The pandemic has hammered the Australian job market hard and many people are facing long-term
unemployment, particularly those in the hospitality, entertainment, and retail sectors.
A job ad for an entry-level office admin job in Melbourne last August received a staggering 613
applications. A call centre job in the ATO received 5,000 applications. To make matters worse,
Deloitte predicts the Australian job market will remain sluggish for the next three years, with
unemployment expected to peak at 8.3% in 2021/22.
With this in mind, now is a good time to think carefully about your future career goals and use the
next 5+ years to make them happen.
Whether you are unemployed, about to leave full-time education, or thinking about making a career
change, this article is for you.
Explore Your Possibilities
Some people know from a young age exactly what they want to be when they grow up. Perhaps you
dreamed of being a doctor or a policeman. Or maybe you always wanted to work with animals or
kids. If this sounds like you, then great! All you need to do is turn your dreams into a reality. Good
Chances are, you are like the rest of us: unsure of where you see your career heading and clueless
about how to narrow down a million and one jobs into a specific career path.
Think carefully about where your talents lie. Are you a bubbly extrovert who loves working with
people? Or a socially awkward introvert who prefers computers to humans.
Consider your interests. The best careers are closely aligned with our interests, which is why doing
your dream job makes getting out of bed each Monday a breeze.
Make a list of occupations that interest you and seem like a good fit for your personality. For
example, if you like kids and want to make a difference in the world, teaching might tick a few boxes.
But if you have a head for numbers and enjoy problem-solving, a career as an accountant might be
Keep an Open Mind
It’s important to keep an open mind. Don’t dismiss any potential career until you have investigated it
further. Just because it seems like becoming a surgeon is an impossible dream, it doesn’t mean you
can’t pursue such a goal. Never say never until you know exactly what the requirements are for your
Draw up a list of possible professions that fit your interests, personality type, and skills. Next,
research each one to find out the following:
- What attracts you to this career?
- What qualifications are needed?
- What skills are needed?
- What does the job entail?
- Are there advancement opportunities?
- What is a typical salary?What are the future job prospects like?
- How will the job affect your work-life balance?
Doing the research should provide you with some useful insights into your dream job. Look closely at
the advantages and disadvantages of each career.
- Is the salary enough for you to survive?
- Are there any significant barriers you would need to overcome to achieve this career?
- Can you picture yourself doing the job for the next 30+ years?
Try and narrow down your choices to one career. Next, reach out to people in your dream
profession and ask them about the realities of doing the job, as the day-to-day mundanities might be
very different from what you imagine.
It’s vital that you truly understand the bigger picture when setting a career goal. Just because a
career as a war correspondent looks amazing in the movies, it isn’t as glamorous in real life. In fact, it
is dangerous, upsetting, and not for the faint-hearted.
Once you have identified which career path is for you, it’s time to set some short-term and long-
term goals to help you achieve your dream.
Short-term goals are relatively simple. These involve studying for the right qualifications, learning
new skills, and gaining suitable experience.
Check out job descriptions to see what competencies employers are looking for. Are there
opportunities for on-the-job learning, or is a degree education the main entry requirement?
Think about what you need to do in the next 3-5 years to work towards your chosen role.
For example, if your dream job is being a veterinary nurse in rural veterinary practice, but you
currently live and work in Brisbane, short-term goals might be to identify a suitable vet nursing
course, look for a rural practice willing to take you on as a trainee vet nurse, and try and get some experience with the kind of animals you will be dealing with in a rural veterinary practice (sheep,
horses, cattle, etc.).
Long-term goals are broader in scope. Think of this as writing a roadmap for your future career,
which you will follow over the next 5+ years.
Many careers involve following a set pathway. For example:
Trainee account > junior accountant > senior accountant > management accountant > financial
If you’re not sure about the right pathway in your chosen career, have a chat with a recruiter. They
can help you better understand your options, which routes are likely to be best for your current skills
and end-goals. For example, there might be fast-track career pathways that allow applicants to
progress much faster into management positions. If you are ambitious and willing to put the work
in, this could be a great option for you.
Draw up a list of the different jobs that form part of your chosen career pathway. For each one,
research what’s needed and how you can achieve the required skillset. Pay attention to the soft
skills needed, key competencies to learn, specific experience employers look for, how you can grow
professionally, and how long you need to spend in each role before you can move up the ladder.
It’s a good idea to seek out a mentor, someone in a senior role who can advise you and offer some
insights into the job you aspire to do.
SMART goals are clearly defined objectives you can work towards.
- Specific – make unambiguous statements
- Measurable – know what you want to achieve
- Achievable – stay motivated but make sure your goals are within reach
- Realistic – maintain a sense of realism (don’t decide you want to be a lifeguard if you’re
scared of the water)
- Timely – have clear timeframes for your goals
Measure Your Progress
Keep a close eye on your career road map to ensure you stay on track. Reward yourself for each goal
you reach, and if you fall behind for any reason, see where you can make improvements and
whether additional support is needed. For example, you may discover you need additional skills in
your job, or a mentor is required to help problem-solve difficulties in achieving promotion to the
Schedule periodic reviews, such as quarterly or annually. Use these reviews to help you stay on track
and treat each one as an opportunity to reflect on how far you have come already. It’s a good time
to give yourself a much-need pat on the back!
Don’t beat yourself up if life gets in the way or your goals change for any reason. Some things are
out of our control – the Covid-19 pandemic being a good example. In addition, job requirements
might change over time and you may find you need to pivot to a new career path to take into
account technological innovations or adjustments in the job market.
If you can’t narrow down your choices, focus on one broad area. In time, as you move from one job
to the next, you may discover you want to specialise in a particular niche. Ultimately, as long as you
aim for a career path you find fulfilling, life will be a lot more enjoyable.
Are you working towards your dream job? Tell us how you plan on achieving your goals.