Moving Beyond The Classroom at University

Excerpts from this article were extracted from a post I wrote on my blog last year.

Working as a student ambassador for my university has allowed me to interact with many students from different walks of life. I always get lots of questions from prospective students about what they should study and what career options they can pursue after they graduate.

While I am always happy to give advice based on my experience, it is never guaranteed what job you may land. However, working hard and thinking outside the box, to ensure you graduate with more than a qualification is a great plan to consider.

During my sophomore year, I started thinking about the different ways I could move beyond the classroom and start building my portfolio. Starting is always hard, especially when you have no idea what type of job you want. The important thing is to just start somewhere and the rest will figure itself out because you will learn along the way.

Here are some of the things I have learned:

1. Find yourself a dedicated mentor

Mentors are great people to have by your side, regardless of the stage you are at in your life. Whether you are an established businessperson or a university student, mentors are always good to have. If you are lucky enough to find one good mentor who is dedicated and passionate about working with you, I encourage you to make the most of that relationship. I never thought about getting a mentor until my friend told me about the professional development he was receiving from his mentor and how much it had changed his perspective about his career path.

I did my research on how I could get a mentor. After researching my options, I was very fortunate to find that my university offered a career and mentor scheme program. The program matches student's with industry professionals, who are dedicated to working with students and providing insight based on their experience. What better way to learn more about the future job role you want, than from a person who is in it? Through this program, I had the pleasure of being mentored by a woman named Jacqui Owen who is the relationship manager -- education at CPA Australia. It was an exciting opportunity and I didn't know what to expect. Our first meeting was at the CPA Australia offices in Brisbane. I must admit I was very nervous about meeting her but upon meeting her those nerves disappeared, as she was extremely passionate about working with me.

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Jacqui Owen

2. Leverage your social media

Social media as we all know is a very powerful tool that many people use in our generation. It is a tool that enables you to connect with the world in the comfort of your home. LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking service I highly recommend for students to get. While I understand in some countries, using this service does not provide the same benefits as it does in other countries; there is no harm in setting up an account or being actively engaged on the site. If you would like to set up a LinkedIn page but don't know how, there are many articles online that may be of useful. Alex Malley, CEO of CPA Australia, in his book 'The Naked CEO,' wrote an entire chapter dedicated to using LinkedIn. It provides useful tips that are easy to follow and will set you up on the right track.

3. Do not take no for an answer

How many of you are frequent recipients of the following email:

"Thank you for taking the time to apply for the job role. We had a very strong response to the position and the calibre of candidates was of a high standard, making short listing very difficult. Unfortunately in this instance you were unsuccessful. We hope that we may be able to assist you with your future career and in the meantime, please accept our best wishes."

I cannot tell you the number of emails I have received similar to this. It is very frustrating and can be disheartening, especially when you know that you have the necessary skills and experience required for the job role. Do not allow these emails to deter you and do not allow any form of rejection to stop you from trying. Use rejection as a tool to improve your resume, network with industry professionals and learn about the different ways you can find a job.

Most people do not know that I did not get accepted into university straight away. My first application to my dream university was unsuccessful. I could have gone to a different university that was willing to accept me but my dream was set on going to QUT. I had to settle for a year of foundation studies and then I was able to advance on to my degree. There is hope after rejection kids lol.

4. Take time to enjoy where you are, on the road to where you are going

There is no sequel to your life. We only get one shot at this and I want to look back one day and say 'I made the most of each opportunity.' Even if I do not reach all my goals and fulfill all my dreams, I have to at least fulfill some of them. However, I must admit that sometimes I find it difficult to embrace where I am. I am constantly trying to do more; whether it's taking on internships, networking, improving my articles or simply selling jeans at work, I am always looking out for the next thing to do. While these are great qualities to have, it is very important to live in the moment and be happy with what you have accomplished or else you will never be satisfied. Whenever I complain about my life to my father, he constantly reminds me to just enjoy where I am. If you are not where you want to be today, just remember nothing is ever set in stone. Life is all about change so if you are doing everything you possibly can right now, take a step back and let life take its course. "Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead." --Nelson Mandela

5. Find out what inspires you

• What are some of the things that inspire you?
• What do you do in your spare time?
• Who inspires you the most and why?

These are some very basic questions to ask yourself and find the answers to. Asking yourself questions regularly, will help you discover the things that you are passionate about. Find people who genuinely inspire you or the people who have the job roles you want and study them. Figure out how they started, the challenges they faced and how they managed to weather through the storm. Establishing the people who inspire you is a really good place to start when searching for inspiration.

The people who currently inspire me:

• Alex Malley (CEO of CPA Australia)
• Sheryl Sandburg (Facebook COO and author of bestseller "Lean In," Sheryl Sandberg)
• Vusi Thembekwayo (Global Business Speaker & Private Equity CEO)
• Zororo Makamba (Talk Show Host and Producer of 'Tonight With Zororo')

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Vusi Thembekwayo during his Asia Pacific Speaking Tour

The last thing I recommend is to read some books that apply to you. Do not try and read all the business books for the sake of being able to put your hand up or nod when people ask if you have read a particular book. Read books that are useful and can be applied to your everyday life.

Books I recommend:

"The Naked CEO" by Alex Malley
"Thrive" by Arianna Huffington