Changing nature of school to work transitions

Once, the transition from school to work was a relatively straightforward one. The majority of students left school before completing Year 12 to take on full-time employment.

However, the school to work transition has changed dramatically in the past two decades. The majority of students now stay to complete Year 12 and over 40 per cent combining full-time school study with part-time work. The number of students combining school with work has doubled in the last decade alone.

There has also been a steady reduction in full-time job opportunities for young people. The jobs that are available are generally casual or part time. Satisfactory completion of Year 12 is increasingly a requirement for many jobs and even apprenticeships.

So, early school leavers face increasing disadvantage as the completion of Year 12 becomes not only normal, but essential to securing employment and further education and training opportunities.

Helpful website:


Where the jobs are

When considering the best job for you, think about which industries are likely to have good employment prospects in the future, and what kinds of skills will be in demand.

Consider the location where you want to work. Explore the opportunities available in your local area or the geographical area you want to work in.

Melbourne City is the centre of state government, commercial and administrative activity in Victoria. However, it is worth finding out if any government departments or companies have moved, or plan to move, to regional Victoria. The local hospitals employ midwifery and nursing professionals. The tertiary education industry employs tertiary education teachers. Other large industries include financial, legal and accounting services, and computer system design and related services. Many people also work as salespersons and general clerks.

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Finding a job

Knowing how to market yourself is essential for your job search. There are many different methods of finding employment and the more methods you use, the more successful you are likely to be at finding a job. Remember, from your first minute of contact with them, an employer is judging what kind of employee you will be. It doesn’t matter whether the contact is over the phone, in writing, or via social media.

The following sites will give you tips on how to call employers and sell yourself as a great candidate for the job:



Building your résumé

A résumé (pronounced ‘res-you-may’) is the document that contains your work history, skills and experience and shows the employer that you have what they are looking for. An alternative name is curriculum vitae (CV) which was traditionally used by academics. Now people use the terms résumé and curriculum vitae interchangeably.

You don’t need to have had paid work to put together a résumé. If this is your first job search, you can write about any skills, abilities and personal qualities you’ve developed from school activities, hobbies and community involvement. The following links provide advice on what you should include in your résumé, and will help you build your résumé from scratch:


Cover letters

When applying for an advertised job, it’s essential to include a cover letter and it should be sent or posted with your résumé.

Your cover letter should be specific to the position you are applying for. It should link your skills and experience to those detailed in the job advertisement. It is your first (and best) chance to make a good impression and outline your suitability for the position.

A cover letter will address the three main questions an employer wants answered:

  • Can you do the job? – Do you have the right qualifications, knowledge, skills, abilities and experience?
  • Will you do the job well? – Are you dependable, self-motivated and enthusiastic?
  • Will you fit into the organisation? – Are your values and goals a good match? Will you get along well with clients and co-workers?

Your cover letter should always use a business letter format, including a formal greeting and sign off.

Take the time to review cover letter samples. It is crucial that your letter explains how your skills and experience relate to the criteria listed in the job advertisement. Visit commercial job-seeker sites. (You may need to register with them before being able to search in them.)

For more information, and to view sample cover letters, go to:



Guide to job search on the internet

Internet-based job search has become the standard way to look for work, but it is not the only way of searching for jobs. The more methods you use to look for work, the more successful you are likely to be.

There are now a lot of websites dedicated to job postings. You can search by profession or key words. Many of these job sites allow you to post your résumé for free and you can set up alerts when a job is posted that matches your criteria.

Many companies also feature their job vacancies on their website. If you have identified some companies you would like to work for, go to their website and review their job postings.


Applying for jobs online

If you are going to apply for a job online, you’ll need to gather some information before you start, such a

  • An email address and internet access
  • An up-to-date résumé
  • A cover letter
  • A copy of your employment history
  • When you would be available to take up a position
  • What hours you would be available to work (if the position is part time).

In addition, as part of the job application process, you may need to take an online employment test and provide employment references.


