3 things I would do differently at university
I graduated from university many years ago. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do for a career (Bachelor of Arts students – hello!) I had a handful of good friends picked up through being in the same classes, group projects and the odd night out. I was a ‘good’ student who got my assignments in on time and graduated with a solid transcript.
But when I look back on that time, I have regrets about how I approached the whole experience. My focus was on classes and assignments above all else (with some casual jobs thrown in) so it was a fairly unremarkable time in my life: a means to an end, fulfilling my parents’ expectations, a rite of passage. I was a passenger rather than a person with curiosity and agency.
Here are the 3 things I would have done differently.
1. Figuring out the purpose of university for me
It can be easy to just go through the motions, but when you actually think about what you want to get out of your university experience and get curious about what’s on offer, there are so many opportunities to learn and grow. Try finishing these sentences:
- The reasons I’m going to uni are ….
- I would describe my ideal uni experience as ….
- By the time I graduate I want ….
It’s not easy because you have to put aside all of the social and family pressures and really figure out what you want out of the three to five years you are here. There is no right or wrong answer but examples I’ve heard from students are:
- The reasons I’m going to uni are…. to set myself up for a job that I love, to meet a new network of people, to get me up and motivated every morning.
- I would describe my ideal uni experience as …. somewhere to explore what I’m good at, have access to amazing teaching and learning, to meet friends for life (and maybe a partner).
- By the time I graduate I want… to have some industry experience under my belt, an internship or two, to have moved out of home.
Once you are clearer on this purpose, it can guide your curiosity and lead your decisions about how to spend your time during university.
2. Understand that my degree can lead to a variety of career paths
It’s a common career myth that once you choose a degree or major you’ll be stuck in that career path forever. In reality, you might be unsure about what career options are out there, and that’s normal and okay.
I had no idea that my personal life would take me to London in my 20s. At the time I thought it would be for two years but it ended up being eight. And during that time I developed a career in human resources in large corporate organisations. I came back to Australia with a young family and needed to adapt my career path once again to balance with my family commitments.
Some students come to university with a very clear direction in mind, but you might enrol in a subject that introduces you to a totally new career path. After you graduate you might love the first job you get out of university but the company could restructure and your role gets made redundant, you might move overseas, or you might even start your own company one day.
Everyone is on their own journey and there is not one right career path. In fact, with the future of work and technology changing so rapidly, the job you do when you leave university might not even exist yet!
3. Getting involved in things I care about
It might have been that I was time poor due to a long commute in uni, or perhaps I wasn’t aware of what was on offer or simple apathy, but I didn’t get involved in any significant extra-curricular activities at university or explore interests outside of my degree.
Universities now have so many opportunities for you to get involved, and the list is almost endless:
- student clubs and societies via UTS Activate
- voluntary social justice initiatives like the SOUL Award
- leadership programs like UTS BUILD
- entrepreneurship opportunities with UTS Startups.
By exploring these options and getting involved, you will start to understand your strengths whilst also developing new skills and interests. Plus there is the added bonus of finding your tribe(s) and making friends and connections for life.
Whether your interests are professional, sporting or social – you will find like-minded people with shared interests, which will make your university experience so much more rewarding. And if you can’t find a club you’re interested in – why not start a new one!
I’m now working in a job I love as a Careers Consultant, but not the one I’d set out to do at university. So while you are here, be curious, explore your interests and make conscious decisions about how you want to spend your time. You just never know where it might lead…
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash
Candy Jenkins is the Careers Consultant for the Business School and Graduate Research School. Collaborating with academics, students and industry, Candy’s focus is to embed career education into the curriculum. Candy is passionate about helping students to understand their unique skills and strengths, land their dream job, and achieve their career goals. Her background prior to UTS is in human resources and career development with extensive global experience in banking, IT, telco, and FMCG. Candy managed large-scale graduate recruitment campaigns, from recruitment and selection through to talent management and leadership development.