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University of Canberra

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Sam Anderson

I decided to make a fresh start and head to the big-smoke in search of better opportunities.

About you

What did you study at undergraduate level and when did you graduate? What are you studying now? Are you studying and working at the same time?

I studied a Bachelor of Arts (Majoring in Communications) at the University of New England and graduated 2000. I completed Graduate Certificate in Business (Public Sector) at Flinders University in 2015 and  Graduate Certificate in Strategic Communication, graduated 2017. I am currently looking into further study. 

What have been the most important stages of your life?

My key achievements throughout life include finishing Year 12 with good enough marks to gain entry into a University degree which I anticipated would open up a whole new world of opportunities. I had the world at my feet, was full of adventure and ambition and wanted to make my mark! With hard work and lots of saving, I was also able to travel to many different countries and experience new adventures whilst soaking up local culture. Once I completed Uni, I had various casual jobs until I found fulfilling employment and began a career in the public sector. My next big achievement was gaining a promotion into an executive level role. But my most biggest achievement of them all was becoming a mother to an amazing little boy and settling down with a family. 

How did you get to your current (or most recent) job position and how long have you been working there?

After some personal setbacks and lack of prospects in the town I was living, I decided to make a fresh start and head to the big-smoke in search of better opportunities. I answered an advertisement for an entry level position in the Australian Government working for a large department and went through an arduous process to finally make it as a new recruit. I was not intending this to be my future career at the time, but merely use it as a stop gap until I found my calling. After completing the training, the department began a graduate program which I was accepted to participate in.

This gave me full exposure to all aspects of the business and opened my eyes to potential roles that I was interested in. Due to the large portfolio of the department, there were many areas that employees could develop their skills. Ambition, commitment and desire to gain a position that made a difference saw me progress through the ranks and undertake various roles such as complex case officer, financial investigator, team leader, site coordinator, program officer, project manager, divisional coordinator and executive officer.

After a competitive recruitment round I landed in an assistant director role managing a welfare program with an emphasis on overseeing and improving the publications and communications products of the program. The client base is often of a vulnerable nature so communication strategies are paramount to the success of the program. I have worked with the same department for almost 15 years now, which is quite a feat given this was only supposed to be a "stop gap" job, not a career. It's funny how our priorities and perspectives change as we are exposed to different experiences. It can often be those opportunities that we come across by accident that end up being our niche and excites us to get out of bed every morning. 

About your course

What made you decide to progress with further study?

There is no such thing as too much learning, and you can never have too much knowledge or too many skills. My department encourages personal and vocational development and when I had to think about what developmental opportunities I wanted to pursue, I opted to seek out something that would compliment my current role and expand my skills in the marketing/communications area. I chose further tertiary study as I wanted to enhance my career and develop high level analytical skills in a strategic communication environment. I wanted to gain a useful and respected qualification that would demonstrate my knowledge and expose me to contemporary theories so that I had a cutting edge advantage and could provide sound solutions to developing an effective communication plan for my department. 

How did you choose your particular further study course (compared to others)? / Were you weighing up any alternative degrees or career pathways before choosing this qualification?

I came to choose a course at the University of Canberra (UC) because it had a good reputation, offered an online delivery method and as I lived in Canberra it meant I could also access the on campus facilities if needed (such as the library and student services). I was considering something through open universities, but once I weighed up my needs, I settled for UC due to the locality and accessibility. 

What was the process to get accepted into your course? What were the prerequisites?

The online enrollment process was extremely easy and straight forward. There was a pre-requisite of an undergraduate degree or equivalent (as approved by the University). I provided previous academic transcripts and a copy of my resume with my enrollment to show relevant work experience. Also, as the course was offered online only, students needed to have access to the internet and ability to download course specific software in order to complete their studies.  

What does your study involve? Can you describe a typical day? (if it’s difficult to describe a typical day, tell us about the last thing you worked on?)

A typical day would involve logging onto the student portal and accessing the "My Moodle" hub. There I could find all the resources relating to each of the units in my course and talk to other student in my class via the chatroom. After my work day, I set aside some dedicated study time and proceeded to: • Read the unit notes. • Watch online video lectures and write notes as I went. • Complete a quiz in a set timeframe. • Work on an upcoming assignment Undertaking full-time study and work is not for the feint hearted, it requires huge commitment, dedication, a sense of humour and lots of coffee!!!!! 

Pros and cons

Will this course be beneficial in your career? Where could you or others in your position go from here? Please explain your answer.

This course will certainly be beneficial in my career as it allows me to apply contemporary approaches to the current work I do. It also opens up other opportunities should I wish to pursue them - whether it be in my current department or for a different organisation altogether. For instance, this qualification could allow me to become a: • Strategic communication manager (which I am now) • Public affairs director • Public relations director • Marketing communication manager • Communication strategist Studying in a relevant field that I was also working in allowed me to apply what I was learning instantaneously to my work projects. I was also able to use my student network and lecturers to help workshop real issues I was experiencing in my role and workshop ideas and new approaches to overcome challenges and achieve the best outcomes for my work goals.

What do you love the most about your course? 

I loved the flexibility of the course as it made it manageable to complete whilst staying in full-time employment. The course could also be completed over 1 or 2 years, so this made it achievable for those that perhaps had tighter time constraints in conjunction with their full-time work. I also enjoyed the mixed way of learning (quizzes, assignments, projects, reports, interactive lectures etc). The course also encouraged students to focus on current methodology and used the most up to date advertising campaigns as examples of strategic communication. 

What are the limitations of your course?

Because it is an online course, there is no classroom environment or opportunity to ask questions in real time (eg; in a lecture or tutorial). Also, because there are no face to face classes or timetable, students need to rely on good time management in order to complete assessable tasks satisfactorily. Students need to be disciplined in how they plan their approach to their studies to avoid falling behind. 

A word to the wise…

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current undergraduate student? They don’t necessarily have to be related to your studies, or even to one’s professional life.

Don't let anyone tell you that you "can't". Only YOU know your true potential! Promote what it is that is unique about you and use this to sell yourself and set you apart from others, (eg; in job interviews). Take risks! Always endeavour to get outside your comfort zone, don't play it safe all the time – there are so many experiences out there that can change your life and enhance your perspective just because you had go.