Guiding your professional development

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Written By

Laura Kaye


College of Arts, Society and Education

Publish Date

21 November 2023

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Discovering a new path

When Kate Woodward moved to Australia from England, she was ready to continue working as a teacher. But upon discovering the profession of a guidance counsellor within Australian schools, Kate knew she had to find out more.

“I've been a teacher for 15 years,” Kate says. “When we decided to move to Australia five years ago, I continued teaching here. Then I learned that there was a guidance role, which they don't have in England.

“I saw that the course at JCU was online and that I could complete some work while I was studying. I thought it would be a bridge to a new career,” she says.

Taking a new direction in her career, Kate enrolled in the Master of Guidance and Counselling. When it came time to choose where she would complete 100 hours of professional work experience, Kate decided to look further afield.

“I wanted to use it as a real learning opportunity for myself by going somewhere a little bit different,” Kate says.

Exploring the rural areas of Far North Queensland, Kate undertook her placements at Aurukun and Weipa, each being approximately 10 hours north of Cairns.

Building painting on placement
Headshot of Kate Woodward
Left: photo taken by Kate Woodward while on placement. Right: Kate Woodward, Master of Guidance and Counselling graduate.

Connecting learning to experience

Engaging with each community and connecting with the people there helped Kate to see her new career coming together.

“I met some wonderful people. You can just see students, sometimes in a matter of weeks, turning things around and progressing. From feeling really low to feeling like they can come to school and socialise with their friends. It’s a really beautiful role,” she says.

The benefit of placements throughout her Master’s was emphasised by the connection between her course and her experience.

“Within the course we would learn different therapy types. We learned about the foundations of counselling, and then you put them into practice in real life while on placement. Placement gives you the opportunity to link everything that you’re learning with real life,” Kate says.

The course coordinator of Master of Guidance and Counselling, Associate Lecturer Ben Archer, says this combination of coursework and placement experience assists students in tailoring their degree to their desired profession. This is accomplished through the expertise of those teaching the units.

“We have a senior guidance officer from Education Queensland teaching a couple of units with us. We also have a clinical neuro psychologist teaching a unit with us this year, as well as a careers practitioner in the coming semester,” Ben says. “We aim to bring in people from the profession to keep the units practical and really applicable to the work environments that students would encounter.”

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Becoming job-ready while learning

It's not just the professionals that are brought in to support the students. Individualised support is offered as well.

“We aim to have consistent conversations about employment outcomes throughout the entirety of the degree, such as where you could go in your career and what you'll be bringing to an organisation,” Ben says. “Students can see ‘Okay, these are skills I really need to focus on when applying for a role’. They use the placement as kind of a job trial, essentially. It's not uncommon for students to be offered positions on the basis of their placement experience.

“We've just had a representative of Education Queensland with us, who mentioned that they find JCU graduates to be really job-ready. Going out into regional and remote areas during their degree, seems to equip JCU students to adapt more readily to those settings. Our students tend to have a good understanding of regional issues and tend to slot in quite nicely into regional and remote schools.”

In Kate’s experience, having a love for your profession is the desired goal, and the journey towards building it can also be rewarding.

“It’s very competitive to get a guidance role and I honestly think that placement experience was what gave me the edge compared to the other candidates,” Kate says.

“I finished the course last December, then I had an interview a couple of days after and was offered a job in Rockhampton as a guidance officer. It's really nice working with students in a therapeutic manner. I really love the job,” she says.

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