How to start your career while you're still studying

How to start your career – while you’re studying

There’s no need to wait until after you graduate to start your career. We spoke to Cecilia Hunt from our Careers Development Team and got her advice on how to get your career moving from your first day at Charles Sturt University.

What steps can students take to start their career?

  • Get involved. Join a club, get a casual job, volunteer with a charity, coach a sporting team. Extracurricular activities help develop transferable skills for the workplace and give you practical examples to use in your job applications and interviews.
  • Research what jobs are out there. Jump online and have a look at jobs you would love to apply for when you graduate. Print them out and highlight what they’re looking for. This is a great way to identify areas that you may need to develop before you graduate.
  • Set realistic goals. You may aspire to be the CEO but let’s think about how you get your foot in the door first. That may mean getting an entry-level position and working your way up. Set small achievable goals and tick them off as you go.
  • Develop a professional digital profile. Create a strong LinkedIn profile and refine your digital footprint.
  • Develop your elevator pitch. Write two to three sentences highlighting your strengths and what you have to offer, and practice saying it out loud in front of the mirror. Use your elevator pitch any time you connect with a potential employer.
  • Connect with industry. Participate in voluntary workplace learning, find a mentor or get a casual job to gain a better understanding of that business/sector, build on your skills and develop your connections.
  • Network. Spend time developing your networks, both online (such as LinkedIn) and face-to-face (such as industry functions).
  • Engage with our Career Development Service. We offer one-on-one appointments for enrolled students and alumni up to one year after graduation. Make an appointment to get constructive feedback on your résumé and job applications to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. Charles Sturt University also has a host of support services that can help you in almost every way you can think of.

What are common mistakes students need to avoid?

  • Undervaluing your soft skills. Employers are looking for graduates with good listening skills, a positive attitude, resilience and the ability to give and receive feedback.
  • Underselling transferable skills. Be aware of how your skills can transfer into a job. For example, coaching a soccer team shows leadership skills, working as a retail assistant develops your verbal communication skills etc.
  • Losing contact with others. Your connections may be the pathway to your next job so stay in touch with work placement supervisors and previous employers.
  • Avoiding constructive feedback. Your written application needs to be at its best so don’t be afraid to give it to someone else to read before sending.
  • Unprofessional presentation. Don’t turn up to an interview in track pants. Have a professional email address and avoid recording an inappropriate voicemail message.
  • Ignoring social media privacy settings. Your future boss doesn’t need to see photos of you kicking up your heels on the dance floor.
  • Setting the bar too high. Be realistic and apply for entry-level positions; you have plenty of time to show how amazing you are and climb the ladder.

What’s your take-home career advice?

Remember the big picture. Think about what career success means to you. Is it a big pay check? Is it flexibility to work from home? Maybe it’s working with people with a shared passion? Working this out will help you plan the next steps in your career! Be open to opportunities when they present themselves, and don’t be afraid to try something new or different – if things don’t go to plan, you’ll learn from the experience.

Are you ready to get your career started?

Follow your passion with more than 350 courses at Charles Sturt University.

Contact us and let’s do this!