University News


The hospitality and arts sectors have been heavily impacted by COVID-19 over the majority of 2020. How this will play out in the future is yet to be determined. However, the demand for graduates in most other professions has now rebounded to roughly what it originally was pre-COVID.

Pre-COVID, growth was predicted for the Caring, IT, Education and Business services industries (FYA  - The New Work Mindset 2017). Fortunately, the pandemic doesn’t seem to have disrupted the factors that led to this forecast. Even so, job security is at a low point and a recent report from ING showed that 32% of Australians expected employment opportunities to be “very hard to come by.”

Melissa Moore, Senior Manager of Employability and Enterprise at the University of Newcastle, advises those who are looking to progress their careers to expand their experience through study.

1. Stretch yourself academically

Moore says that stretching yourself academically through postgraduate studies can bring a great deal of satisfaction. “If you have been following the same career path for a while, engaging with learning can actually be enjoyable. You will meet new people, learn new skills and gain a fresh understanding of your area of interest,” she says.

The process of studying can be motivation in itself. Knowing that employers look for people who are open to new challenges and who are self-motivated and resilient means that undertaking postgraduate studies is a great way of evidencing your abilities in these areas.

Jessica Redman, Organisational Development Manager at nib Health Funds spoke to us about the uncertainty that people were feeling because of the disruption that automation is anticipated to play over the coming years; an uncertainty compounded by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s likely all this change and disruption will come with new jobs we are yet to imagine. I truly believe what will remain at the core of preparing for this ‘new world’ is developing a learning mindset and refining critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Postgraduate study is the perfect place to do this,” Jessica says.

Ultimately, postgraduate qualifications are the rule rather than exception for those who have progressed through their career. It is interesting to see how they have used specialised studies to develop their career paths. You can explore this by perusing the LinkedIn profiles of people in the career that you aspire for. This can also be highly motivating, as it can clarify a career trajectory of where you are today to where you aspire to be in the future.

If you have a genuine interest in an area covered by postgraduate studies, you are always going to benefit from involvement in the program. You will engage with the subject matter and industry contacts in an authentic and informed manner.

2. Get involved in the community

Moore also suggests getting involved in the community and offers an interesting piece of advice: “Look for where you can be with people and contribute. As well as building your skills and providing evidence of your problem-solving, resilience and teamwork skills, you are expanding your network of contacts and opening yourself to new opportunities,” she says.

Getting involved in the community builds communication and social skills, which is a key career skill as outlined in the Australian Government’s Core Skills for Work Development Framework.

Alissa Carpenter, a contributor to Forbes, explains that volunteering can enhance your career not just by helping you to strengthen a specific skill or expertise to benefit a cause, but it also gives potential employers a unique insight into your values and who you are as a person.

Volunteering also leads to some fantastic networking opportunities. Volunteers get direct access to positive, engaged people who could become mentors or in some cases even offer leads to new careers.

3. Build your resilience

Julia Gardner, Career and Development Coach at The Affinity Consultancy, is an expert in the arena of People Development. She asserts that the importance of being able to adapt to changing career pathways is a key career skill in the changing world of work. Resilience - the ability to bounce back when things don’t go to plan - gives us the strength to manage stress and adversity in life. This is something that can really support you in the workplace.

She outlines some specific tips for building resilience:

  • Have a positive mindset
  • Be committed to your actions and your goals
  • Think about what’s important to you
  • Have personal control over your life
  • Accept the elements in life that you can and can’t control
  • Take care of your mind and body

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can surf them,” says Gardner.

If you can catch yourself in the art of negative assumption, flex your brain to switch this thinking around. Like a muscle, this can take time to build the agility to do this well but over time it can become a positive habit that requires little effort.

According to Provisional Psychologist Heather Craig, a contributor to Positive Psychology, strengthening your emotional insight – that is, the awareness about the full range of emotions one experiences – also helps to build resilience. To improve your resilience, she suggests taking the time to achieve a healthy work-life balance, cultivate a sense of spirituality, and become more reflective in the day-to-day.

4. Be ready to adapt

Change is inevitable. There are very few jobs or occupations that are static, so all employees should be constantly reviewing their expectations and hopes for their career future. Leaving your comfort zone can be difficult, but once you accept the inevitability of change, it can feel good to take control of your journey.

For those of us who are less open to change it can take a conscious effort to step out and embrace change. You don’t go from being a couch potato to running a marathon overnight, but there are some easy steps you can take to ‘exercise’ your ability to adapt. The best way to do this is to practise it in everyday ‘low stake’ situations.

This could include things like taking a different route to work in the morning, cooking a new recipe for something that you usually wouldn’t cook, or by actively meeting new people. Whatever it is, embrace the uncomfortableness and be aware of your thought process.

Moore encourages people looking to make a change to, “build your self-awareness around the strength of your skills, networks and training in relation to the area that you would like to move towards.”

Hubspot also suggests 6 exercises to improve your adaptability at work, by suggesting to:

  1. Read a blog post or article from a different industry everyday
  2. Read books outside of your core discipline
  3. Shadow colleagues on other teams
  4. Take classes
  5. Meditate
  6. When you get the opportunity, travel

5. Improve your self-awareness

Why is it important to work on self-awareness? Because it’s a rare quality. Although most people think they are self-aware, in fact only 10%-15% of people actually are according to Tasha Eurich. The below chart demonstrates how some people may have a high internal awareness but lack any level of external self-awareness - that is, the understanding of how other people view you. Similarly, you may have a high external self-awareness but low internal self-awareness.

Understanding yourself better will help you understand your personality, preferences, values and motivations, which in turn will help you to understand your worth as an employee. If you’re a jobseeker, it will help you to identify the best suited jobs for you and help you articulate your skills and abilities on your resume and in job interviews.

Current students and alumni of the University of Newcastle can access excellent self-assessment tools available through the Career Essentials site that can help with this self-exploration.

Find out more about postgraduate study

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.