What do you get if you apply adaptability throughout your working life? For La Trobe alumni Dr Rowan Story AM RFD, it’s the chance to create a kaleidoscopic career of diverse and fulfilling roles. He shares how postgraduate study and a flexible approach helped him develop a career without limits.
What is career adaptability?
Graduating today means developing your career against a backdrop of change. As technological disruption creates new roles and automates others, being able to cope with unpredictable career contexts is essential.
According to vocational psychologists, career adaptability is your capacity to deal with these changing circumstances with confidence, optimism and self-efficacy. It’s what you draw on to manage career-related tasks, transitions and challenges. And it’s also what enables you to spot new opportunities in the market and use them to grow your career – even when, as Dr Story found, they’re outside of your current field.
When multiple careers work better than one
If you’re someone who enjoys variety in your working life, then having two – or more – careers could offer you flexibility and fulfilment.
“The idea of working at the same place forever and receiving a gold watch when you finish just isn’t the case anymore,” says Dr Story. “For a lot of people, the jobs they will be doing in the future haven’t yet been invented, so it’s important to be flexible and open to whatever interests you.”
Dr Story’s full and varied worklife spans careers in oral surgery, law, teaching and the defence force. He currently works in private practice as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, teaches law and ethics to dentistry students, volunteers at a community legal service, sits on the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, and leads an annual volunteer surgical team to Vietnam, where he treats cleft and jaw deformity patients and passes on his skills.
He’s also served as a Defence Force Reservist for almost 30 years, and from 2011 to 2015 was appointed Director General Health Reserves – Air Force with the rank of Air Commodore. In this role he was responsible for the recruitment, training and care of all medical and health personnel in the Royal Australian Air Force.
Underpinning this medley of unique and rewarding roles, says Dr Story, is higher education – and in particular, the unlimited possibilities that continuous learning can bring.
“The ability to be flexible and follow new paths is one of the best lessons a university can offer,” he says.
Leverage postgraduate study for a career advantage
Given how much time you’ll spend at work –around 90,000 hours of your life – crafting a career path that follows your intellectual interests is a clever way to satisfy both your curiosity and your need for income.
Dr Story’s ‘slashie’ career is a case in point. The surgeon/lawyer/teacher holds multiple university qualifications, including three from La Trobe. After completing his Bachelor of Science at La Trobe in 1971, he returned to study a Postgraduate Diploma in Policy and Law, followed by a Bachelor of Laws. His interest in the law developed while he was serving as President of the Dental Board of Victoria.
“I became very interested in how the law worked after chairing disciplinary hearings involving professional conduct matters,” he says.
“So when my time on the Board finished, I decided to apply for the graduate Bachelor of Laws program at La Trobe. I’m so grateful to La Trobe because at different times of my life, they’ve provided me with the opportunities to acquire new qualifications and skills that have helped me branch out.”
Amplifying his existing skill set through postgraduate study in a different field led Dr Story to new ways of thinking.
“Scientific and biological thinking is separate from legal thinking – so it forces you to think differently depending on your situation,” he says.
In turn, these different approaches and thinking styles can give you a market advantage. By drawing on your knowledge from different fields, for example, you can develop unique strengths and valuable expertise that make you stand out to employers.
Develop your own career adaptability
Some people are naturally curious about new careers, while others find focusing on their future confronting. Whatever your tendency, employability initiatives like La Trobe’s Career Ready program can help you stay mindful of the possibilities ahead.
Career Ready connects you with careers advisors, mentors, recruiters and employers who can hone your awareness to future job opportunities. You’ll be supported to imagine yourself in different roles and to explore a full range of aspirations and postgraduate courses. And when you’re ready to turn your career goals into reality, you’ll have support to develop the essential skills and personal attributes you’ll need to negotiate any occupational, organisational or job market changes that come your way.
The world of work is changing. How will you adapt?
Discover how you can build a career without limits at La Trobe University.