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Sharon Woodfield, UWA Career Adviser sitting on a couch

What you can do to help your teen on their career journey – advice from a UWA Career Adviser

17/08/2022 |

It’s all fun and games asking your kid “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Until they’re actually grown up (almost) and all of a sudden they have to decide – for real. Your teen’s future career is probably something you’ve thought about as a parent and  no doubt you want to help and support your teen on their journey. Sometimes, you might not have all the answers. That’s where the experts come in. At UWA, we have Career Advisers available to provide advice and guidance. We sat down with Career Adviser, Sharon Woodfield to find out what you can do to help your teen on their career journey.

Understanding what employers are seeking

The big question most parents have for their teen when they start studying is ‘what job do you want to land after uni’. But before they can land their dream job, it’s helpful to gain an understanding of what employers are looking for. So, what does a career expert have to say about what employers really want? Sharon weighed in saying, “employers want a well-rounded student. It’s not always about the grades.” She explains that employers want grads to have:

  • A degree (sometimes employers are specific about the degree and major, some employers just want candidates with a degree)
  • A part time job – employers really value this and place importance on the fact that graduates can balance studying and working at the same time
  • Evidence of working in a team (through a part time job, team sports or university group assignments)
  • Examples of leadership skills acquired from being on a student committee or a leadership role while at uni or from a part time job
  • High level of communication, interpersonal, problem solving and other “soft” skills
  • Volunteer work is also looked upon favourably as it shows that a grad has well-rounded experience

Providing support and advice they’ll actually listen to

Your teen might find thinking about their career when they first start uni a little difficult. They’ll have a million new things going on - they’re trying to get their head around this whole uni thing plus land a job at the end of it. Sharon shared her best advice for parents that have a teen transitioning from high school to uni.

"The first few weeks are a bit overwhelming but after a while it will feel like home. I meet two types of students. One completes their degree and sits at my desk and says, 'now what?' Very few I am glad to say. The other uses their university degree as a building block and gathers new experiences along the way such as volunteering, having a mentor, attending all the presentations and employers talks. They usually have a graduate position lined up 6 months prior to graduating because they are resourceful, inquisitive and embrace every opportunity that comes their way.  Employers value these students!  My advice is to be the latter."

The key thing to remember is that if your teen ever feels like things don’t feel as if they are going smoothly -  that’s when they should seek some help, even if it’s just to check in to see if they’re on the right journey. An appointment with a career adviser is a great place to start but you can also encourage them to keep the lines of communication open. Make sure as their parent, you’re being kept in the loop so you can truly be there for your youngster if needed. Other things you can encourage your teen to do include: 

  • Get a part time job (if they haven’t already) 
  • Enrol in the Careers and Employability Award Program
  • Volunteer
  • Attend Careers and Employability Centre presentations to work on their resume and cover letter and develop their networks at employer events
  • Think and reflect on their study choices and research jobs that interest them 
  • Investigate study abroad options in second and third year.  

There are so many opportunities for them to build up their skills and their resume.

Student and career adviser sitting down in conversation

Sense check – are they on the right track? 

One of the most common questions that Sharon gets asked by students is: 
“How do I know if I am doing the correct university degree?”. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide and some questions to help your teen if they’re feeling the same. 

  • Start by looking at the job market and work backwards. What is the employer asking for? Identify what technical skills, soft skills, knowledge and attributes the employer is looking for. Is there an accrediting body/degree attached to this or do you have transferable skills? 
  • Carry out an informational interview by asking someone working within the industry a few questions. Some examples are, what do you like about your job? Walk me through a typical day? How did you get here? What advice would you give to a new graduate?
  • Use LinkedIn UWA Alumni to find people with the same degree as your teen. Look for where they work and what qualifications they have. Consider whether your teen can connect with them and ask more questions to help them with their decision making.
  • Understand the job market and look at search sites including Grad Connect and Grad Australia
  • Have a look at the Professional body attached to your teens degree/career. They usually have networking events where your teen can meet people in a similar field. They also have career pages on their website which can be very informative.

Deciding on a career and beginning the career management process starts from the first year of university, or sometimes even earlier. Students that are most successful in finding employment after they graduate are those that get involved from early on in their degree. Our Employability checklists give students a guide to the sort of activities and actions they need to undertake when starting on their career journey. We are there to support them when they get stuck, help them focus on what activities to undertake depending on their career goals and make them aware how their study aligns with the job market.

Talk to the (career) experts 

At UWA, we provide additional support through our Careers Centre, where your teen will have access to career counselling, a career adviser can help your teen with:

 Career counselling and career advice Help with advice if they feel they might be in the wrong course and how to move to a course aligned to their strength, attributes and personality 
 Discuss their values and how they align to their future employment/course  Understand the job market 
 Review of their job application documents (resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profiles and selection criteria)  Information about real work placements such as Work Integrated Learning, Practicums, Internships, Work Experience placements
Help articulating their transferable skills to a different setting   Wanting advice to pick Majors attached to their degree or pathway plan to Postgraduate studies  
 Interview coaching and practice Checking their career is on track  
Assistance with graduate job applications  Invitations to attend numerous presentations from industry who want to recruit UWA students
To link in with an Industry Mentor (we have a Career Mentor Link Program)
 Information on how to get a part time/casual job while at university 

You can rest assured knowing that your teen will never be without career support at UWA. Plus, as a parent you can help guide your teen to seek help from a Career Adviser if they ever need it. To find out more about how we can prepare your child for their dream career, and any challenges they have along the way, visit the Graduate Career Ready website.

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