For those who may not know, I have been an external student at USQ (University of Southern Queensland) since 2013. I do all my subjects via the internet on StudyDesk and sit my exams at an external exam centre (mine is at a church). I’ve briefly popped into my local campus (Springfield) to pick up books and other material. But, I’ve not been to the campus where my degree is taught (Toowoomba)…until now.
Email from USQ Support inviting me to the Careers Fair 2015
I’ve been studying for a few years now and I thought “Might be a good idea to find out where this degree will lead me“. It’s on a Wednesday so Ethan would be at kindy and we have a free inter-campus shuttle bus service. I had a chat with Tim who insisted I go. So, he arranged a day off to look after Lilah and it was settled: I’m going.
Oh god. What to wear?
My staples at home are nerdy t-shirts and daggy pants. I have a few nicer outfits to wear out but nothing that says “I’m a professional”. I got myself a nice top and knee length skirt. I thought about trousers but I felt they made me look too masculine and I just didn’t like the look (I also have short hair). I didn’t want to hide my femininity.
Smart Casual wear at the Careers fair (photo by USQ Marketing team)
I got up super early (like 4 am early) to get ready, packed some study materials, my resume, and my laptop. Cue the rain when we are due to leave. The one time I actually wear make up and it rains ;) Tim dropped me off to catch the 6.45 am shuttle bus.
I was very excited to discover the bus had WiFi
I think I got more study done in that 2 hour bus ride (sans the kids) than I have at home. Wed is a study day for me so I didn’t want to fall too far behind. I have mastered the art of writing my notes in a moving vehicle – I often study on the train/bus/car when travelling.
Can I just say…Toowoomba, you are beautiful! Don’t get me wrong, I love where I live but gosh, it’s pretty nice out there.
I did the “new kid on campus” thing and downloaded the campus map and wandered around until I found a library and coffee. I was only an hour and a half early for the Careers Fair…so more study time!
Coffee and Study time @ the Hub
I managed to have a good chat with the Australian Computer Society (Hi Des) before it was time for the IT, Engineering, and Science Q & A panel. I went in armed with a trusty notepad and pen. This fair was all about information gathering so I wrote comprehensive notes. (I have 5 A5 pages of hand-written notes from that 45 min session). The main points I got from the panelists were:
- Transferable skills like communication and adaptability are valued almost more than current tech skill levels
- “Are you motivated?” and “Will you fit into the workplace team?” are what employers are looking for
- Try not to be too rigid in your expectations
- embrace change and be willing to learn rapidly
- The industry (STEM – science, technology, engineering, maths) is becoming more pervasive and is changing rapidly
- Be willing to learn new things quickly
After that, I made a beeline for the Student Services booth and got some great advice on my resume. The biggest thing I got out of that session was how to include my time as a parent who isn’t in the workforce. I maintained my study during my employment gaps but as I learned in the panel, honesty is key. Yes, I am not in paid employment right now but I am doing other activities to keep my skills relevant: this blog being one of them.
I got a professional LinkedIn photo taken (eagerly awaiting that one) and said had a chat to the various employers who had come out. I’m armed with loads of potential future employment choices – places I didn’t immediately think of like Heritage Bank and Australian Tax Office.
Overall, I got so much out of the day. I got to practice communicating in a professional environment. I now have a great resume and some ideas on how to make me more employable. And most importantly, I feel confident and excited about going into the IT industry. I felt like this is what I am supposed to do with my career. I’m bubbling with excitement and can’t wait to graduate and work!