Beginning bravely: How to start your career

7 December 2023
Ten tips for courageously charting the start of your career
A mountain blocked by rockfall. A dark and narrow cave. A canyon you can't cross. Picture the early career as physical terrain and you'll likely imagine some form of obstacle. The path to where you want to go can sometimes feel frustratingly blocked. Here are 10 tips to help you break through.

Starting our working life is often among our career’s most challenging times. After all, the workforce is fundamentally about leveraging your on-the-job experience. That makes it inherently hard to be the new kid on the block.

But if we all have to begin sometime, how do you actually start your career? And is it possible that the skills and mindset you forge now could actually help you throughout the rest of your life?

Camilla is a senior executive and business builder in the funds management industry with over 20 years of experience.

Camilla Love (BA/BComm ‘02) is a senior finance professional, who founded F3 - Future Females in Finance to support more female finance graduates into the profession. She says that learning career skills early can give you greater control of where you’re headed.

“No one is comfortable networking at first,” says Camilla. “I was in New York a couple of weeks ago and my heart was racing as I walked into the room, and I am usually very comfortable. It’s nerve-wracking but you have to push through and smile and say, “Hi, how’s it going? I’m Camilla. I’m from Sydney.”

If enrolling in Career Bravery 1001 so soon after graduation is daunting, just remember the sooner you can pick up new skills, the sooner you can make them start working for you.

Here are ten tips from Camilla for courageously charting the start of your career:

1. Be broad about the jobs and companies you consider

The employers you know are generally the big names. But don’t dismiss a smaller player just because you haven’t heard of them. “You’ll get more exposure to different tasks and won’t get as siloed,” says Camilla.

2. Attend networking events

These might be networking events by industry bodies or the University. Camilla advises thinking of it as a multi-step process not an opportunity to ask for jobs. At the networking event, your main goals are to make contacts and understand what’s topical in the industry. Then you’ll talk about specific learnings from the networking night at your next interview as evidence of your passion for the profession.

3. Don’t be afraid to show your research

You know it’s expected you’ll read up on the hiring panel before your interview. However, Camilla suggests you can go even further by mentioning hobbies or interests you have in common. Not only will it demonstrate you did the research, but it will show you’re three dimensional as well.

4. Start out as a ‘student’ ready to learn

While it might feel like an ego hit, you’re actually making a tactical move. By positioning yourself as a ‘student’ of the organisation you’re syncing with an employer’s perspective and reassuring them you’re the one for the role. “They want to have confidence that you’ll come on board and help them do the work they're envisaging, so you’re trying to land there,” says Camilla.

5. Be passionate

The interview panel clearly have an interest in the field. Show them you’re a similar mind. “Even if interviewees don’t have money to invest, I want them to have deeply researched their super fund, for example,” says Camilla.

6. Be prepared to adapt

You won’t have anyone to delegate to so let them know you’re adaptable and can learn quickly.

7. Actively promote your soft skills

Skills like collaboration and client service may seem too general to be valuable but for almost all employers they’re the real dealbreakers. “New graduates often reverse it,” says Camilla. “They emphasise their technical skills and marks on their resume and at interview when really, I’m asking myself: “Can I trust this person with clients?” So, don’t be afraid to talk about all your abilities.

8. Know your risk appetite

When Camilla was a new graduate herself, she turned down a job that didn’t fit her goals—but it’s individual. Be clear-eyed about your own risk vs reward tolerances.

9. Put time into building relationships with your new co-workers

Unless you can access a mentoring program that takes the struggle out of finding a mentor for you, it’s likely you’ll need to wait for a mentor-mentee bond to form. “If you have to ask, then it probably isn’t right,” says Camilla. Instead, focus on creating rapport with your new colleagues and asking them about their careers. Over time, a mentorship could form itself.

10. Be brave

There will be setbacks and you will make mistakes. Just keep going and remember you don’t need to have it all figured out just yet.

About Camilla Love

Camilla is a senior executive and business builder in the funds management industry with over 20 years of experience.  She currently serves as a Non-Executive Director for Perennial Venture Capital GP and is a Director for Perennial Investment Management Limited. In 2017 Camilla founded F3 - Future Females in Finance, a program that aims to foster and encourage young women to pursue a career in the financial services industry through education and work experience. She is passionate about education, innovation, and diversity, and seeks to contribute to the growth and development of the financial sector and the wider community.