Using social media to make connections

Set up your profile on Linkedin to connect to people you know, join relevant local industry groups, research companies and find key contacts. There are professionals online worldwide connecting 24/7. Use these industry contacts to find out about:

  • Jobs in a particular industry
  • Which companies are recruiting
  • How to develop a career in a particular field.

You can use your network of friends on Facebook to get the word out that you’re looking for a job. You can update your status to note that you’ve attended an interview, or spent time looking at particular companies and updating your résumé.

Twitter allows you to connect with new people based on common interests. Set up a profile (use your name) and start following people, companies, organisations that you would like to build a relationship with, and hopefully they will follow you back! To start networking with specific people, you could say something like ‘Hi, I am looking to build a career within the health sector. Can you refer me to someone who could help?’ And when updating your status, talk about your job search in positive, proactive terms, such as, ‘Excited about my first interview with XYZ company tomorrow’.

Advertised vacancies

In addition to the internet, newspapers, employment services and trade magazines are just some of the other places employers advertise their job vacancies. Searching through advertised vacancies is also a great way to get ideas for jobs that might suit you, and to get a feel for the local labour market.

The Leader newspaper is the best resource for finding local jobs. The newspaper is free and publishes 33 titles covering the Melbourne metropolitan area. It is distributed to every household on a weekly basis and has a job vacancy section.

Sometimes the wording that is used in job advertisements and job descriptions can be difficult to understand. If

Recruitment agencies

An employment or recruitment agency provides a service to both employers and job seekers. They place job seekers into specific jobs on a permanent or temporary basis. Many businesses and companies use the services of employment or recruitment agencies to find suitable employees.

Recruitment agencies can be a useful source of job vacancies. Some employers carry out their main recruiting through agencies, so signing up can give you access to jobs that are not advertised elsewhere. This is called the hidden job market.

There are employment agencies in every industry that provide almost every type of job available. You can find them in your area through the Yellow Pages or by doing an internet search. Many agencies advertise their services on job search websites such as www.seek.com.au.

Most agencies display current vacancies on their websites, which can be very helpful when deciding whether to register. Find out which companies they usually deal with and how many vacancies they have in your line of work.

The recruitment agent will find out about the kind of jobs you are looking for and which skills you have. Depending on the type of work you want, they may interview on the spot, so ensure you are well presented when you go to their office. If you’re going for a general office job, they may ask you to complete a skills task.

You can use more than one agency, and you’ll get access to more jobs. It is also a good idea to sign up with a mixture of local and national agencies.

To get the best results from using an agency, it is very important to build a relationship with your recruitment agent and make contact with them frequently. They expect you to be checking in with them on a regular basis.

The most reputable agents will notify you before they send your résumé to a company, but it is always worth asking them to do this when you first sign up.

Getting a job through a recruitment agency should cost you nothing. Employers pay the recruitment agency a fee for their services. Beware of, and avoid, any employment agencies that ask for an upfront payment.

The hidden job market

The hidden job market comprises all those jobs that are never advertised. This may be because the:

  • Employer wants to hire someone confidentially
  • Post is still unofficial
  • Employer doesn’t want to pay expensive advertising costs
  • Employer has preferred methods of finding candidates such as revisiting previous applicants, or using recruitment consultants or using headhunters.

For some tips on how to tap into the hidden job market; go to: www.youthcentral.vic.gov.au/jobs-careers/how-to-find-a-job/the-hidden-job-market

A staggering 70% of vacancies are filled this way and since not many people know about this hidden market, the majority of people are all focusing their efforts applying to the same 30% that are advertised.

Applying for a job that hasn’t been advertised can improve your chances of getting it. If it hasn’t been advertised, fewer people will know about it, so fewer people will apply for it, which means you’re competing against fewer people.

So how do you find out about these unadvertised jobs? There are a variety of ways to tap into the hidden job market, including networking and cold calling. For more on cold calling, go to:


Understanding job ads

Are you confused by the words in job ads, job descriptions and person specifications? With all the talk of ‘stakeholders’ and ‘proactive self-starters’ it can seem like recruiters are talking in a different language!

