From course to career: students spill on what works - Joshua
Joshua studied a Bachelor of Information and Communications Technology (BICT) at Western Sydney University (WSU). A self-confessed IT geek, he said the STEM path came naturally to him after high school. He also considered a career in the Air Force; Joshua has autism, and said he believed this would have been a barrier to enlisting.
“Looking back now, I think I probably made the right decision in going down the path I took,” he said.
Reflecting on his journey from learner to worker, Joshua said the most helpful advice he has been given is to ask for help when he needs it, “and take whatever opportunities come up in my job hunt”.
“I tend to prefer to try and do things on my own before asking for help, which can be beneficial in some applications but when you’re a fresh graduate trying to look for work, that mentality doesn’t always help,” he said.
“I knew I needed outside help to succeed in my professional career and so in 2018 I reached out to the careers team at my university for help in the job-hunting process - which perhaps turned out to be one of the most beneficial decisions I have made in my life.”
Over his job-seeking journey Joshua said he received lots of positive feedback from potential employers. He names Accenture, IBM and PwC as standouts here. He also took advantage of networking opportunities with other graduates, which helped him to learn how to break the ice in front of other people. Another positive experience was in going to large careers fairs, which he said helped him discover a career path and forge the connections with employers that he would ultimately need.
“I think the biggest roadblock that I have had in my journey is tailored support,” he explained.
“Before I met Dragana in the University Specialist Employment Partnerships (USEP) program at WSU, I wasn't really able to find many opportunities for work through my previous disability employment specialists. Most people who come through to Disability Employment Services (DES) providers are often not university graduates and are usually lower skilled; nowadays, with higher education becoming much more accessible to Australians I think there are definitely a lot of people with diverse abilities falling through the gaps because DES providers are not able to support them in finding suitable work as much as they can.”
Joshua has faced both benefits and roadblocks in his job hunt, but looking back, recognises that he has more confidence in his abilities now.
“I still remember my first assessment centre with QBE in late 2018, being completely nervous and somewhat unprepared for whatever curveballs were thrown at me by the interviewing recruiters. By the time I found work in late 2019 - early 2020, I was much more confident and knew what to expect through the overall assessment process!” he said.
Joshua is part of a cohort of people that historically has higher unemployment than the general population: the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported in 2018 that the unemployment rate for autistic people is six times higher than the national average.
“I feel that if these providers outside of the universities and colleges are given the right tools and resources to support university graduates with diverse abilities, it would make a big difference in acceptance and employability of people in the same boat I once was in,” he said.
He recommended that careers advisors and disability practitioners “never give up” in their work in encouraging people to pursue their dreams.
“Their encouragement is what drives us to succeed,” he said.
“Careers advisors who go above and beyond to help the students they serve - like the folks who helped me at WSU - are a really valuable asset to students like myself. I also think that maybe having careers advisors with a broader skillset (i.e. coming from different degree backgrounds) would also be helpful in assisting people with diverse abilities find work - not every autistic person is a STEM super nerd; I should know, I am friends with a couple of ‘auties’ who have interests in other fields like design!”