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21 Tips for new graduates from UC's Adjunct Professors

For many graduates, completing an undergraduate degree will mean entering the full-time workforce for the first time after 16 years of schooling. This is an exciting time in anyone's life, but can also be nerve-wracking and stressful. 

To help our recent graduates in their transition into the workplace or postgraduate studies we asked some of our members of the College of Adjuncts for their one piece of advice for new graduates. Members of the College of Adjuncts are world leaders in their respective fields and come from both academia and industry, from Australia and around the world.

Below are their 21 tips for new graduates that you can apply now to help you get off on the best possible start to your new career, whether you are moving into the workforce or beginning postgraduate studies.

#1 You've learnt lots of skills you can apply from University

"Your degree has given you a broad range of skills. You've learned how to manage timelines, juggle priorities, interact with people and so on. So think broadly about your career options, don't just look at the traditional career path."
Stephen Duckett, Director, Health Program, Grattan Institute
"By looking at your degree transcript an employer can tell about your discipline-specific abilities, so they won't bother asking about those. What they can't tell are your communication skills, your teamwork ability and your capacity to handle difficult situations. Nearly every job interview you have will hammer on those points - they want to know if you can fit into their organisation."
Jan Newmarch, Head of Higher Education, Box Hill Institute

"A bachelors degree should be seen as the beginning of the self learning cycle as much as the end of the formal schooling cycle. In essence a degree provides the vocabulary and fundamental understandings that place the graduate in a position of being able to expand their knowledge through their own efforts rather than looking to others to teach them.  Your employer will be more impressed by your ability to learn quickly and effectively on the job, and to apply that knowledge, than with what you may have assimilated from your time at university."

Andrew Bartholomaeus, CEO, BartCrofts

"Remember the aspects of studying that gave you most pleasure at university. File them away for safekeeping to be used as a touchstone later on. Jobs can come and go and don't always turn out as expected. But if you think of university, what you loved doing and did well, you will find your way."

Valerie Braithwaite, Professor, College of Asia Pacific, Australian National University

"As new graduates, whatever your career choice, I encourage you to make the most of your education to make a place for yourself in the world.  The education you received at UC is a valuable commodity that you should cherish as many in this world still do not have access to a good education.  But it is not much use if you do not use what you learnt.  Education is a lifelong experience so keep your mind open while making the most of what UC taught you."

Susan Cox, Ambassador to Croatia, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

#2 Learn from others and seek out new perspectives and experiences

"Seek out opportunities to work with others from different industries and backgrounds to explore new ways of approaching common challenges and developing new strategies in your profession."
John Burns, CEO, Ochre Health
"Stay open-minded. Try to keep your genuine interest in new things, discover, go abroad and try to get new perspectives. Whereas these things come somehow "natural" during your studies, they may actually require a lot of effort after graduation – still they are worth the effort, and they will enrich your life later."
Sebastian Moller, Professor, TU Berlin

"Remember this was only the first phase of a long and productive career as a professional person or academician. Also consider that, while you are young, you still have time to experiment with other fields of interest and that many of the skills gained during your studies are transferable between occupations. From now, you will accumulate experience rather than qualifications (unless you take a higher degree!) and your experience will gradually become an increasingly important part of your profile over time."
Jonathan Hill, Scientist, Centre for Materials Nanoarchitectonics, National Institute for Materials Science, Japan

"While ambition, enthusiasm and focus are valuable attributes in a new graduate, do not underestimate the value of experience. While we all look at other jobs and think we could do them, make that assessment on the hard days, not the easy ones, because it is then that experience really counts. The best teams are the ones that can combine and value the wisdom of those who have been around and the fresh insights and energy of those who have not."

Andrew Kefford, Head, Asbestos Response Taskforce, ACT Government

"If I were a fresh graduate wanting to work in my research field I would make myself known to potential supervisors or employers, volunteer for field trips or work experience, become familiar with potential sources of funding in your area of interest and develop concept project proposals, investigate availability of graduate training programs and anything else which might give you an edge over others looking for similar employment."

