unlike previous generations, we need to be more creative in how we build our career — perhaps by patching together short-term jobs, or part-time roles to create a full-time equivalent. The way I look at it is like a freelancer: we need to build a pipeline of projects, complete them, build our portfolio and use this to secure the full-time role we want; or use them to build our own business.

The point I want to emphasise is that getting a graduate job that is meaningful, relevant and aligns with your career interests can be very hard! ‘Can be,’ unless you understand the new labour market — a ‘gig-economy’ filled with short-term jobs, and how to take advantage of it. The secret sauce is work experience and knowing how to get it. Generally speaking, it won’t be with the big, top-tier companies. They have an abundance of tertiary talent on tap and formal intakes that only occur twice a year.

It is significantly easier to get work experience with small-medium businesses. Small-businesses account for 44.0 per cent of total employment, medium sized businesses for 24.3 per cent and large businesses for 31.7 per cent (ABS, 2015)
The needs of small-medium businesses are ad-hoc, they have less employees (than big-businesses) and therefore, need additional support to solve new challenges and improve the productivity of their businesses.
Think of the difference that access to a data-scientist, social media manager, web-designer or accountant could have on a small-medium business (if they were more affordable). Yet S-MB’s have access to the same, or similar talent by employing a university student in these fields at a much lower cost.

Some lessons learned….

  1. Be strategic about the type of skills and experiences you need.

I had full-time work experience, with a reputable company, in the same industry that I was applying for. Despite this, the role I had was different to the role I was applying for and required different skill sets. If I was put head-to-head with someone who interned in that area, they came out on top. Even if I had more professional experience then them — they had proof that they could complete the exact set of tasks necessary to do the job well. It’s not just a matter of getting experience, you need to get the right experience.

2. Re-writing your resume won’t get you the job

I submitted hundreds of tailored resume’s and spent time researching each specific company. I tried different formats, styles, and called every contact I had. I subscribed to linkedin premium, messaged recruiters and hiring managers directly…all with little success. No matter how many times you re-write your resume, or what the self-help articles tell you, there is ultimately only one question that matters: how can the recruiter validate your capabilities? In order, these are: identical work experience → similar work experience → qualified referrals → academic results and aptitude testing.

3. Don’t doubt your capabilities

It can be an extremely daunting thing to think that your investment in education won’t be rewarded with the job you really want, or at any job at all. When I didn’t make the cut for the graduate position I wanted, it felt crushing. What was it all for? What will I end up doing?

Eventually, I landed a job with the company that I wanted to work for, but it was outside of their graduate program. There are always different ways to get to where you want to go. If you miss the graduate intake, apply outside of that role within the same or a similar company. Once you’re in, make the most of training and development and use it to switch to the role you want.

Summary

If I could go back in time, this is what I’d tell myself:

  • Employers need to validate your skill. You need to get real-world experience, completing tasks that demonstrate your capability. If you have experience, but it’s not relevant — it won’t get you the job.
  • It’s much harder to find this experience through mainstream internships, particularly those with top-tier firms. It’s much easier to work with small-medium business on ad-hoc projects, which also have less red-tape. The ‘big-job’ can come later, once you have built your portfolio.
  • The Australian labour market is shifting to part-time work. Businesses are becoming more agile, more diverse and more flexible. Automation is also positioned to make a number of roles redundant. Particularly rule-based tasks found in accounting, legal, financial and engineering roles.
  • Universities won’t teach you the all the skills you need in practice. The labour-market changes too quickly and their content doesn’t adapt. Market yourself like a business and sell your skills like a product. If your product doesn’t sell, find some new ones that the market will pay for.

I have spent the past two-years analysing the labour market and building a platform to connect university students with the opportunities they need to build their dream career. A network of small-medium businesses and talented students & graduates that want to achieve amazing things. I can help you get work experience, your dream job, or build your own company. Believe me when I say I know your struggle, I’ve been there, I know the frustration and, in retrospect, I know what to do differently to get ahead.

If you have a question, need some advice or want work experience — get in touch today. I will do everything I can to help you build your dream career.

Thanks for reading! To get in touch, register your interest by clicking the link below, or email me at: support@gradwork.com.au

Ryan — recruitment advocate.

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