Landing a job - not as you know it.
For many hopeful students, the journey to getting a job is often laid out as a three step process; get a university degree, do an internship, then secure a coveted graduate role. But what happens if things don’t pan out in this exact manner? Does that mean that any prospects of a job are over?
This is certainly not the case, as we found out in our chat with Michael*. Michael is one individual who didn’t follow a typical career trajectory, but managed to make things work all the same. He found his love for computers after teaching himself BASIC and assembly languages when he was 13. Since then, he has built his own games and developed a fascination for programming. However, he dropped out of high school in Year 12 and initially worked in non-IT roles. After starting his career in an admin position at an insurance company, Michael eventually moved to a network role within the same company. Shortly after, the company got acquired and Michael had to move to Sydney to work for the new company. Since then, he has worked for various organisations in roles relating to networks and security, recently having developed an interest in Machine Learning. Currently, he is a Senior Sales Engineer at a reputed big data company.
Despite not having followed a conventional career path, Michael was able to find his way into the corporate sector and do something he enjoyed. So what enabled him to do this? Here is Michael’s advice for students:
Try lots of things!
Having tried multiple sectors within IT, Michael strongly recommends trying new things and not locking yourself down into one area. Since Michael gained exposure in jobs relating to networks, security and statistical analysis, he was able to better understand what he enjoyed and subsequently get more experience in a variety of fields. Michael places a strong emphasis on trying many things, as “you don’t know what you don’t learn”.
Do the hard work.
Getting a job isn't easy, therefore, it’s crucial that you put in the extra effort and commit to your work. For Michael, doing the hard work was achievable as he was doing things that he enjoyed. Stemming on from this, if you find something that you’re passionate about and find a problem worth solving, put in the hard work and see what you can do to improve the problem.
Moving around in an organisation is not something most people would usually consider. According to Michael, one of the most valuable pieces of advice he could give would be to not have unreasonable expectations. Even if you don’t prefer a certain role, it is better to apply for things you may not have originally wanted to do, but then to work your way up from there and eventually get to the position that you want to be in. In order to go about doing this, Michael stresses the importance of building relationships and attaching yourself to winning organisations within a company. By doing so, it will allow you to get to get experience in different areas and progress your career further.
Before Michael joined his current company, he was mostly working with networks and security. After starting his current role, he explored the fascinating uses of data and discovered the powerful nature of analytics. In 2015, his company released a Machine Learning (ML) Toolkit which propelled his interest in this field. In Michael’s words, he found that ML opens up “a world of possibilities” and “augments human processes and removes the guesswork”.
From starting his career in an admin role to working as a Senior Sales Engineer, Michael has been able to try a variety of roles and find out his areas of interest. He is just one such example of someone who didn't follow a conventional career path but has been able to work his way up and get exposure in various sectors within the industry. That’s not to say that university and internships are unnecessary, but if things don’t work out in the way that the three-step process is outlined, it most certainly is not the end of all career prospects. If anything, it is just another pathway which might just open a door that you would have never anticipated.
* For the sake of anonymity, Michael’s name has been changed. We would like to thank him for taking the time to speak with us.