Start Early: Getting Involved at Uni & Career Planning

It’s very easy to just meander through three or four years at uni, just studying, working, hanging with your friends, and eating pizza. But what happens when you graduate and you find yourself competing against thousands of others for a job? Your success will ride a lot on the mix of your grades, your extracurricular history, and your previous work experience. Plus your ability to sell yourself – convincing those employers that based on said background, you are the surest bet.

This is where the handy offices of Student Enrichment and Careers can help you out. By getting involved in some of Student Enrichment’s various programs, and speaking with the experts behind the Career Hub, you can feel sure that even as a first year, you are taking the first steps needed – both in semester and through all those winter and summer breaks – to build your foundation base of skills. And as one lecturer always says – it’s not just about finding out what you like, but often finding out what you don’t like. It’s far better to find this out now through short term work experiences than once you are locked into a job you wish you weren’t.

Student Enrichment

There are a number of different programs designed to further your Employability Skills. These are the skills that employers look for in their potential staff, things like initiative, organisation, teamwork, communication, self-management and potential for leadership. Demonstrating on your CV and in your academic transcript that you have these skills not only gets you in the door to an interview, but also gives you practical experiences to refer to when you are in there trying to sell yourself to your dream job.

I have done almost everything that Student Enrichment offers (did you kind of see that coming?), and so believe me when I say they are a wonderful group of people offering fabulous and very rewarding services that you will talk about long past your uni degree. Also, do you recall my post about making friends on campus? Knowing so many people on campus largely comes from being involved in so many different programs. Here’s an overview of just some of the programs.

Connect Mentoring

Let’s start with the one you are most familiar with. Every first year student gets a Connect Mentor, someone who is doing your degree or something similar in your faculty, who remembers vividly what it was like being a first year student last year or the year before, and is happy to share their experiences with incoming first years like yourselves. They undergo an interview process to get selected and then training to make sure they provide the best possible service to you, even doing the same tour they took you on under the guidance of our Connect Mentor Leaders. Come Orientation, Connect Mentors start their connection with you via introductory emails and then meet you for your tour on Orientation Day. While your group becomes your first friends on campus, the Connect Mentor helps to facilitate that through facebook groups, on campus meetings and the like. Throughout the six-week program, they are there to answer all the questions you might have and where applicable, direct you on to the right services and staff on campus to help you with more complicated questions.

The Connect Mentor program is designed to create connections between existing students and incoming students, offering a rewarding experience to all involved, which in the process makes university a less daunting place and more a place you love to be. Mentors are volunteers, and their contributions are recognised with a La Trobe Award (see below), a certificate of participation and vouchers. They get the benefit of professional training and experience in leadership. Applications for the 2014 program will begin in semester 2, so watch out for posters around campus and visit the website for the application form and more information.

Infinity Leadership Program and Student Leadership Conference

Each February Student Enrichment holds the Student Leadership Conference (SLC). This can be taken as a one-day conference on its own, or as a two-day conference which precedes the Infinity Leadership Program (ILP).

For a small cost the SLC serves a day of professional development. Opened with a keynote speaker who draws on their experiences under a theme (this year was the Resilient Leader), the conference then offers a number of workshops in professional development run by community and corporate leaders. There is so much to be gained from this experience. Last year the Keynote Speaker was Christine Nixon and this year was Madeleine West. Both gave very powerful and interesting speeches on their experiences that got everyone talking. The workshops meanwhile, are so amazing that both years my friends and I have all been hard picked to choose as our most useful to attend, as they’ve all been useful! I still recall the workshops I did both years and think they have been so helpful in shaping my knowledge about careers and professional skills. I highly recommend the SLC to everyone.

As for ILP, this is a professional program designed to develop the leadership skills in its participants through a 6-month ‘leadership in action’ project. There is a formal application process and group interview that requires teamwork with other applicants to demonstrate your natural abilities. The program begins with an expanded, 2-day SLC conference, basically doing initial bonding activities with the other participants and developing our skills in teamwork, project management, timekeeping, public speaking and the like, before joining the SLC participants for the final conference day. For our ‘leadership in action’ project we are split into groups and provided a brief which we must put into action, via an event or process, that involves community engagement and promoting awareness.

