Good career planning starts with knowing yourself, exploring options, making decisions and taking action.
Career development begins with self-awareness, understanding your skills, motivations, interests and values, and making informed choices about what career suits you. A 'good fit' career makes use of both your interests and strengths, and is consistent with your work values.
- Before launching into assessments, do a personal stock take of what you already know about yourself, clarifying your interests, strengths and values.
- If you find that you haven't got a clear picture of all aspects, try some self-assessment activities to deepen your understanding.
Exploring your options
Get closer to the career you want by researching your options:
- Understand the pathways from your course. Check what your faculty website says about options for graduates, including further study and employment
- Look at Career Links for information about careers related to your major
- Talk to people who work in a field of interest by conducting some career research interviews
- Use LinkedIn to see what Alumni are doing
- Attend careers events and industry presentations
- Do work experience that can give exposure to possible careers
- Explore graduate study options at the University of Melbourne and elsewhere in Australia - graduate courses are generally vocational so courses relate to specific careers
- Adult Directions - an interactive tool that helps students make decisions about their career direction and includes a series of questionnaires about your work preferences, skills and interests. We recommend that students speak to our staff about the results generated by Adult Directions. It takes about 30 minutes to complete. Registration and log in details are available at Careers Online FAQs - unimelb username and password required.
- Careers and Jobs Lib Guide - find books and databases related to your discipline for career planning, research employers and industries, job hunting and applications.
- MyFuture - a website that includes a career exploration tool that enables you to build a profile based on your interests and education and training. You can browse occupations and industries and access career insight content.
- Job Outlook - a careers and labour market research information site to help you decide on your future career.
- GoinGlobal - explore 40 country career guides including labour market and job search information, how to volunteer and job listings. Visit Careers Online FAQ for log in information - unimelb username and password required
Career research interviewing
You might talk to a range of people involved in a field of interest - employers, academic staff, alumni and professional association representatives. Career Research Interviewing can be used in a number of ways:
- to find out about options within a field or industry
- to ‘reality check’ a particular occupation
- to get practical advice
The idea is to contact someone in industry and arrange to interview them. Try to talk to a range of people – if you do just one interview, you run the risk of getting a biased view.
- A career research interview is not a job interview; the aim is to gather careers information, so refer to the interview as ‘career research’.
- Ask to meet in person, preferably in the workplace.
- Make an specific appointment for a short period of time. Suggest a period of time – for example, 15-20 minutes.
- Plan your interview – do plenty of research and think about what you really want to know (and can’t find out elsewhere).
- Dress and conduct yourself professionally – think of it as a business appointment.
- Bring along your resume – it may be appropriate to offer.
- Aim to leave with a referral to someone else you can approach.
Finding people to interview
- Use your network to get suggestions – ask friends, family, work colleagues, lecturer
- Contact the relevant professional association and ask for industry contacts.
- Research organisations online (eg using LinkedIn, Yellow Pages) and approach in person, via telephone or email.
Your approach can be by phone, email or in person. The choice will depend on factors such as size of the organisation, the culture of the industry and what you are comfortable with.
- Always be polite, prepared and purposeful.
- Aim for a discussion with the employer about possibilities rather than directly asking for a job - this may appear aggressive and can make people uncomfortable.
- Make an initial call to find out whom you should direct your enquiry to.
- Think about what you are going to say and the best way to say it before you make contact.
- Think about a connection to the employer that you can use in your introduction, eg read about them, heard about them, heard them speak, read an article etc
- prepare and practice your introduction - be clear, brief and engaging
- be prepared to talk about why you have contacted the organisation and what you have to offer
- give the option of making a more convenient time to talk.
- think through how you might handle any resistance (eg, I don't have time to talk, they are not available now etc)
- need to be focused and attention grabbing
- should be brief
- indicate that you will be contacting later by phone (in a few days perhaps) to talk further - ideally try to make a time to meet in person
There is no way that you can predict the future with certainty, and what seems like a good choice today could be unsatisfactory tomorrow.
The importance of thinking about how you make decisions, ways of overcoming decision-making blocks, and how to make choices using a rational model are critical.
You should begin by asking yourself how you've made decisions that worked well for you.
Having thought about a simple decision, ask yourself:
- Do I approach major decisions in a similar way?
- Would making a major decision be easier for me if I learnt a little about another style?
Step 1: Identify decision-making blocks
A ‘block’ to decision-making is something that prevents you from making an effective decision.
- There is only one ‘right’ decision.
- You have only one chance, that if you get it wrong now you’ll be doomed to work that is not rewarding. In fact, if you do land somewhere that is less than satisfying, you can still build your skills while you’re there, and this will help you to move on. You are always in control of your own career and if it’s not satisfying, then you have a chance to change it.
- Options are mutually exclusive: People tackle dilemmas like this in many ways, for example by pursuing some interests outside of work, finding an occupation that incorporates several interests, undertaking one area of work in another industry (such as being an accountant in the entertainment industry), or fulfilling different interests at different stages of life.
- You just can’t bring yourself to act although the decision looks ‘rational’. In this case you could be pursuing something that is no longer right for you, but that you have committed a lot of energy to in the past. Alternatively, someone else may have over-influenced your goals. A strategy here is to re-evaluate where you are going, to look for strengths and skills you have developed to this point and assess how you can transfer these skills to a new area.
- Lack of belief in your own ability: Have you realistically evaluated your skills and abilities against those expected of a new employee in this field? Can you think of an occasion in the past where you adjusted to a new situation or task more easily than you expected?
Many more blocks can hinder effective decision-making. Recognising that they exist is the first step to getting past them.
Step 2: Making your choice - the rational model
The rational decision-making model is one way of deciding between alternatives. It involves weighing up the positives and negatives of your options:
- draw up a sheet of paper describing each of your options
- list the possible outcomes on all the dimensions that are important to you
- include the long-term as well as the short-term consequences plus any impact that a particular option would have on your health, relationships with friends and family members.
Some of the items you consider might include the hours you’ll work or study, your income, geographic location, promotional opportunities, personal enjoyment and the work or study environment. Ultimately you are looking for the option that has the most positive benefits for you and the smallest number of unresolvable negatives.
Step 3: Take action
No decision is really made until you start taking action to make it work. Remember that you always hold the power to change what is not working well for you and to improve those things that are working well.
Consider developing a career action plan that includes key elements of your self-assessment, articulating your short-term career objective and the strategies you need to make this happen. Talk to a careers consultant for guidance and career action plan templates.