Started At University – Some Tips For New Students

I’m now into week 7 of my new university course after I decided to fully embark on the career change I alluded to some time ago. I’m now officially a student paramedic at Victoria University and I’m going to try to use this blog to chronicle some of the more important aspects of my Uni experience in the vague hope that it might help someone else going through it to.

I’m pretty lucky. I’ve had a fair bit of life experience before this point – given that I’m soon to be 40, that’s 20 odd years out of school. So I tend to view Uni quite differently from some of the youngsters who are there because their parents want them to be rather than themselves wanting to be. I think it really helps to want to be there – mostly because at University you’re left to find out a lot of the education for yourself. And unlike High School, lectures are not compulsory at Uni (some things like Practical Sessions and Tutorials are, but lectures are not) so it takes self discipline to turn up and listen. Self discipline is really quite easy if you’re there because you want to be rather than because you’re forced.

If I had to give one tip for this article, it would be this. Attend Orientation Day – no really. If your University puts one on for you, go to it. You’ll discover a vast wealth of information that you wouldn’t necessarily otherwise know. It’ll give you a chance to meet and speak to your new lecturers, and meet up with some new mates who will probably end up going through the next three years with you. And you’ll need mates for this new experience too – don’t be an island, mates can help remind you about things you might forget and they’ll have strengths in areas that you don’t and vice versa. You can help each other with study areas and a bit of a social life helps your motivation too.

Remember that tertiary education is not secondary education. You won’t be spoon fed everything. Indeed, sometimes your lecturers won’t even help you if you ask them (though most of the time they will, it rather depends what they’re trying to teach you). You will need to use the library. You will need to buy at least some of the books they recommend because you’ll need to put in some extra studies around things you don’t quite understand fully. These things can add up costs wise so make sure you do have a bit of an up front slush fund if you can. If you’re lucky enough to live in Australia you may well qualify for the Austudy up front payment.

Speaking of Austudy, if you are able to claim it, make sure you do so well in advance because Centrelink are appallingly slow. They’ll cite all manner of excuses for why your Austudy claim has been delayed. They’ll range from bushfire to flood, to your case is not normal and had to be sent to a special claims officer for processing. Get it in way in advance so you don’t spend weeks without income, or with reduced income.

Also, if your course has any special requirements like police checks or working with children checks you must ensure you leave plenty of time for these processes to be done in time. The police or other relevant authorities will be swamped with applications for these things by other students and the response times will blow out. Your University probably won’t care if your dog ate your application, or for any other excuse you might come up with so do yourself a favour and make sure you start this process way way way in advance so you don’t miss any deadlines.

And finally, on the note of deadlines, don’t leave your assignments / homework until the last minute. Ever. If you want good grades you’ll absolutely need to make sure you put in the work. This isn’t High School and your lecturers will ┬ánot accept excuses (unless they’re really really good ones!) for late submissions and things like ‘my internet went out while I was doing the referencing’ will not cut it. They’ll look at you and wonder why you left until the deadline to do the referencing. Or they’ll say ‘shouldve used the library then’. Which of course, if you leave it until the night before it’s due, you can’t. Get assignments underway as early as possible. Get them finished as early as possible but DON’T hand them in too early. You never know when that golden nugget of information will arrive into your brain at a lecture and if you’ve already handed in your assignment you can’t go back and tweak it. The catchwords for this section :- Start Early, Finish On Time, Hand In On Time.

I hope these tips have provided some insight into the beginnings of new University life. If there’s any questions you’d like answered please do feel free to leave comments and I’ll discuss them in the next update. I intend to give some more Student Paramedic specific information so watch this space!

Are You Thinking Of A Career Change?

If you’re thinking of a career change you’re probably wondering whether it can really be done?

I can tell you from personal experience, it can.

Where Do You Begin?

Well, the biggest question you’ll need to answer first is “What is it that I want to change to?”. This might not be as easy as it sounds. If you’re like me you’ll probably know that you don’t like what you’re doing now, but you won’t necessarily have any clue as to what it is you really want to do. Ironically though, if you search yourself hard enough you’ll probably discover that you’ve had niggling ideas all throughout your life which will be trying to tell you what it is you really want to do.

Even more ironically, if you’re like me, it’ll turn out to be the thing that, when asked 20 years ago whether you’d consider doing XYZ job for a living you’d have told the enquisitive quizzer that XYZ Job was the worst job on the planet and you’d never even think of doing THAT.