Recruiters use language like this to sell their jobs as dynamic, cutting edge and interesting. They’re competing with other employers to make their jobs sound the best, so they get the best applicants.

Here are some of the more common words and phrases in job ads to help you work out what employers are really asking for.


They’re looking for someone who’s confident when taking on new tasks and projects, and can solve problems and find creative solutions to improve things. They want you to be able to launch yourself into new tasks with energy and enthusiasm.

Proven track record

Employers want to see evidence of your experience. If you’ve taken a project from A to B, make sure you have the stats and documents to prove it. If you work in a creative field, you should have examples of your work in a portfolio.


A self-starter can see what needs to be done, and can take action without guidance and orders. The employer may want you to take charge of a project at short notice and trust you to get on with it.


Similar to self-starter (above), a proactive person takes positive action to bring about change without needing too many instructions.

Team player

A good team player can fit into the company culture and work effectively with different types of people. Employers will be impressed if you can give an example of a time you worked on a task outside of your normal job role, with people with different personalities, to help a team achieve a goal.


This means they’ll probably want you to work evenings and weekends during busy times. You might also need to travel, stay overnight and work in different offices.

Competitive salary and benefits

This could mean the salary is in line with similar roles for other organisations. It could also mean they haven’t decided the salary yet and it depends on your skills and experience. If you’re looking for a certain minimum salary, you might like to find out what the range is early in the process to make sure it’s the kind of rate you’re looking for.

Fast-paced/challenging/demanding environment

This means they’d like someone who can juggle many different tasks, work to deadlines and put in the extra time and effort to meet targets.


This means you should be able to put customers’ needs first and understand what makes them tick. You could think of an example where you dealt with a difficult customer or came up with an idea that would appeal to customers.

Ability to communicate at all levels

The employer wants someone who can get on with people at all levels of the company, from the people on the shop floor to the board room. You could think of an example where you worked on a project with a wide range of people.

Core competencies

These are the main skills you need to do the job. Try to keep in mind the top five skills the employer is looking for at all stages of the recruitment process.

Commitment to equal opportunities

The employer wants to know you’ll treat everyone – colleagues and customers – equally. You could prove this by thinking of a situation where you took account of the needs of someone different from yourself.

Fast learner

The company may not be able to spend a lot of time training you on the job, so you’ll have to be able to pick it up as you go along. This might appeal to you if you like learning by doing. You might like to find out what training is offered, so you know which skills you’re going to develop.


PA: short for ‘per annum’, this means for the whole year – usually in reference to wages

PW: short for ‘per week’, this means each week – usually in reference to wages

OTE: short for ‘ordinary time earnings’ (as opposed to overtime). This means your pay may be part basic salary and part performance-related pay. Be sure to ask about the breakdown at the interview and then decide if the overall wage is reasonable or not

Pro rata: usually written next to an annual salary where the job is part time. ($50K pro rata means you will get $25K for working half time.)

What job ads mean for your résumé

Job ads can be challenging to interpret but you need to be able to this so you can tailor your covering letter and résumé to what the employer wants. You could break down the job ad by asking these questions:

  • What’s the main purpose of the job? What are the main tasks?
  • How is this role important to the company? What will its impact be?
  • What skills do they want applicants to have?
  • What knowledge or experience do they want applicants to have?

Breaking down the job ad enables you to put your finger on what the employer is after. You can then emphasise your relevant skills and experience in your résumé and cover letter.


Beginners’ guide to networking

This might surprise you: only around 40% of jobs are advertised! That means that the majority of jobs are filled without advertising – by word of mouth or by networking.

What is networking?

