Young people in the workplace - Resource sheet 4
Difference and career planning
The decision about what career path to follow is incredibly
important. In the past, many people were limited when choosing
their careers because of their difference, especially if the
career choice was unconventional or not stereotypical. Today
people have a right to choose their own career path, though there
are often still some obstacles and barriers that are faced.
Look at these three examples of young people who faced
obstacles in their career choices. While you are reading the
stories, think about:
- What was different or not stereotypical about the career
- What obstacles did they face?
- Who gave them support or good advice?
- What strategies did they adopt to help themselves?
- What was the outcome of the situation?
I am an ordinary Australian guy. I love my cricket and footy,
pizzas from the local, and going to nightclubs with my mates.
When I was 22 I ran for local Council against the local
National Front (a racist hate party) in Enfield in Adelaide, and
won. I was sick of the hatred coming from some people and them
saying that they represented the people, so I decided to stand up
against it and find out who the people really supported. I spoke
to a lot of people about this - and they all said if it was what
I thought was right, then to give it a go.
I faced racism and ignorance myself at school. I came to
Australia as a refugee when I was 11 and was picked on heaps.
Luckily, I had a teacher who was Greek and she understood what I
was going through and really stood up for all of us who were
different in some way. I stood up for myself too and after a
while we got the bullies sorted. The hardest part for me was
getting the English language. Once I had that it was much better
- I could face up to the trouble-makers.
It's also important to put something back into the community.
We've received a lot of help but we are now able to put a lot
back, so we're 'paying the bills'. I also know a lot of people
need support and encouragement, so I can do that in my position
on the Council. That will change things - instead of people going
home and feeling terrible and blaming themselves if they face
problems through poor English, they'll be able to be a lot
happier and they'll contribute better to the whole community. I
guess I'm a salesman - selling my Vietnamese culture to the
Australian community, but also opening up that community to
outside influences. We can all benefit from sharing and
acknowledging our differences, and developing the rich common
ground we have. And when I'm not doing that, I'll just enjoy
being a young Australian!
I am a boat builder. I love wooden boats - and working with
wood generally. I have worked as a cabinet maker, antique
restorer, carpenter's offsider and shipwright's assistant. In
1998, I worked on building a replica of the 15th century Dutch
ship the Duyfken, believed to be the first European ship to touch
My love for wooden boats steered me towards the Diploma of
Wooden Boatbuilding course in Tasmania. Competition to get into
the course was pretty fierce - they only take 10 people every two
years, and people apply from all over Australia and overseas.
When I first enrolled in the course I was shocked to be one of
two women to apply - shocked because I thought I would be the
only one! I am so used to working in what is seen as a 'men's
only' area, that it was surprising and great to see another woman
with the same interests.
It's silly - we are physically able to do the work, and many
women are well suited to it. More young women should see it as a
viable option. I have always been brought up to believe that any
career was possible, so I just went with the areas in my life
that felt right.
Sometimes some of the guys I've worked with have been a bit
hostile, but they soon recognised my abilities and I became just
another one of the workers, able to do all that they did.
I've worked in many building materials - steel, aluminium,
glass, reinforced plastics - but I really love wood, I am
passionate about it. But I know it's a finite resource. Finding a
way to reconcile myself to being a user of a scant resource and
yet being committed to preserve forests has been a real problem,
and one that does not have an easy answer.
I was the Manager of Community Relations for the Sydney 2000
Paralympic Games, and captain of the Australian Women's
Paralympic Basketball team.
Even when I was at school I wanted to be in the
communications/public relations area. Being able-bodied or
disabled hasn't made any difference to me - I love this area, and
do my job well.
The biggest obstacle in my life is when other people make
judgments and decisions about what they think I can and cannot
do. That really gets to me - I know my strengths and weaknesses,
I know what I can and cannot do, and any judgments should be made
on my real abilities, not on what other people think or expect.
They can ask me or consult with me, but I want to make those
decisions for myself!
And this happens to many people, not just the disabled. People
might look at a young person and think 'they're not interested'
or 'they're not very capable' or 'they won't like this', but they
should not make those judgments. They are limiting people's
opportunities and potential, and that's a very negative and
But people have to make and take their own opportunities. I
love my work and I love my sport, but I've got to that position
by hard work and determination, and by knowing my own interests,
strengths and weaknesses. I've also tested my limits and accepted
challenges. Fair enough, there are things I cannot do, but I know
that because I've tried them. And if I can't do it one way, I'll
look for another way of getting to the same place.
I hate it when you see people, including young people, only
seeing obstacles in their path. You have to be positive, get on
and do it, not accept obstacles in your way, not just give in and
give up! I prefer always to concentrate on what I can do, not
what I cannot.
I've had great support from people - family, friends and team
mates - and I have not had to go outside my group for good advice
and support. But I've quickly learned which advice to follow and
which to leave alone, and if I have to go outside the group for
advice, then I am happy to do that. I'll go wherever I need to
get what I need!
I suppose what I've really learned is that the key thing is to
put yourself in a position to take opportunities that are there.
You have to work to create and take them, but they won't just pop
up and be there without any effort on your part. But once they
are there, be in a position to take them and make the most of