I am writing from The Careers Department, the newest resource available for careers exploration. You may have already heard about us.
Apologies for the colloquial nature of this letter, but rather than tell you about the features of the product, instead, I wanted to tell you why we have launched this product and share some insights from our line of work. Even if you are not looking for a career development solution at this time, I hope that the below simulates discussion in your school careers and leadership team.
We work with students from the most elite private schools in Australia, students from rural and remote regions, students attending schools that are classified, “at risk of intergenerational welfare dependence”, students attending schools where the careers adviser will tell me firmly, “we have three main tertiary pushes with our students – medicine, law and finance” or sadly, "they're just not interested." We aren’t financed by the Department of Education. We aren’t financed by the Department of Industry. The Careers Department is a completely privately owned company.
But something that is synonymous is the overall lack of confidence that students feel for making a decision about their career. They’ve been told to follow their passion, but they don’t feel especially passionate about anything. They’ve been told to let their strengths guide them, but they’re not sure what they’re best at.
We ran 62 focus groups this year across a diverse group of schools and the synopsis was always the same. Students might be able to list a bunch of different things they would like in a job, “working with people”, “being outside”, “creativity”, “making a great salary”, “mobility”— or, rather, there are a bunch of different sides of themselves that they can list. But since some motivations (like the ones above) have conflicting interests with others, students cannot, by definition, have everything they want.
Going for one thing they want means, by definition, not going for others, and sometimes, it’ll specifically mean going directly against others. For example, just using the list you see above, you can see that the desire to chase a job with creativity and the ability to work outside; may realistically conflict with the want to make a great income. So, the careers game is a game of compromise. A student will not be able to find a job or course that ticks all their want boxes. And so more often than not in my experience, they will take a punt, pick something that appeals to one side of them; rather than auditing their whole want box and prioritising what they like. This is the kindle for the 1 in 5 drop out rate that currently exists for undergraduates in Australia. Number wise, nearly a quarter of a million students started a bachelor degree in Australia in 2018, but more than 50,000 of them will leave university without getting a degree.
Let’s take for example, Health and Sports Science as an area of study. It’s fast becoming one of the most desired courses in the country. Let’s think about how this looks in ad land… young, attractive graduate running out on the field with young, attractive elite sports team. Its ticks a few things from the want box; why not sign up.
In reality, as so many graduates find out, jobs in this field are scarce and those that exist are heavily admin skewed, with hours of reports and patient write ups required each week, often expected to be completed outside traditional work hours. This isn't to say that those dream jobs don't exist, of course they do, but if prospective students aren't aware of the predominant workday reality, they can be in for a rude shock.
Then of course, there are external factors too. Questions like, “am I using my ATAR for it’s full potential?” or “What does my Mum want me to do?”
In my experience, it is rare that any student is immune to pressures like this. It’s a human trait to crave acceptance and inclusion and being well-liked, while likewise being petrified of embarrassment, negative judgment, and disapproval; and those feelings are magnified at a student level. Without doubt I get questions about ATAR every week from students. In the same way that as adults we introduce ourselves via our job title, “Hi I’m Bruce, I am a lawyer,” when I am talking to students about their next step they will say, “I think I’ll get X mark, and I am thinking about Y.”
For this year’s school leavers, rather predictably; in March next year we can expect a mass exodus from degrees and courses after many students crash back to earth, coming to terms with the expectations and pressures of day to day uni life, the realities of their area of study and for those particularly forward thinking, the potential realisation of a lack of career potential.
Dropping out or changing course is certainly not something that we need to build a scare campaign around; heck, there are certainly many roads to Rome! But, in my experience, the feedback that disappoints me most is, “I wish I had of known this existed in high school,” – and that’s the problem we are here to fix. We have built a product that allows students access to all the information before they need to pick a course.
We’ve built over 800 pieces of content. We know that not every student learns the same; so we’ve built podcasts, some are 360 virtual videos, some are career ladders, some are interactive virtual work experience activities and modules. My favourite are our podcasts called “On the phone with,” – I used to say to students in our workshops that they should pick up the phone and call someone in the job they want. But then I realised, not every student has a marine biologist, barrister, carpenter or candlestick maker on file to call. So we do it for them. We ask the questions they need to ask, “what do you like about your job?”, “what do you do day to day?” “what’s something that’s hard about the job”, “what’s something you didn’t know when you started?”.
This is truly the product I wish I had in high school, which makes me so excited to share it with you. Request demo access here and see for yourself why we're so excited about it.
School Partnerships, The Careers Department.