All students in both programs are rewarded with a certificate of participation and ILP students are also eligible for the La Trobe Award in University Leadership.

La Trobe Award

Volunteering is a very rewarding way to build your skills in your chosen field, via summer/winter internships or ongoing commitments of a 2, 8 or 20 hours a week. Whatever time you have free, there is an organisation or opportunity out there who would value your help. La Trobe Award recognises this by offering Awards in Community Engagement (semester 1), Sustainability (semester 2) or, through ILP/Connect Mentoring and other club/society involvement, the Award in University Leadership (semester 1).

Any committee position you hold on a La Trobe or outside club or society may also be recognised for the La Trobe Award in Community Engagement or University Leadership.

Depending on the Award and the volunteering experience you are doing, you may need to attend some professional development training or write a reflective piece. All participants need to count their voluntary hours to meet the requirements of the Awards, and upload a logbook. When you exit the program, having achieved all the requisites, you will be presented with a certificate for your CV portfolio, and each Award (you can have more than one), will be listed on your academic transcript. Don’t forget you will also be able to use the practical experience and skills you gained both in your CV and as tangible evidence in interviews through your job search.

Careers

In addition to skill-building through Student Enrichment programs, the Careers office can offer you a number of ways to help you get the skills you need. Many of their services involve the actual job search itself.

  • Master-classes are short 1-hour workshops held on campus during lunchbreaks. They offer the expertise of one of the Careers staff in topics like Job Interview Skills, Key Selection Criteria or Mock Assessment Centre training. They also hold faculty-specific events designed to get students career ready. Powerpoint slides are released after the event, so you can save and refer back to them when you need them.
  • Career Mentoring is an ongoing program available to students after first year, matching students with industry professionals who can guide students with advice through a series of meetings. There are two options depending on your availability, one that meets in a group for those who are very busy, and one that meets one-on-one more often for those with more free time.
  • Work Ready Skills subject is an online subject designed to take you through the process of planning your career, seeking advice from industry professionals, and “analysing the likely impact of social, demographic, technological, occupational and industrial trends on your career development”. You basically look at the realities of the future in your career and use that to tailor your academic studies and career training, while fine-tuning your CV and key selection criteria-writing skills. I did it last year and I found it really helpful; even with a clear idea of my career, I still got so much out of it and developed my job-searching skills in ways I hadn’t considered before.
  • Career Ready Program is like a shorter version of the Work Ready Skills subject. Instead of doing it as a subject, you can do selected bits as either online or seminar modules with guest speakers. You get a certificate of completion for your efforts.
  • Career Hub is a log-in program that gives you direct access to jobs and internships in Melbourne, nationally and internationally. These jobs are specifically seeking students and offer you the chance to develop your career through practical experience. Of course, they also offer jobs in babysitting, tutoring and hospitality – the standard student market – so if you are looking for any sort of job, make sure you stop here and take a look. You can save your favourites for later reference as well as it is your own personal site.

In addition the Careers office has a wealth of resources on offer in the waiting area, and offer appointments and a drop-in service to help you either plan your career, fine-tune your CV or job application, or just get advice. I recommend you use the different resources to your advantage and get some extra advice while you are still in first year. Trust me – as a third year – the earlier you start building experience the better you will be when you reach third year and you start applying for graduate jobs and grad programs, as you will have background experience guiding you toward your interests. Remember that lecturer – you want to find out what you don’t like as much as what you like! I know I’m not the only one in this position right now who wishes they had done a bit more back in first and second year.

The Student Enrichment office can be found at Peribolos East, ground floor between Equality & Diversity Centre, and David Myers Building East. It also is the base for the Careers staff.

Remember the links: from the Current Students page scroll down to ‘Get Involved’ for Student Enrichment, Career Development Centre for Careers, and the top right quicklink for Career Hub.

Good luck! – Bec.

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