Networking means connecting with other people to find out about the many jobs that aren’t advertised. If you learn to network effectively, you’ll get inside information on jobs and careers, and build contacts who can help you find work. Applying for jobs that aren’t advertised also cuts down your competition for each vacancy. If you’re not networking already, these tips will help you get started:

  • Let others know you are looking for work so they keep you in mind if a position comes up (your network)
  • Be as specific as possible. Talk to your network about your skills and what type of position you are looking for. This helps them focus their thinking about jobs that would suit you
  • Your network may be able to put you in touch with possible employers if they know about upcoming jobs
  • They may also be able to put you in touch with others who can help
  • Services like LinkedIn can be great for keeping in touch with your network.

For more information, go to: www.livecareer.com/quintessential/networking-guide


Networking can simply be passing on information. You network every day, whether you realise it or not. When speaking to a friend you might recommend a film, a hairdresser, or a good restaurant. That’s a form of networking. Just as you network in your personal life, you can use your contacts to help with job hunting.

Why network?

It’s not always about asking for a job. Networking is a great way to learn more about a particular career. You could talk to someone, who is in a job that you want, about how they got there, or what a typical day is like. Inside information like this is invaluable in your job hunt, and you’ll find people are usually willing to share their experiences. Expanding the number of people you know also means you’ll have contacts to call on if you want to arrange a work placement or some work shadowing.

Why are so many vacancies unadvertised?

Advertising is expensive, and it takes a lot of time to sort through application forms and résumés, and interview candidates. Employers can get around this by promoting from within the organisation or by employing people who have approached them directly. Some organisations actively encourage their staff to refer friends with suitable skills.

Where do I start?

It is quite natural to be a little anxious about networking if you’ve never done it before, but take an organised approach and try following these steps:

  • Make a list of who you know – including what position they hold and who they might know
  • Identify existing networks – check out industry conferences, events and forums, join business networking sites such as LinkedIn, and look for relevant groups and organisations on social networking sites including Facebook. You could even start your own network
  • Plan your approach – if you’re networking by phone or at a jobs fair, have a clear idea of who you want to talk to, why you are interested in the organisation and why you’re approaching them
  • Know your stuff – when approaching an organisation, be sure to research what it does and what your contact’s role is. Get to know the type of language they use in their line of work
  • Focus on what you can offer. Before setting up a networking meeting, think about what you can do for the organisation. You could offer to help out with a busy project they are involved in, or suggest a contact that might help their business
  • Tailor your communication – if you send out speculative résumés, make sure they are tailored to the organisation and show how your skills are relevant. Don’t send out the same version to all organisations
  • Get organised – keep a book of contacts that lists everyone you’ve spoken to, their contact details and their position. This can be invaluable if your contacts get in touch at a later date
  • Be yourself: there is no need to be an extrovert, just be politely persistent!

Who should I contact?

If you are just gathering information and advice, you could chat to professionals on web forums, contact human resources/personnel departments and talk to contacts you already know.

If you’re looking for a job offer, try to find out who manages the budget and makes the decisions about hiring at the organisation. This is more likely to be a head of department than the human resources manager.

What if networking doesn’t come naturally to me?

At first you might feel a little uncomfortable with the idea of making contacts to ‘get something from them’. Try to look at networking as a two-way process – you can offer your skills and abilities in return for support and information.

Another common assumption is that you need to be an extrovert, but that’s not true! You can be yourself while networking but just let your enthusiasm and interest in the career shine through.

What if the contact isn’t helpful?

Everyone gets knocked back at some stage. The contact you speak to may be pushed for time or not hiring at the moment. Thank them for their time anyway and ask if they can recommend anyone else who might be able to help.

If you are new to networking and get knocked back, try to think about how you could adjust your approach for future networking opportunities. Be objective about your own technique.

Application forms

Some employers require you to fill in an application form rather than send a résumé. The main rules are to follow the application instructions, present the information neatly and sell your most relevant skills and experience.

Some employers such as large retail stores, fast food outlets and hotels prefer application forms to résumés because forms are easier to compare as they follow an identical format.