OK, but what if you REALLY REALLY don’t know what you want to do. Well, the thing that enabled me to find my passion was to volunteer for a while. There’s a million and one places that you can find volunteer work in all manner of different industries and job types. Volunteering for a while will enable you to determine if that industry sector is really where you want to go.

After being in the Kinglake CERT for a couple of years I had decided I wanted to become a paramedic. Funny, I can still remember when I was 18 or so, someone told me they wanted to become a paramedic and I told them I couldn’t think of anything worse than mopping up blood and fixing people’s heads after they’d collided with telegraph poles in cars. Yuck, what a job that would be. Back then though I wanted to be a Veterinary Surgeon. I could do it for animals but I really didn’t like people enough to want to care for them!

How times change… And it was only because I volunteered for the CERT. I later started volunteering for a local nursing home as well, and whilst I don’t think Aged Care is my thing, it helped me understand more about how Aged Care works, and really helped cement my desire to help people who are in medical strife.

My ultimate ambition is to become a Flight MICA Paramedic with Ambulance Victoria. This combines a very old passion of mine (flying) with the new passion of Paramedic.

So, to summarize, if you don’t know what you want to do – check out some volunteering for a while. If you don’t like it as a volunteer you won’t like it as a paid career.

OK, I figured out WHAT, but HOW do I make the switch?

Well, this will be different for everyone. In some cases you’ll need a degree qualification to move from your current field of expertise into your new field. In others you may just need a lesser qualification or possibly no qualification at all.

In almost all cases, you’ll be leaving one highly competitive industry and entering a new highly competitive industry, which leads you to the question of ‘Why should your new chosen employer, employ you when you have zero experience in this field?’. A tough one isn’t it? You can’t gain experience until you can get into the field, and you can’t get into the field without experience.

Well, I’m going to use that V word again. Volunteer. If they’re not paying you to do the work, places are a bit more happy to accept a lack of experience. Generally this will be because if you’re volunteering somewhere you’re doing so because you have (or feel you might have) a passion for the industry you’re volunteering in. If it doesn’t work out, they haven’t paid you and so the loss (and therefore the risk) is really all yours.

You almost certainly will not be able to volunteer in the actual role you want to aspire to. The key is to get into the industry first as a volunteer and then worry about the specific role. This is especially true if the new role you are wanting to move to requires qualifications. You won’t avoid those qualification requirements just because you’re a volunteer. So don’t expect to be able to start at the top – you’ll have to start at the bottom and train, study and work your way up.

Consider Part Time

If you’re considering a career change you’re probably fairly well up the ladder in your current career, or aged around 40ish with a mortgage, maybe some kids and hopefully a spouse. That means you have commitments and how on earth can you hope to go from your good wage/salary that you’ve built up over the years to starting again at the bottom of the ladder on a new career path? This is especially true if you need to study for your new path.

Part time work in your current career could work for you. It has for me. I am still a part time WordPress programmer. The wages from that are significantly better than what I’ve moved into but (and this is no reflection on WordPress, its just my state of mind) the pull of becoming a paramedic means I’ll take the lower wages for now while I get re-trained and re-skilled to do what really drives me.

There will be sacrifice though, almost certainly. Unless your mortgage is already paid off you’re going to struggle for the next few years while you study or make do on that lower end wage.

I can’t afford a University Course

Firstly, if you have a genuine case of hardship (and not just one of not wanting to work while you study) you may be able to receive a scholarship from either the University themselves or possibly from a potential new employer within the industry sector you’re looking to move into. It’s worth looking into before you write off your chances.

Depending on the industry you’re moving into, you may be able to enroll on the Open University and continue with your current job until you re-qualify. Open University courses are extremely popular with people re-skilling later in life and are highly recommended.

Many countries (well, ok, so I only know about the UK and Australia!) will offer government supported places and/or government student loans which you pay back when you start earning a specific amount of money in your new career. Take advantage of these if you need to – the interest rate is usually very low or even zero percent.

Finally, you could enter the new industry at a lower level and persuade your new employer after a time to sponsor you through university. In some instances that will work nicely, although it does seem quite hard these days to get employers to pay for anything except the hours you work. You’ll need to work hard to convince them you’re a good risk for their investment and the volunteer work you did up front will stand you in good stead for this.

Can I Do It?

YES YOU CAN! I did it, and I know a huge number of other people who’ve also done it. All you need is a passion for the new career you’re going into, and you’ll be able to move mountains to make it happen.

I hope this article has given some useful insights into moving into a new career, perhaps with some things you hadn’t thought of to be able to make it happen. Please leave a comment below if this has helped you, or if you have any questions.