Your Career - Postgraduates
There is such diversity in the postgraduate careers area that career development is very often a case by case situation. At one end of the spectrum there are postgraduate students whose research and work interests are so specialised they almost need to consider themselves as entrepreneurs, small businesses, and act in ways that a business person might to track down contracts, funding, work opportunities, consultancies or regular jobs. Informational networking is often key in this specialised type of situation, ie., ‘getting out there and becoming known’. On the other hand, someone may have taken on postgraduate study because of already known work opportunities within their current employment or professional field. The task here is a little easier perhaps: taking the necessary steps and actions to secure a new position, accessing a promotion, or convincing a known employer to introduce new work roles or perspectives based on the postgraduate study which has been undertaken.
Of course some students take on postgraduate study owing to their specific interests alone, and only consider the graduate labour market much later. There is nothing wholly wrong with such an approach, yet students who find themselves in this situation are often in need (perhaps more so than the other situations described above) of having a Career Action Plan. The Careers Service provides both online and face-to-face workshops on topics like career action planning. And, it is never too early, or too late, to start a Career Action Plan.
- Career Development Learning
- Keeping Your Self Assessment Up To Date
- Ongoing Reflection and Responding
- Maintaining Your Opportunity Awareness
- Ongoing Collection of Evidence
- Developing a Digital Identity
- Transitioning to New Work Roles
- Finding Employment
Support for your Career Development
What is career development learning? Well to start with, let’s refer to it as CDL, just to make this conversation a bit easier.
Surely, your workplace skills have been further developed, become more sophisticated, since then?
Check this out
Excerpt: employability skills framework produced by the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry http://www.dest.gov.au/sectors/training_skills/publications_resources/other_publications
Whether or not the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (table excerpt above) made you think more about employability skills or not, the crux of the matter is, can you identify the skill-sets you have developed at work and at university?
Now, one of the problems with self-assessment, and what has been referred to as, is being ‘unconsciously skilled’.
In order to become proficient with your own personal reflections regarding workplace skills (to understand why some people often have difficulty explaining in detail their competencies, the tasks that they can do, their experience, etc.) it is perhaps useful to consider the following text and figure.
unconsciously unskilled – I used to observe my dad pushing pedals in our family car with his foot, flicking levers and turning a steering wheel with both and, sometimes, one hand. At some level I knew he was actually driving our car, but at that stage in my life it was ‘as if by magic’.
consciously unskilled - I became more curious as I got older and, on occasions, I would ask my dad what all the pedals and levers in our family car actually did. Only then did I start to realise the processes and skills I would have to master if I wanted to drive a car myself.
consciously skilled – The instructor finally told me I was ready to take my driving test, and I passed!
unconsciously skilled - I’ve been driving all sorts of cars now, for almost 40 years, and only the other day, when I went to take my daughter out for a driving lesson, for the life of me, I couldn’t recall how best to instruct someone how to drive a manual car. I actually told her to do something that I never do!
At the CSU Careers Service we believe there are a number of reasons why the learning process (information) above, a reality which concerns our career development learning, is important:
When people become expert at something they can often disregard or even underestimate their expertise; some people can end up not being able to communicate their learning (knowledge, skills, competencies, etc.). It’s as if we ‘carry out’ our learning, what we do, at times, on automatic pilot. Doing things unconsciously; not always thinking consciously about the work we do, our workplace skills, etc..
This would have a major implication in a work interview!
Reflection = Recognising the knowledge, skills and attributes you possess. Being consciously skilled & Being off ‘automatic pilot’.
Implied in the statement above is, that there will be times when reflection identifies a ‘shortfall’ in one’s abilities (eg., perhaps not keeping up with new trends or technologies).
OK! So self-assessment is one aspect of CDL and, yet, so too is opportunity awareness. Do you know what, where, and how to find the work opportunities for which all your experience and learning make you an eligible candidate?
Let’s talk about your possible opportunity awareness habits. The unfortunate habits which come from unquestionable beliefs, like:
- All jobs are publicly advertised some where, I only have to find out where.
- Only look for better work after you graduate, or at least in the final months of study. Any sooner would be a waste of time.
- Only engage in work experience that the university organises as part of your course.
- “I’m working already!” To gain any other work experience isn’t going to help me after I graduate.
- All the best jobs are in capital cities.
- Working in the industry I know more about available jobs and the labour market than a university Careers Service.
- Career is all about upward movement, not where you want to live.
- Relocating for work isn’t an option.
- It’s a library, they wouldn’t need multimedia specialists. Anyway, libraries are boring places.
- University careers fairs are for undergraduate students who haven’t worked in the real world
- Why would you want to work for a transport company, they not very glamorous.
- There is no way I could work as a zoo keeper using my adventure tourism degree.
- You would need a postgraduate degree to work in the field of defence electronics, eg., ship to air missile detection.
- You can’t work for any inland enterprises and live on the coast.
- Now I’ve got my degree, I just need to scan each day’s job ads in the paper.
Write down what you believe work and finding work is all about and question your own assumptions.
Write down what you believe work and finding work is all about and question your own assumptions.
CDL is about lifelong career development:
it means the ongoing collection of evidence with regard to personal experiences, workplace skills and professional attributes
It was written above, that ‘… the crux of the matter is, can you identify the skill-sets you have developed at work and at university?’ But let’s go further……are you now writing down, recording, your skill-sets developed at work and university.
What might have been your response to this What’s New & News message posted during the 2009 Spring Session.
Casual Work & Extra-Curricula Activities Needed For Student Portfolios
It could be said, that the qualities undergraduate students need to evidence most, in terms of being ready for their very first job interview as a graduate, are their personal and interpersonal qualities (eg., communication skills, team attributes, etc.). Which is reason enough to use a portfolio (see below). However, for postgraduate students (for those who might choose to use a portfolio) the type of evidence to be collected can perhaps be much more diverse.
Postgraduate students may need to bring together, summarise and present certain professional competencies. A postgraduate student, for example, may wish to extend the function of their hard copy, paper, curriculum vitae by introducing audio, visual, or graphics elements (eg., uploading a video of a ‘field trial’ or a podcast of ‘client assessments’). You might imagine that such extra elements as these, when warranted, could add further interpretation as well as weight to discussions with employers, funding or scholarship bodies, peer reviewers or business executives.
Any student who wishes to ‘check out’ some asset types which can be developed using a portfolio (in this case the CSU ePortfolio) should go to the Career Development Learning Gateway (when you get there, select ‘tree view’ and subscribe).Q. Who can help?
A. The CSU Careers Services invites all students who want to turn their actual work experiences and extra-curricula activities into meaningful statements (competency statements), in a format suitable for work applications (ie., cover letters, résumés, addressing selection criteria) to contact them.
Q. What’s being offered?
A. Workshops and information resources aimed at turning a student’s experiences, skills and attributes into valuable assets.
Q. Why use a word like ‘assets’?
A. Assets – this a word used in the particular ePortfolio (PebblePad) that CSU makes available to students.
Q. Will the workshops offered by the CSU Careers Service include adding to, or starting from scratch, an ePortfolio?
Q. What perspective does the CSU Careers Service take in its approach to an ePortfolio?
A. The perspective of the graduate employer. The CSU Careers Service liaises with a diversity of employers year round, and is often told that work applicants (graduates) do not provide sufficient evidence to support their applications, or that it is the more ‘rounded’ students, the ones who have had additional experiences outside of university study, which make for the more competitive applicants.
Q. What if I haven't worked before or haven't completed any extra-curricula activities?
A. The Careers Service has several ways of assisting you!
Q. Who should I contact if I’m interested?
A. Students can contact either Paul Worsfold email@example.com (located on the Wagga Wagga campus) or Vicki Anderson firstname.lastname@example.org (located on the Bathurst campus). Interested distance education students should contact Paul.
The message above identifies a standing offer from the CSU Careers Service to assist students with their recording and evidencing of personal experiences, workplace skills and professional attributes. And, portfolio usage can also help students to reflect, self-assess, and be used as a storage facility for employment information and opportunities which come to light throughout the time spent at university.
An increasingly common way for job seekers to present themselves to employers is through a digital identity.
This identity can be as simple as a CV available online or as complex as an eportfolio that you continually update as you develop new skills and gain new experience.
