The Take

Setting your Career Goals02/08/17

In a market where graduates are having a harder time finding employment, it is becoming more and more important to set your career goals early on. Knowing what you want to do, and how you want to get there, or having a plan in mind, can help you get the knowledge, skills, connections and experiences you need to actually end up where you want to be. Equally important; if you have a goal that you are working towards, it can make your working and learning more satisfying. Having a clear aspiration is one of the driving forces behind our personal growth and development.

It is essential to be proactive in the pursuit of your goals, whether they are professional, personal or educational. For many young graduates, it is hard to know exactly what you want to do or where you want your career to take you – there are dozens of popular working fields. Taxation, law, investment banking, and economics: these are all very broad fields with a huge amount of sub-fields. Choosing what you want to do and where you want to go can be very difficult, particularly when you are young and lack some of the knowledge and experience that might point you in the right direction. While many people shift through careers over their working life, this can cost time and slow down your career advancement, particularly as jobs become more niche (although strategic changing of company has been shown to improve your remuneration).

Unfortunately there is no easy way to know what you want to do for work. If you don’t have any idea what you want to do, look to your peers, mentors and the people who inspire you. What is it that they did to get to where they are? Try to find areas of your work and study that you have a strong interest in. Assess your interests, values, what you’re good at, specific jobs or areas or industries that appeal to you, and, what some forget to think about – the kind of lifestyle you want.

Some people might get something out of taking career tests, such as one provided by QUT which matches your skills and interests to an area of study or the government quiz which attempts to link your attributes to a career. These aren’t perfect, but for anyone having trouble even finding a starting point, these give a good foundation and some options to explore. It can also be helpful to go to Job Fairs and similar events to meet people from companies you might be interested in.

Once you have an idea of what you want to do, it’s equally important to pursue it, learn about it and where possible – get experience. Doing work placements or internships are extremely valuable, not just for future use in getting full time work and graduate roles, but also providing you connections, an opportunity to scope out potential career options, and the chance to apply your degree in practice.

The early years of a career can be a steep learning curve, as many graduates are coming into their first full time job and certainly their first professional job, so the type of work and the work environment is going to be very different to previous experiences, particularly if you didn’t take up part time office work, internships or other opportunities throughout the degree. It is essential to realise that even the early stages of your career can be capitalised on to achieve personal and professional growth, and if you have a particular goal in mind, you’ll often find your managers will want to help you reach that goal. This is especially true if you’ve found a mentor willing to put some time and effort into helping you develop, professionally and personally, to achieve the goals you’ve set.
Think about what you want to do, then think about how to get there.

Figuring out what you want to do isn’t easy, and neither is putting in the work to getting to where you want to be. In fact, you might change careers, degrees or companies many times over your working life, and everyone has a different approach. But if you can get an idea of where you might want to be early on in your study, or at the beginning of your career, it can help you get a head start in controlling your career.

Nate is the Publications Director at QUTEFS. If you are interested in writing an article for The Take, contact