Ting ting… Back to uni… Round 2!

When Susana Simon lost her first graduate job, it didn’t take her long to find the silver lining.

It was 2012 and I had just finished my very last exam. I let out a sigh of relief, collected my notebook filled with scribbled notes, and enjoyed the sunshine on my face. The summer break was here! No more exams and no more uni. I was done with studying!

I had put in the hard yards and finished my Bachelor of Environmental Engineering. It was a good end to this chapter – I’d made life-long friends and secured a graduate job.

Fast forward a year…

I had got into the rhythm of full-time work but, unfortunately, I’d graduated in a downtime market for engineering, especially in the water sector. I received news that my role had been made redundant.

At the time it was a blow, but in hindsight it worked out for the best. It gave me an opportunity to reflect on what I was doing and what I really wanted out of my career.

Like many high school students, I enrolled in engineering having a narrow understanding of what I’d be doing post uni. After working for 12 months I discovered what career direction I really wanted: I wanted a position where I would be directly involved in delivering projects.

After a spell of volunteering, working in retail and searching for job opportunities, I came to the realisation that to get to where I aspired to be, I needed to expand my qualifications. So, in mid-2015, I enrolled at UNSW for the second time, studying Civil Engineering. Although I hadn’t been away from uni that long, when I went back I was a very different person.

Initially it was a bit daunting. I thought, “I’m going to be surrounded by 18-year olds”, but quickly realised this wasn’t an issue.

Here are the things I learnt:

1.       You’re not the only one!

I was worried that going back a second time I’d be the odd one out. But it wasn’t an issue and I didn’t find it difficult to make more friends. One great thing about uni is that it brings together a variety of people who also want to widen their opportunities. In lecture class, I noticed people in their early 20’s and before long I was striking up conversation, learning about why they were back at uni too.

2.       Ask questions

If there’s anything you learn about uni after one degree – it’s the importance of asking questions. The worst that can happen is you won’t get an answer. Ask early and ask often. This includes before lectures, after lectures, after tutes...

Also, use your friendship circles to create study networks where you can pull together notes and brainstorm ideas for assignments.

3.       Make the most of all the opportunities on offer

Whether its internships, signing up to one of the many Student-Led Projects or taking advantage of the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre’s free events. You’ll never have opportunities like this again – so make the most of it!

4.       Get into job seeking early and use the career expos

Writing your cover letter or resume is just like any other form of writing, it takes practice! Applying for jobs can be like another assignment, so give yourself a head start and work on your CV during the semester break. Also make use of the events and resources from UNSW’s Careers and Employment.

So where am I now? I’ve just about completed my Civil Engineering degree. I work four days a week with Lendlease delivering Sydney Water projects and I’m so glad that I’m on track to become a project engineer.

My overall advice is, don’t be scared to go back and study another degree. You won’t regret it.



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