How to choose a career path with transferable skills

Just a few years ago the average age of retirement was 60 and now it has jumped to 70. What does that mean if you’re a young person entering today’s workforce?

choosing a career path with transferable skills
Olivia Peach Award-winning primary teacher and mum of three BEd Monday, 12 August 2019

Making a decision about a path of tertiary study is something that should be carefully considered and, increasingly, as flexible as possible. We once lived in a society where employees were loyal to a career and company in exchange for rewards and incentives from their employer. We now live in a world where we can be employed and work “remotely” from wherever we choose. All we need is an internet connection, a laptop or device and the skills and knowledge to think creatively and solve problems…skills which are often developed by a university degree.

How job mobility changes your options

In the 12 months leading up to February 2019, 1.1 million people changed employer or business*, with more than 20% of these in professional roles. The increase in worker mobility and the opportunities to work remotely explain some of these statistics. Not only can we now work remotely but also study online, significantly increasing opportunities for flexibility as well as success. What does that mean for you when choosing a study and career path? Importantly, it removes the pressure to get it ‘right’ immediately. By removing the emotion and pressure from making the ‘right choice’, instead you can focus on breaking your options down into skills and opportunities.

Choosing the ‘right’ university degree

When using UAC to search for university degrees, start by focusing on the ‘areas of study’ and ‘career opportunities’. You can then look more closely into individual subjects and the content you will cover. You can expand your research by using data from job search engines such as Seek. Seek’s new feature ‘Career Advice’ utilises data from users (advertisers and applicants) to provide information and insights including job satisfaction, job growth, average salary, in-demand skills, courses and free templates. By speaking to your school’s careers counsellor and exploring UAC and Seek, you’ll get a big picture perspective about realities in the workforce.

From dream to reality

It’s important to work out what it is that you really want from your future. Not what your parents want or what society is dictating of your generation, but what truly inspires you to create the short and long-term future you want. From there, it’s a matter of putting a plan in place for how you’re going to get there. It might sound daunting, but you will have plenty of time to evaluate each step as you go. The important thing is to start somewhere.

Step 1: Self-evaluation

What subjects and concepts have you enjoyed the most? What do you and your friends see as your strengths? What are your interests that genuinely make you happy? Consider how you would like to have an impact on others; the community or even the world population. What do you value most in your life and your surroundings? In what environment are you comfortable to be authentic and true to who you really are?

Now take some time to reflect on your responses and look for trends. These might be good places to start.

Step 2. Explore the possibilities

Now that you know where your interests lie, can you make a career out of it? It’s time to use your resources to find out how to turn your strengths and passions into a fulfilling career. For example, if being physically active and healthy is a recurring theme, you could look at an area of study focusing on health. Narrow it down — is it physical activity and teaching others or healthy eating that really interests you? Link these to options, like PE Teaching or Dietetics. If you think mental health is important, Psychology is a possible area of study. Many of the skills required for each of these options are transferrable in some respects, as the basis is ‘health’.

Step 3. Using your friends and family as a sounding board

Make sure you choose an area of further study that is based on what drives you, otherwise you may end up living your life for other people. We can of course give our loved ones credit for knowing us, loving us and being our biggest cheer squad throughout our schooling lives. Once you have an idea and have done the research, approach your #1 fans. Have an open mind and take their advice on board. They know you well, including your strengths and fears. They may also have connections to people who may be able to advise you further.

Step 4. Create a plan

Start to turn your dreams into a reality by writing down a list of priorities in terms of study options and entry options. Be realistic about what you may be able to enter into via high school, as well as other options that may exist (e.g. bridging courses) in case you don’t get the required score. This is not setting you up for failure, but rather problem-solving to give you the opportunity to fulfil your dreams, no matter how big they may seem. Then it’s time to wait for your results and then take steps to turn your career dreams into reality.

Big picture perspective

With knowledge and perspective, choosing the ‘right’ career path should be less daunting. Knowing that in the big picture, your first chosen career may not be your last can also be quite exciting. It means reduced pressure, an open mind, and the ability to take healthy risks knowing you can always transfer your skills and knowledge, possibly from anywhere in our connected world.

*Data used based on statistics collected and published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2019.


Dr Selina Samuels
Education expert

BA(Hons), LLB, PhD, MEd

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