People have used portfolios for many, many years to showcase their experiences and achievements and to assist with personal career development. ePortfolios are bringing this original concept into the 21st century, offering a new kind of portfolio that’s more accessible, more flexible in the type of evidence that can be included and how it can be organised, and easier to manipulate, store, distribute and retrieve by your audience. Not a bad set of advantages!
But what is an ePortfolio? It’s much more than just a CV, allowing you to provide a fuller and more holistic representation of yourself and what you have to offer your new profession. In a nutshell, it is an electronic collection of information about you – who you are, where you’ve been and where you’re heading. It is part mirror (reflecting on your place within your new profession), part map (setting long- and short-term career goals) and part sonnet (telling the story you want to tell to whom you want to tell it).
ePortfolios are usually supported by an ‘archive’ of work samples and other forms of evidence, such as photos, supervisor/peer evaluations and reflective thinking.
What are the benefits?
Portfolios have been popular for some time for a reason – no matter what your profession, more thought is being given to the development of reflective practice, lifelong learning, and the holistic representation of oneself. Also, in a competitive marketplace, more demands are being placed on us to be very articulate about our skills and attributes, and provide evidence to support these.
Constructing a portfolio can also help you:
- enhance your communication, organisational and presentation skills;
- make connections between different aspects of your life, including both formal and informal; and
- understand and become more articulate about your skills and abilities – great for job applications and interviews!
How do I get started?
Start by thinking about why you’re creating your portfolio, in other words: What’s its purpose? In your final year, the most common purpose is usually related to employment, or to gather information for an application for a postgraduate scholarship.
Hand-in-hand with the purpose comes the audience. As with any form of communication, in order to make it work you must first decide with ‘whom’ you are communicating. What are their requirements (if it’s for a job application, what are the selection criteria)? How much evidence will they want to see?
Once you’ve established your purpose and audience, you need to think about the best way to present yourself.
What kind of portfolio is right for me?
There are so many ways of creating a portfolio! Here are just some options – both online and paper-based – and their respective benefits:
- Pebblepad – Pebblepad is CSU’s software-of-choice. It’s more of a personal learning system that just a presentation tool, allowing you to manage your professional identity over a long period of time and including tools for planning and reflection as well as just presentation. It’s also great for quickly developing an ePortfolio if you have no experience in writing html. You can share a Pebblepad with a potential employer by using their email address. An Example of a ePortfolio using Pebblepad.
- Generic software (e.g. Dreamweaver) – great for a very creative presentation that will showcase your web design and development skills (therefore good for graphic designers and web developers). You can share a website with a potential employer by providing them with a weblink or by saving to a CDROM and posting it. View an example site.
- Blog – good for those who want to demonstrate abilities with social software, and provide a constant stream of professional activity. You can share a blog portfolio with a potential employer by providing them with a weblink. View an example blog.
- Wiki – again, good for those who want to demonstrate abilities with social software, but in this case the wiki works more like a simple website, and you don’t need to know html. You can share a wiki portfolio with a potential employer by providing them with a weblink. View an example Wiki.
- Paper - may be more appropriate for very traditional employers or those who have requested physical portfolios. This may be true if you need to include examples of art or designwork, for example, where originals are best.
Each is a valid way of presenting a portfolio. Your choice, once again, depends on what is appropriate for your purpose and audience.
ePortfolio concepts for learners: This brief document, developed by the Australian ePortfolio Project, is designed to inform learners about issues and opportunities associated with ePortfolios.
ePortfolios at CSU: This website talks further about ePortfolios and links to Pebblepad, CSU’s personal learning system.
The CSU Careers Service would like to open up a conversation with students regarding the specific tasks and challenges of transitioning to new work roles. A conversation that is interactive; drawing on the knowledge base and talents of as many CSU students as possible. The ‘carrot’ for this suggestion is that this conversation will be carried out via the University’s ePortfolio (PebblePad). Meaning, if you haven’t used an ePortfolio before and/or your interest in portfolio usage has been kindled by the discussion on career development learning above, you are invited to contact the CSU Careers Service for an introduction and assistance.
A Transitioning to New Work Roles blog is being conducted by the Career Development Officer at CSU’s Wagga Wagga campus. For contact details, check out http://www.csu.edu.au/division/studserv/careers/contacts.htm.
For further information regarding resources for finding employment please follow the link to the "Your Career" section in the Undergraduate version