The 4 Things Every Uni/TAFE Student Can Do To Get Ahead

Posted October 13, 2011, by Helen Isbister

Higher education can be a great excuse to party, but don’t forget that the ultimate goal is to learn – and, eventually, get a job. While you are at university or TAFE, you should be aiming to come out with not just a degree or diploma, but some industry experience and networks as well. Potential employers also want a well-rounded individual, so spend some of the time pursuing your passions and getting involved in campus life.

Many of Australia’s leading politicians or actors, for example, got their start in university politics or the drama society. If you balance your partying with studying and some extracurricular activities to boost your employment potential, you’ll be in good stead to land a top-paying job straight out of uni.

1. Network, network, network

What better place to do some networking than at uni or TAFE? Firstly, you will be in classes with like-minded students, and chances are you will not only be making life-long friends but also life-long career associates. And don’t forget to think outside the classroom! There are a multitude of clubs and societies you can join depending on where your passions lie, which can be a fantastic place to meet people on the same wavelength.

Your teachers will have a wealth of knowledge about the career you are going into, plus lots of fantastic contacts of their own, so don’t hesitate to build up a rapport with them. If you are able to impress them, they might pass your name onto some of their colleagues in the industry, who could in turn give you your first job.

They are also there to be mentors, so bounce ideas off them and keep them as part of your network once your career takes off. Prominent people in your chosen industry will also be invited to speak to your class, so be prepared to make the most of it by asking questions and taking up any opportunities they offer.

2. Get some work experience under your belt

Since a university or TAFE qualification is a prerequisite in many careers these days, it’s a good idea to graduate with more than a bit of paper to give you an extra edge. Work experience will not only boost your real-life skills, but also introduce you to invaluable contacts. It’s a great way to test the waters, since it might be the only time before retirement that you get such a flexible timetable and relatively low performance pressure.

For some courses, work experience will be built into the curriculum, while for others it might take a little more hunting around. Keep an eye on emails from your departments because many organisations let course coordinators know if they have work experience places. Otherwise, don’t feel shy about shooting off your resume and an email explaining what you’re after to some organisations you would be keen to work for.

Once you’ve secured a work experience place, make the most of the opportunity by getting as involved as you can – dress the part, ask lots of questions, meet lots of people and keep in contact after your final day. Don’t forget to keep a record of it so you can put it on your resume.

3. Get a casual job

A casual job at university will hopefully save you from life as a poor uni student who survives solely on two-minute noodles and tomato sauce. However, if you play your cards right, your part-time gig could get you so much more. There are plenty of companies who are looking for university or TAFE students to work with them, since they are cheaper and can also be trained up for a full-time job once they graduate. If you are getting a degree in banking or law, look out for a summer clerkship; if you are an aspiring magazine editor, look for a job at a publishing house as a receptionist; or if becoming a doctor is your dream, think about getting a job helping out at the local hospital.

University or TAFE job websites are a good start, or ask around while you are doing work experience to see if they need an extra set of (paid) hands.

4. Try volunteering

Having volunteer work listed on your resume shows potential employers that you are compassionate, dedicated and hardworking. Getting involved in a good cause while at university will both boost your work experience and your feeling of doing something good for the world.

There are lots of local charities or not-for-profit organisations you could approach and offer your services – choose a cause you feel passionate about where you can also utilise some of your skills. There are also heaps of opportunities to head overseas to do volunteer work so you can bolster your life experience while making a difference.

Find out what career-defining moves you can make to slay it in your 20s!

Helen Isbister

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