By Lil Williams
7 September 2017
Preparing to leave school is one of the most exciting times of your life (the prospect of being free after 13 years of ‘hard homework labour’) but can also be a bit daunting. It’s understandable, considering it’s a whole new world once you hit adulthood. Don’t be anxious though; there are plenty of people and resources to get you heading in the right direction.
1. What do I want to do?
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” That is an easier question for some than others. If you’re not sure, don’t worry. You’re not alone.
There are many excellent resources for you to take advantage of. Careers counsellors, friends and parents, teachers, university course guides, tertiary education information nights and campus tours, to name a few.
To start off, here are two questions…
What do you love to do?
What are you good at?
Who wants to spend 40+ years in a job that they hate and are no good at? Not me. Asking your parents or a trusted adult in your life can be a great way to know your strengths, and potential careers that those could lead into. Also, there’s no reason why you have to stick with the one career for the rest of your life.
You could also take a personality test to see what you’re really passionate about, as well as which career paths the results suggest for a personality like yours. Who knows? It may not lead you to a direct job, but it might confirm some directions you’ve been thinking about for a long time. My top recommendation would be the 16 Personalities Test, but you can also take the Myers Briggs Assessment, which the 16 Personalities Test is based on. There are many more tests just a Google search away.
2. How do I get there? Is VCE the only option?
Once you know what you want to do, you need to figure out how to get there. The first question if you are in Year 11 or below is: Is VCE the only option? VCAL (Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning) is a more hands-on alternative to VCE that provides practical work-related experience. If a trade is of interest to you, this would be ideal as it has the flexibility to incorporate specific skills (i.e. woodwork) that get you to your goal faster, or can offer a part-time apprenticeship to get you qualified more quickly. Teen Talk’s guest Rhiannon (DVD 2 & 3) who has dyslexia is an example of someone doing VCAL two days a week and working in a childcare centre for the other three. Thirteen-year-old Michael in DVD 1 was recovering from cancer and used VCAL as a career pathway.
VET (Vocational and Educational Training) courses are a great way to study something not offered in the mainstream high school curriculum, such as sound engineering or graphic design. This can get you studying in your area of interest sooner.
3. Do I have to go to uni?
University is often advertised as the only ‘real’ way to a satisfying career but that is not true. There are many ways to job satisfaction.
Vocational learning pathways such as TAFE and apprenticeships (or a combination of both) are a great way to get into a more hands-on career, where the teaching style is ‘learn by doing’. A big mistake high schools can make is judging a student, or worse yet, misdiagnosing them with a learning disability, just because he or she does not fit into school’s way of learning (primarily, through listening or reading/memorising and taking timed exams). High school and university have a lot of theory or ‘book learning’ but if you are just keen to get your hands dirty, TAFE might be an excellent option for you.
4. How important is my ATAR score?
Is the ATAR the be all and end all? What if I don’t get the ATAR score I want? Is my life over?
Although VCE can often make you feel like that, a number from 1 to 99.95 does not make or break you, or your career. Do your best and give 100% in all things you put your hand to, but sometimes things happen (for example, family or home circumstances out of your control) and you may not get the score you want. Don’t despair. TAFE and other VET or post-secondary institutions will often accept you if a university won’t initially. You can go there straight from high school so you won’t necessarily have to lose time and finish your degree later than you intended. You can often then use your credit points from these institutions to gain second-year entry into a higher education course (like a bachelor degree), or whatever your credit points will allow. There’s no reason why you can’t still have that dream career; you may just have to take the scenic route.
Alternatively, you may have no desire to go to university at all, in which case an ATAR score doesn’t bear as much weight (or pressure). Does this mean you get to slack off in VCE? Sorry, but no. It’s a good idea to still complete VCE if you are unsure what you want to do in your career. What you decide on later may depend on a good ATAR score and education is always an asset.
5. Top Tips for writing a resume and cover letter
• Keep it brief – you want to show an employer that you are efficient and can get to the point without adding in unnecessary information (after all, your resume and cover letter are a indicator of your job performance).
• Proof read! If an employer’s first impression of you is a spelling mistake, you send them the message that you are rushed and don’t really care about precision or accuracy.