Glen Saunders, Visiting Scientist, Biosecurity NSW

#3 There's no need to rush, its a long career

"Don't rush. Don't be in a hurry for promotion or continuous opportunities. It's best to spend time learning your craft and becoming as best as you can be, a career is a long road."
Nigel Phair, Executive Director, Centre for Internet Safety

"A prominent Chinese sage, Lao Tse (ca 4 or 6th century BC), said that 'someone's long journey of 1,000 miles starts with the most important 1st mile to be successful'. Your long journey of professional career is to start now with the most important first step too."

Nizam 'Jim' Wiryawan, Adjunct Professor, University of Canberra

#4 Think outside the box

"Be creative. Think and work outside of the square. Most 21st century challenges lie across traditional disciplines and areas of expertise, not within them."
Will Steffen, Councillor, Climate Council

#5 Ask questions, you don't know everything just yet

"No one expects a new graduate to know everything straight away (or if they do, quit the job!). So graduates should never be embarrassed to say "I don't know". You should ask lots of questions and use the experience around you."
Tony Peacock, Chief Executive, Cooperative Research Centres Association

"It is always better to say "I don't know" than fudge an answer which could be wrong. Speak softly and sweetly, not harshly or roughly. You never know when you might have to eat your own words."
Crispin Hull, Adjunct Professor, University of Canberra, columnist Fairfax Media

"Ask questions and always seek to understand why - challenge the status quo."

Graham Williams, Data Scientist, Australian Taxation Office

#6 Do what you love

"Pick a career that really interests you and that you are passionate about. Be flexible (not everyone can live in Sydney), and follow every good opportunity. Remember you have 40+ years to work and the path to a happy career is rarely a straight line."
Charles Krebs, Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia

"A lower paid job that you love is better than a higher paid job that you hate. Follow your passion."
John Rayner, Adjunct Professor of Engineering, Physics and Science Communication, University of Canberra

"Use your mind but trust your heart - you will not excel in anything if your heart is not aligned with your work. You should also do some due-diligence on potential employer - do not get into work environments that are unlikely to help you grow or not provide you with a sense of fun and fulfilment."
Andrzej Killian, Director, Diversity Arrays Technology

"You should do something you are passionate about and enjoy. In this way, you will always be willing to learn new things to pursue your passion."
Kathryn Moyle, Research Director, Education Policy and Practice, Australian Council for Educational Research

"Whatever your perspective on life an interesting career is important to most people. Finding a place in the workforce which provides learning and being an agile worker are two of the keys to building that interesting career."

Bruce Gurd, Associate Professor, University of South Australia Business School

#7 Get your foot in the door

"Getting the job you really want is easier when you are employed than when you are not - take a reasonable early offer, develop relevant experience, and build personal networks to leverage a more desirable position."
David Wilson, Associate Professor, University of Technology Sydney

"Don't worry about your first job being the job of your dreams. Take (almost) anything you are offered and use it as an opportunity to learn how to get on with the diverse range of people in the organisation. You don't need to like people to have a good professional relationship with them. Along with your desire and ability to solve problems, your capacity for developing relationships is the most important thing you need to develop."
Andrew Gonczi, Educational Consultant and Honorary Professor, University of Sydney

"Get into work as soon as possible, preferably in your field of study, but any work experience is invaluable. Travel interstate if you have to, to secure a job, or start your own business ... Better still, travel overseas, and offer your services wherever you can for an internship. Some of my former students have had great success doing just that! You'll be amazed at what that does to your confidence."

