Many Australian students opt to continue their education after completing their undergraduate degree. This may be out of interest in the subject, for personal development, or because their chosen career requires postgraduate study. It is, for example, often essential if you hope to go into medicine or law. But sooner or later, the question of job opportunities will arise. To a large extent, graduate students can follow the same advice as undergraduates, but there are certain special aspects to the postgraduate job search.
Postgraduate study can be all-consuming, but you shouldn’t leave your search until after you graduate. Many major companies will actually begin recruitment for their graduate posts among current students. Your university will probably hold graduate fairs, and you should make sure to attend these. But you can also do your own research; if you’re interested in working for a particular employer or in a certain field, it is worth writing to those companies and ask to be referred to their graduate recruiter.
If your study commitments allow it, you should also consider working alongside your studies. This will bring useful experience and be a positive addition to your CV. It can also be a route into employment once you complete your studies, even if your student job is not directly related to the career you hope for. Many students work retail jobs, and all larger employers will have departments for recruitment, merchandising, accounting etc. As you are a “known quantity”, your application may be given greater consideration. If you have done any volunteering, it is also worth investigating paid opportunities within the same organisation.
Also contact any relevant bodies if you are keen on a specific career. For example, the Australian Institute of Sport offers placements to postgraduates studying sports science. Large companies like IBM also have graduate departments and will be specifically recruiting people with a postgraduate qualification. There are also a number of more general recruitment opportunities, many of which can be found online, such as job boards . Also search for recruitment agencies that specialise in graduates, and take advantage of any careers advice offered by your college; ask to see their postgraduate specialist.
The question of internships is a contentious one. Employers often tout these as the only way to gain the necessary experience to work in your chosen field, but internships are also undeniably a chance for some cheap labour. The promised opportunities often fail to materialise, so be cautious of any promises regarding an internship leading to a paid job within the same company. Graduates desperate to work in a particular career may even go from one unpaid internship to another, which does nothing to help their finances and will probably prove to be useless to their career prospects.
Paid internships are probably the only ones really worth considering. After all, a good company will understand the need to invest in their employees. If you do decide to take on an unpaid internship, do at least ensure that your expenses will be paid, or you will be even more out of pocket. Also limit yourself to one, instead of doing one after the other; you will probably better off taking paid work that will bring you an income, and gaining some experience in the workplace while you look for a better job. As you have taken at least another year away from the workplace, the need becomes even more urgent to get into employment, start paying off your student loans, and earning an income. You will also be a year or more behind those graduates who went into work straight after completing their undergraduate degree.
It is important to be realistic. Students may fondly imagine that their Master’s degree or doctorate will mean that they are snapped up by employers. But your postgraduate qualifications may not always be an advantage in seeking employment, and can even be a hindrance. Employers may feel that you are “too good” for a job, are overqualified, and will soon want to move on. So when considering a postgraduate course, do plenty of research into your prospects. It will be extremely disheartening if, having invested years and plenty of money into postgraduate studies, you find that you don’t immediately fall into a wonderful career that pays a high salary. However, a careful choice of subject may enhance your career prospects and over time, pay for itself.