Have you figured out what you want to do with your life when you finish school?

Let’s be honest — that’s a hard question to answer. In fact, it’s even harder to know when 60% of young Australians are studying and training for jobs that won’t exist in 20 years.

Making a decision about where you want your career to go is not easy, especially when one in three university graduates in Australia have difficulty securing a full-time job. So, how do you pick a career path that’s actually going to future-proof you?

In this video, we delve into five principles that you can use to make help you choose a career path. Let’s get into it!

Principle #1: Focus on Breadth rather than Vocational Specificity
Principle #2: Orientate Yourself Towards Your Interests
Principle #3: Experiment and Explore
Principle #4: Run a Parallel Pathway
Principle #5: Do Some Research

Principle #1: Focus on Breadth rather than Vocational Specificity

What does this mean? The point here is that if 60% of people are training and studying for jobs that will no longer exist in the future, you can run a really big risk if you pick a very, very specific degree or study pathway when you finish school.

What if you train for a specific career that by the time you graduate, that career is no longer actually in demand? If you make a choice that’s narrowly focused on a career, when you come out of that degree, first of all, you’ve actually got a limited range of options.

Furthermore, given the statistics show that you’re going to have 17 different jobs over five different careers and industries, it means that you actually need greater flexibility rather than a focus in a specific area. If you optimise now for a very specific degree, you’re going to finish and maybe not have that degree of flexibility that you’re going to need.

Secondly, the job market has changed so much that the degree you chose, thinking it was all the rage, will no longer be in demand by the time you enter the workforce. So, look at broad degrees that will actually enable you to go in and build a breadth of skills — when you graduate, you’re going to be more resilient and flexible in our ever-changing job market.

Principle #2: Orientate Yourself Towards Your Interests

The best thing that you can do right now is to actually move in the direction of things that interest you. Completing a university degree that interests you will inevitably make you more interested in your subjects and therefore, you will be more committed to completing your degree.

This commitment means that you’re going to have some greater flexibility when entering the workforce, as you will hopefully demonstrate to your potential employers your passion and dedication towards your career pathway. 

Principle #3: Experiment and Explore

In all honesty, right now, if you’re 16, 17, or 18, you probably haven’t really had an opportunity to really work out what you love doing. Yes, you’ve had subjects at school, maybe some extracurriculars outside of school, but honestly, that’s still really narrow in terms of workplace career.

We recommend picking a broader degree option to open more doors for career pathways in the future once you finish school. Double degrees can work really well for this, as they enable you to experiment and explore and take lots of different subjects so that you can find out what you love.

Even Steve Jobs credits the work that he did in transforming Apple and making it into the powerhouse it is today from his experience in a calligraphy class he took at Stanford. The calligraphy class gave him a passion for the aesthetic, which can be seen in Apple’s products today.

This is a good example of how experimenting and exploring can be really, really powerful, as it opens more career options and skills. It will also grant you greater flexibility when you get into the workforce later on, because you’re going to know yourself and your skillset better, and have a broader range of skills that’s going to make you more adaptable for the realities of the workforce.

Principle #4: Run a Parallel Pathway

This is a bit of an interesting one, as this implies that you’ve already made a decision on a university degree. However, if one in three university students are struggling to find a full time job in Australia right now, and 60% of people are training for jobs that won’t exist, what this means is that your degree itself is not going to be the only thing that gives you employment opportunity long term.

What will actually give you that opportunity and differentiate you is what you’re doing alongside the degree. In addition to studying your degree at university, explore other passions and interests — join university societies and find other hobbies beyond academia. This will broaden your experimentation, exploration, and your skillset, making you more employable long term.

The point here is that this strategy is a way to offset perhaps your concerns of picking the wrong degree. For example, if you pick a degree that turns out not to be the right pathway when you finish school or is obsolete by the time you graduate, you have developed other skill sets in university.

Basically, you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket — you’re building another set of skills and experiences that you can rely upon if it turns out that you hate your degree or that your degree is no longer in demand over the long term. 

Principle #5: Do Some Research

If you were going to buy a car, you do a lot of research. You take a car out for a test drive, you go online and compare prices, you research to make sure that you’re making a good decision!

When it comes to picking a career, university degree, and a pathway that’s going to influence the next 10 years of your life, you should do your research really, really critically. This means get out there and actually speak to people that are working in industries that interest you to find out what they enjoy or not enjoy about their career.

You can go to multiple universities and ask the professors and other teaching staff some hard questions about the course and about what’s involved. This way, you can know for sure that you’ve made the right choice when you finish school. 

Looking for some extra help with your studies?

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Grace Mitchell hopes to one day stand in front of a Year 12 Modern History class teaching the history of the Soviet Union, or have an insightful discussion with a Year 10 English class on race relations in To Kill a Mockingbird. Either way, Grace is beginning her teaching journey studying a Bachelor of Education (Secondary: Humanities and Social Sciences)/Bachelor of Arts at Sydney University. Grace loves to learn new things, write short stories and opinion pieces, read, and play contemporary Australian compositions on the clarinet. When she is not learning – if that is possible – Grace loves to sit and watch the sun set.