Online application forms

If the form is online, draft your application offline first – in a word processing package like Word – and save it to your computer. This way you’ll be able to run a spell check before you copy the information into the online system. It also means you’ll have a back-up if there’s a problem with the form.

For more information on applying for jobs online, go to: www.youthcentral.vic.gov.au/jobs-careers/applying-for-jobs/applying-for-jobs-online

More and more sites offer the option of storing your application online and coming back to it. If you do this in more than one sitting, keep a record of any usernames, passwords and reference numbers so you can get back into your saved version.

Online forms can be longer and more complicated than paper forms. Follow the instructions carefully and check how many screens you have to fill in before you can submit your application. Some employers will ask for a personal statement.

Paper application forms

If you’re filling in a form by hand, write as neatly as you can in black ink. As a general rule, use block capital letters.

A good way to avoid mistakes and crossings-out on the final form is to photocopy the original and practise filling in this copy first. Take care of the original form – don’t spill anything on it or leave it in your bag to get creased!

Check and recheck

Get it right! Whether your form is online or on paper, you should:

  • Read it over a few times to check for spelling and grammatical errors – these are one of the most common reasons applications are rejected
  • Ask someone else to proofread it and check it for you
  • Check you’ve filled in all the boxes that are relevant to you. If you leave an empty box, the employer might think your form is incomplete. If a box isn’t relevant, put ‘N/A’ (not applicable) in the space provided
  • Photocopy or print the finished form so you have a record of what you’ve written. You’ll need to be able to refer back to it at the interview stage
  • Take note of the closing date and send your application form to arrive in good time.

Filling in your personal statement

This section at the end of the form regarding your personal statement is the most important, so leave plenty of time to fill it in. This is your chance to persuade the employer that you’ve got the right skills and enthusiasm for the job.

Interview hints and tips

Congratulations!  You have been invited in for an interview. All your hard work has paid off and your application has convinced the employer that you have got what they are looking for.

Now, your preparation for the interview will give you the best chance of getting the job. Don’t assume that because you have an interview, the rest is only a formality. The company will probably be interviewing a number of candidates and the one that takes the time to prepare for the interview and research the company has the best chance of getting the job.

These websites offer good advice on preparing for your interview:



Starting a new job

Starting a new job can be exciting! To help ensure you get a proper deal when you start your job, it is important to find out about your rights and entitlements and what responsibilities you may have in the workplace.

Find out about:

  • Your employment conditions
  • What you need to know before you start your job
  • What you need to know when you start work
  • What protections you have against harassment and discrimination
  • Union membership
  • Workplace health and safety
  • The award or type of agreement you are covered by
  • Your job classification and rate of pay
  • Your employment status (casual, full time or permanent)
  • Your hours of work, including any regular overtime and shift work
  • Details of any probationary period
  • The employer’s superannuation contributions and any other benefits (such as leave entitlements)
  • Initial training, the form it will take, when it will be completed and what you are expected to be able to do when it is completed.

For example, you might be asked to perform work or undertake a trial for a vacant position. This skill demonstration is used to determine your suitability for a job. It is often referred to as a work trial.

Legally, a brief work trial can be unpaid if it is necessary to evaluate your suitability for the job.

Any period beyond what is reasonably needed to demonstrate the skills required for the job must be paid at the appropriate minimum rate of pay. If an employer wants to further assess your suitability, they could employ you as a casual employee and /or for a probationary period and pay you accordingly for all hours worked.

Employer’s Expectations

An employer is entitled to know if you have a condition that may affect your ability to work or that may require them to make some adjustments in the workplace to protect your health and safety. You do not have to supply your whole medical history.

When you start work, talk to your employer or someone in HR and find out:

  • What your employer expects you to do
  • Any general rules including completion of time sheets, meal break times and notification requirements when unable to attend work
  • Any special rules and procedures, including unacceptable conduct, confidentiality, disciplinary, grievance and consultative or committee procedures
  • The period of notice required for termination of employment.

For links to practical tips, videos, quizzes and checklists to help you enter the workforce, go to: