Postgraduate career needs – Raise your voice!

by Dr Amy Bohren

It’s been more than a decade since I started working with coursework and research postgrads in university career services. When I began, I too was a doctoral student, and was learning along the way, not only about how to do research, and how to navigate university life to get the best out of my experience, but also what it meant to go through the process of ‘becoming’ a person with a PhD. In the early days, I was swept away by the simplicity of the skills-based approach to employability, thinking that my students just needed to develop the skills that employers wanted (in those days, there were long lists), learn how to articulate those skills (by attending a workshop) and then apply for jobs that required those skills. And. Everyone. Would. Be. Happy.

Oh dear, was I wrong… It took just over ten years to complete my PhD on the employability of liberal arts and business students. Aside from the usual supervision problems, the demands of a (mostly) full-time professional job on the side, and a slight addiction to volunteering, my thesis took so long because it took more than two years to realise that the way Australia had been understanding employability was deeply flawed. Some students and grads find it easier to get jobs than others, and it has little to do with how ‘skilled’ they are. Rather, as my research showed, it has more to do with the faculty culture in which you study, and your family background. So that’s why I take a holistic approach to my work as a career practitioner, and why I think it’s important to provide discipline-specific career advice.

In recent years, Red Careers has been my side-hustle. It’s the thing I do because I love it. I never advertised, as clients came to me through word of mouth. But now that I’m expanding my services to provide specialised postgraduate workshops (like I used to at two Melbourne-based unis, but more in-depth), and as I’ve received feedback that an online presence with career resources would be useful, I’m giving it a shot.

After all this time, I’d like to think I understand your needs quite well. But I could be completely wrong. What I know for sure is that the needs of coursework and research students are often quite different to each other, and to that of undergrads. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty certain most of you prefer to receive career advice (well, not that I’m the giver of all advice – I learn a lot from clients too, but you get what I mean), face to face rather than online.

So now I’m turning it over to you – I’d be very grateful to know what type of career support you’d find most valuable, and in particular, what sort of workshop, small group career coffee chat and online resource topics you’d find helpful? If you’re someone who supports postgrads, what’s your perspective? Please feel welcome to send me an e-mail.

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