Nino Bellantonio, Architect, AiL Studio

#8 Leave a legacy

"Figure out how you can contribute your knowledge and abilities to your employer and a make it a better place than it was before you got there. Look for opportunities to improve what it offers its customers/students and help them better achieve their goals."
Robert Picard, Director of Research, Reuters Institute, Oxford University

#9 Be open to trying something new

"You never know what may be your perfect job unless you are willing to try something different."
Stephen Moore, Chief Information Officer, Department of Employment

#10 Be the shinning light in the office

"You will be the new member of a team, but with a smile and a please and thank you, an inquisitive mind and a keenness to do good (be it to your client, employer, humanity or the world in general) you will energise those around you. Maintaining this positive spirit over a career is the trick, but to do so has so many rewards."
Robert Whittaker, Director, Australian Institute of Building

"Every employer is looking for people who are prepared to work the problem and provide solutions, and do it with enthusiasm. Remember that if you don't have experience, enthusiasm can often help to fill that void. As a junior employee standing in the  filthy room and saying " I see dirt" is not very valuable, standing in a clean room with a broom in your hands saying " I saw dirt" that's someone you keep."
Geoff Germon, Chief Executive Officer, Talon Technology

"There are three words that I thinks are important as most of us are just competent journeymen in the professions that we have lived and worked within. The three words that I think are important are integrity, honesty and tolerance."

Peter Morgan, Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Education, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths

"Be kind, altruism is contagious. Discover the creative dynamic of play in your working environment. Accept the opportunity to be a lifelong learner. Embrace humility."
Keith Lyons, Adjunct Professor, Research Institute for Sport and Exercise

#11 Go the extra mile

"Walk an extra mile everyday. Do one extra job everyday. You will become more competitive than everyone around you."
Philip Lok, Chief Executive, The Loks Professional Development Center

"Do not be afraid of working long hours, only through hard work will you see the results.  Do not be afraid of failure, only through failure will you see success."

Robert Tiong, Deputy Director, Centre for Infrastructure Systems, Nanyang Technological University

"It helps if you enjoy what you do as there are no shortcuts to success; only direct prolonged practice of your skills will deliver expertise so you will one day become so good they can't ignore you!"

Mark Harrison, Manager, Investigations Standards and Practices, Australian Federal Police

"Seek opportunities where you can fully immerse yourself and learn your craft. Be prepared to do the 'unglamorous' work and endeavour to develop your skills along with the discipline that is required for future success. Take that extra 'more difficult' project on; attend the development opportunities (even if it is on the odd weekend) early in your career before you have too many competing commitments for your time. This will pay dividends later when you can draw upon the various experiences that you will accumulate."

Matthew Favier, Director, Australian Institute of Sport

"Being proactive is one of the most valuable characteristics in an employee. When you encounter a risk or issue, try to identify solutions to it and go to your manager with these as well as your recommended approach. Your manager doesn't have time to solve every problem and they will be very grateful to hear your views."

Maria Milosavljevic, Chief Information Officer, Australian Crime Commission

"Aim to gain 2 days of work experience for every day you work."

Nick Brown, Deputy Director - Research and Applied Science, Australian Institute of Sport

#12 Broaden your skill set and continue to learn

"Always stay positive, change your job every few years and learn new skills and meet new challenges".
Tony Kwan, Former Chief Information Officer, Department of Immigration and Citizenship

"Never become complacent as a competitive marketplace requires individuals and corporate entities to continually evolve and adapt. Academia has provided the base for you to analyse, assimilate and innovate which, in turn will enable you to deliver… on service and goods.. to the highest level. Enjoy the work experience with all its challenging (and not so challenging),requirements."
Stephen Morris, Executive Director, Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia

"As a new graduate, you may think you know a lot about your specialised subject.  This is only a beginning or prerequisite because employers also want to know whether you can apply your knowledge and skills to their needs.  This requires great flexibility and adaptability on your part as does an aptitude to learn new skills in new areas. I still get enjoyment and satisfaction from learning about new areas related to my work.  Understanding how your new job fits into a wider context is always beneficial to you and your employer, and offers opportunities to open new doors."

Colin Chartres, Principal Fellow, eWater Collaborative Research Centre

"Technology is changing so fast that people who do not believe in life long leaning are left behind in the race. Always planning for the future is a path for success. We are good in inventing new things, so remember that Intellectual property (IP) issues should not be ignored."

