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Being Career Ready – Steps for Water Professionals

It can be complicated to think about a career as being anything other than linear however, when we crack open the conversation to another’s career, we rarely hear of clearly laid plans that have not taken twists and turns along the way. On Tuesday 23 August, the Queensland Water Modelling Network (QWMN) 3CP team were joined by senior/experienced professionals and eager early career professionals and students from across the water sector, keen to share, learn and grow together.

This event, hosted at Griffith University’s Nathan Campus, centred around career pathways, the diversity of trajectories and the role of sharing our stories to benefit the development of upcoming professionals and the sector at large. It was also one of our most organic discussions yet and it fully engaged all the participants for the afternoon.  

Piet Filet opened the day by honouring the life of Mark Pascoe of the International Water Centre, whose life was suddenly taken from us all. Mark was scheduled to be one of the mentors at this event as he typically prioritised his availability to participate at these events.  One of Mark’s greatest legacies is the lasting impact from his innate ability to network across disciplines and his supportive presence was with us on the day.   

Mentors share their career pathways

The concept of continuous and shared learning is a beacon for personal and sectoral growth and holds within it, simple questions that can help frame immediate, intermediate and transitional steps for career development. To support discussion on the day, “mentors” and “mentees” were guided by the Continuous Learning Model. Professionals were paired off with students and young professionals interested to know more about their journey. In pairs, discussions focussed around immediate and intermediate actions mentees required in the short term, to meet career aspirations. 

Highlights from these conversations were shared during the group discussion including: 

  • having a job ready resume 
  • going in search of information on what’s important in their field of interest 
  • an ability to demonstrate how they’re going to follow through and make decisions  
  • the balancing act of education/research with work commitments 
  • the value in learning how to communicate to multidisciplinary audiences  
  • deciding when enough work is enough. 

There were also some new and different skills and experiences shared during these one-on-one conversations, including: 

  • having an active professional socials account e.g., LinkedIn, Twitter 
  • offering to present one’s research to different groups 
  • identifying associations and others to volunteer with  
  • attending networking events 
  • presenting at conferences  
  • ability to communicate across disciplines and understanding who your audience is 
  • sharing summary of papers to interested folks  
  • moving from the funnel approach to the hourglass approach for connecting with others 

The Continuous Learning Model https://blog.anderspink.com/2017/01/why-continuous-learning-is-the-new-ld-benchmark/  

Following a round of drinks, nibbles and free flow conversation, we asked experienced colleagues to consider important changes during their careers, especially during the transitional phase. The conversations continued with highlights including: 

  • staying inquisitive 
  • taking time to look inward 
  • retaining some freshness in life through external interests such as arts, music and meditation 
  • having a beneficial influence and impact on others 
  • applying yourself in the workplace  
  • having the confidence to learn in the deep-end by reframing our struggles as learnings 

We closed the event with more food, drink and networking inviting participants to relax and enjoy each other’s company.  

Other feedback we have received from this event includes: 

“It felt like quite natural networking and not too forced. It was really great to have an opportunity to hear different perspectives on career development. All the mentors were very generous in offering up advice and feedback.” 

“I enjoyed the combination of general facilitated discussion, plenty of time for informal networking, as well as some targeted activity to ensure the time was used wisely and we could focus on specific outcomes.” 

“[I enjoyed] sharing experiences… someone said they only applied for a job once; a powerful message about the importance of networking” 

“[I enjoyed the] organic nature of [the event]. There was enough structure, but it also didn’t matter if you strayed a little from that.” 

There doesn’t need to be a clearly planned and laid out path for our careers, but a little guidance and support goes such a long way to helping us navigate our flow through the rapids and meanders. When we take time to reflect on our own career paths, and those who influence us along the way, it is often the stories of triumph and struggle that guide us along a path that suits us best.  

At this workshop, we heard career summaries from experienced professionals with a desire to share their twists and turns and the journey they took to find their feet. This desire provided those with less experience an opportunity to feel heard and supported.  

We hope this event leads to more growth-minded discussions for all participants and we aim to facilitate future events to continue to foster the important resource of sharing. We thank all our experienced colleagues for being such excellent mentors for mentees and mentees for being inquisitive to the process. Keep it up team! 

Mentors and mentees engaged in conversation

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