• Most recent/relevant information to least recent/relevant – it’s sad but some employers won’t read the whole thing, so if you don’t begin strong, they may not even reach the end. Which information/experience would you not mind if they don’t see? Put it at the bottom.
• Key words – again, it is disheartening but in many cases the first one reading your cover letter is not a person but a computer. If you haven’t used the key words listed in their selection criteria, it’s likely that your application is being scrapped before it even reaches a human.
• Be specific – there’s nothing better than a vaguely worded cover letter to show an employer that you don’t know what you’re talking about. Take time to research the company and tailor both your resume and cover letter to the specific role. Explain in as few words a possible how your own skills and experience can transfer into the position you are applying for. A short paragraph per selection criteria point is usually advised.
This is by no means an exhaustive list and Seek Jobs is one many places to read helpful articles on resume and cover letter writing. Career One also have some handy tips.
6. What if I have some kind of disadvantage?
You might say, that’s all good for most kids, but what if I have a disability, or some other kind of obstacle to achieving my educational and career goals? I’m glad you asked. First off, you are not alone. Secondly, there are people and programs to help. If you or your child are struggling in any of the following areas, the links below provide access to the support you’ll need to succeed in the last few years of high school and help you find pathways to further education and a satisfying career.
Teens with Dyslexia - http://www.alisonlawsonclinic.com.au/ (Teen Talk has interviewed Fiona Summons who was trained by Alison Lawson herself).
Learning disabilities or just struggling to keep up with the rest of your class? Tutoring can be a great help.
Inner-eastern suburbs: http://www.felstead.com.au/
Western suburbs - http://www.emueducation.com.au/
The Les Twentyman Foundation believes “positive intervention equals positive outcomes for our at-risk youth.”
Support for students who lack funds or resources - https://ncbgroup.org/about-us/
Moving beyond negative body image positive body culture and getting things started in the right direction - http://www.wheelzinmotion.com.au/about.html
Guide to confident verbal communication (book available for purchase through link) - http://directspeech.com.au/newflyerdirectspeech.pdf
Behavioural Therapy (alternate methods of therapy to help young people) - http://dspsychology.com.au/cognitive-behavioral-therapy-melbourne/
If you feel the need for legal aid due to disability, follow this link - http://ddlsaustralia.org/
Click on the following link for some websites that Teen Talk Productions endorse, created to help young people like you with issues including but not limited to mental and physical health, family conflict and legal services.
7. How do proposed university funding cuts affect me personally?
Right now, the government is proposing to cut $294 million worth of funding from Victorian universities from 2018-2021. Their reason for this is that research has supposedly shown that on average, universities in the state are operating at a 5.9% surplus each year (extra money, so to speak). But because universities are non-for-profit, that money goes straight back into helping the university, which benefits both students and teachers.
The way these funding cuts would affect students individually is that their fees would go up by approximately 7.5% and instead of only having to start repaying their HECS/HELP study loan once they reach an annual salary of $55,874, they may then have to start as low as $42,000. Essentially, this would make university less accessible to the average Australian, leading to industry shortages in the future. Tertiary education expert Peter Noonan is also concerned that budget cuts would lead to a lower standard of university education, attracting less overseas students, which in turn brings in less money for the university, driving the individual course prices even higher.
8. What should I start doing now?
If you are year 10 or lower, make sure that you are strategic in the VCE subjects you choose. There are many university courses that list particular VCE subjects as a prerequisite for entry into their course, in addition to an ATAR score. Doing certain subjects will help you further determine what you like and dislike, and give you the building blocks for your first few semesters at university.
If you’ve decided you want to do a trade/apprenticeship, using an elective to complete a VET course is a great idea or speaking to either a careers counsellor or someone you know in the field you want to enter (for an apprenticeship). Whether we like it or not, contacts can be everything, so use connections that you have to see what doors of opportunity can open up to you.
If you are having trouble making a start or getting organised, this website is here to help you and your parents get organised: http://organisingyou.com.au/. There is also some great coaching for young job seekers: http://www.thecoachingroom.com.au/nlp.html. Several of the people recommended have been interviewed on Teen Talk and all are trusted professionals in the Melbourne area.
Just remember, an ATAR score is just a number. Aim for your best and you can always be proud of yourself. There are many ways to a satisfying career.
(Teen Talk’s in-house blogger)
References (sourced 28 August 2017):
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