Lakhmi Jain, Adjunct Professor, University of Canberra

#13 Seek out mentors

"Take your time to think what exactly is the field you want to excel in, and find out who is the current number one in the world in that field. Then find a way to join him or her wherever they might be. If you have talent you will learn from them and one day you will surpass your teacher and replace them as number one."
Marco Lanzetta, Scientific Director, Italian Institute of Hand Surgery

"My advice is find a really good mentor who will ask you hard questions about your thoughts, feelings and actions in your everyday work in that crucial first year. It assists with development of a reflective practice stance, which over time will help you become a "wise" practitioner, which is an evolution on from merely being evidence based."

Gail Whiteford, Principal, Whiteford Consulting

#14 Think independently

"Don't take other people's opinions without checking the evidence for yourself. You now have the research skills needed to become an independent and critical voice in society."
Peter Williams, Honorary Professorial Fellow, University of Wollongong

#15 Don't underestimate the power of one

"During my 17 years involved with the Paralympic Movement, I learnt to never underestimate the power of one determined individual with a burning desire to achieve their personal best. The qualities of integrity and courage are universally important – combine all this with determination, compassion and energy and you are unbeatable."
Greg Hartung, Company Director and Sport Policy Specialist

"Look for opportunities where you can make a difference. Your unique perspective on the world can influence and make positive changes to build a better society. Don't underestimate the power of one voice."

Peter Radoll, Dean of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education and Research, University of Newcastle

#16 Be committed to collective success

"Understand that everyone needs to be whole-heartedly committed to making the organisation successful if they want the organisation to be able to deliver them the rewards that they seek."

Robin Eckermann, Adjunct Professor, University of Canberra

#17 Don't be afraid of a challenge

"Never be afraid to face any problems. Problems must be treated as challenges, and by facing the problems and finding solutions to overcome/resolve will help greatly in the learning process, development of experience and skills. Always be pro-active in the work and be willing to learn new things. Effective communication and teamwork are very important in working life. Work towards achieving the best possible in these areas."

Ong Pock Keong, Chairman/Managing Director, Terasaki Electric Co

"Challenge yourself and work for and with interesting people.  This motto has never failed me. You will also learn and continue to develop throughout your career if you always ask 'how could I have done that better'."

Jane Halton, Secretary, Department of Finance

"Don't be afraid - take every opportunity that comes your way."

Kay Ransome, Principal Member, Migration Review Tribunal and Refugee Review Tribunal

#18 Invest wisely with your money and in yourself

"We live in a capitalist world.  Going to University is the business of gathering personal intellectual capital. To be successful you need to combine your intellectual capital with real capital. In order to maximise your options, once you start working, always put the first 10% of everything you earn into real capital (house, investments, etc.). If all you do is work for a salary then this should provide a high standard of living. However, should you want to follow a dream and wish to use your intellectual capital, you will at least have some real capital to take the risk and get started on your real passion. And never forget that your community has given you that opportunity, so give back!".

Brand Hoff, Director Canberra, Business Council, Director, Taggle Systems

#19 Make a good first impression

"Shake hands with people when you meet them. Ensure you have a firm handshake, and look people in the eye (briefly) when you shake their hand."

Sue Briggs, Adjunct Professor, Institute of Applied Ecology

#20 Stay in touch with your fellow Alumni

"Stay in touch with the people that you studied with- they will be a valuable network for you in your chosen professional career. You have all been through an important experience together and you now have a ready-made support group."

Lauren Williams, Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Health, University of Canberra

#21 It's up to you!

"The only person responsible for your future is you. Seek advice from as many knowledgeable individuals as you can but always remember any decision about your future needs to be yours alone and every decision you make will have consequences not only for yourself but possibly for others. Just make it happen!"
Margaret Patrickson, Associate Professor, University of South Australia Business School

"Trust your instincts, assertively pursue your career, and always put your family first."

Jon Stanhope, Adjunct Professor, Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis

Do you agree with our adjunct's list? Think we are missing something or would like to learn more? Head to our Facebook page to continue the conversation.

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