How do you find your calling?

24 April 2017

While many of us find it hard to decide what to eat for breakfast, some people seem to know exactly how they want their career to unfold. So how do you make big life decisions on what to study and where it will take you?  

We interviewed four Graduate Medal finalists for this year’s Alumni Awards to find out how they came to find their groove within their chosen field.

Be flexible

Nate Phumitharanon, a First-Class Honours Arts graduate and finalist for the John C Harsanyi Medal believes being flexible is essential when trying to find your calling.

“Sometimes things don’t go to plan and that’s not the end of the world. Life is definitely a learning process, hence you should learn from your experiences, as they will shape you into the person you might not have thought you could be,” he said.

“Learning from your experiences makes you discover yourself and your passion. Hence, being flexible allows you to encounter a variety of experiences. To be open-minded also goes hand-in-hand with being flexible. Trying something new or different can help you find your ‘true’ calling”.

Being flexible also means not trying to lock yourself in to one definitive career choice. Think about what you like on a broader scale and relax knowing there are plenty of opportunities available to develop and grow that interest. Let your experiences shape you.

Experiment with co-curricular activities

Nate’s area of research is in work and organisational studies – his passion lies in sharing knowledge and educating others. Involvement in programs outside the classroom enabled Nate to discover and nurture his calling through roles teaching Thai children to speak English right from his early high school days. 

Immersing himself in opportunities from a young age enabled Nate to experiment with his interests and see whether he enjoyed teaching. His past-time quickly became his passion and these experiences helped him to discover his life goal of helping those in need.

Learn from others

Nate also believes in the importance of having a strong and supportive network of friends and family when trying to work out what it is you want to do. “Not only will you learn from your own experiences but also from others around you. They can help you to realise your true self and potential,” he said.

Choose something that you love doing

Combining academic achievement with sporting prowess, Kane Townsend completed a Bachelor of Science (Advanced Mathematics) with Honours at the same time he became the 2016 national men’s table tennis champion. He is also a finalist for the Nigel C Barker Medal.

Kane said he found his place in pure mathematics by simply working out what he enjoys doing. “The main factor that played into my decision on to what to study was what I was happy to spend lots of time working on, as opposed to seeing university as a stepping stone to a particular career”.

It’s good to have multiple passions

Townsend believes there’s nothing wrong with having numerous and varied passions at all, and you shouldn’t be afraid to explore all of them. “Don’t hesitate in trying anything that attracts your interests,” he says, “I feel both my studies and table tennis have complimented each other providing a more balanced lifestyle compared to focusing on just one”.

His last piece of advice is to also avoid feeling the urge to rush things along and understand it won’t always immediately become clear to figure out your calling. “It can take time to see if something is for you”.

Change your mindset

Dr Kerryn Drysdale graduated with multiple qualifications from the University of Sydney including a Bachelor of Arts (Hons), Master of Arts (Gender Studies) and PhD in cultural studies. She is a finalist for the Rita and John Cornforth medal for outstanding PhD achievement.

Kerryn reflects on how it was that she fell into an unconventional career focusing on Sydney’s drag king culture. She can pinpoint a moment where she had a critical change in thinking which helped her find her way. “I don’t think I ever decided what I wanted to be (when I grew up) but I remember when I decided what I wanted to learn about.” She says.

This change in mindset was brought about by a Professor lecturing on Gender Studies and it’s an important one students need to consider. If you’re not sure what one career path you want to follow, then simply considering what you want to learn more about will help you take a step in the right direction. Be guided by your interests.

Work out what gets you out of bed in the morning

Finalist for the Sister Alison Bush Medal, Janelle Evans attained a Bachelor of Visual Arts and a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Sydney. This medal honours the achievement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander graduates who have not only performed strongly academically but who also contribute to university life and the outside community.

“I have always been an artist,” Janelle says, “however I never thought that could be a career choice”. Despite this, she persisted with her passion and it eventually led her to become an Associate Lecturer at the Sydney College of the Arts.

“You have to follow your passion. Whatever gets you out of bed and excited about your life is the area you should invest time in your studies, whatever that field is. This is where you will find the most rewards in life”.

Janelle has made significant progress is promoting cultural diversity and understanding on campus and throughout remote communities in Australia. She has developed workshops in traditional activities such as weaving and wood working which have seen an impressive uptake. She has also used her professional skills in film and theatre to teach young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students scriptwriting and production which resulted in the creation of 21 short films which were aired at local festivals.

Our 20 Graduate Medal finalists will be acknowledged at the Alumni Awards held on Thursday 27 April. There are six different medals being awarded, each requiring outstanding academic achievement and continual contribution to university life and the extended community.

2017 finalists:

Mina Askovic

Jack Blair

Sarah Bradbury

Clare Britton

Dane Drivas

Dr Kerryn Drysdale

Dr Ines Duran Matute

Janelle Evans

Dr Luciano Hespanhol

Yi Yun Low

Rhys Michie

Nur Mazurah Mohd Nasir

Samuel Murray

Nate Phumitharanon

Tian Qin

Philippa Specker

Dr Lukasz Swiatek

Kane Townsend

Geoffrey Winters

Yiu Cheryl Wong

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