Deakin Talent Vice-Chancellor’s Professional Excellence Program

VCPEP Scholar- Lauren Pacella

What have you learnt as a VCPEP scholar?

Being a VCPEP scholar has taught me to push myself to reach for the opportunities I want. I’ve developed the skills and confidence required to reach out to companies, people and organisations seeking work experience or simple advice. The career focused tasks and workshops have fostered further motivation to seek out experiences to better myself and put myself in the best position for a job after graduation. I’ve also had the chance to meet such a varied group of people across different ages, life stages and from different countries and places than myself who have really opened my eyes to the struggles and triumphs people face every day that you wouldn’t know about simply walking past them on the street. Hence, I’ve learnt the importance of conversation, pushing my introverted self to talk to others I come across in life and learn from the many, many things they can teach me.

How much value do you place on the employer site visits?

Initially I wasn’t too sure the employer site visit was going to be relevant to me – we were visiting companies in industries not exactly related to the one I plan to go into. However, in hindsight I couldn’t have underestimated the day more. One company (BUPA) in particular surprised me by revealing they have dietitian’s working for them. Intrigued by their role in an insurance company, I engaged in a conversation which led me to spending a morning in their head office, seeing first-hand what their many roles involved and getting the chance to talk to a variety of different people. The experience was so rewarding in that, it opened up my eyes to a bunch of different paths I can take from my degree that I wasn’t even aware existed previously. And as a bonus, they all really appealed to me as future career options. I left with an open invitation for further meet-ups in the future and to sit in on one of their nutrition workshops.

Even hearing from and visiting the other employer sites exposed me to real working environments and the many ways people have shaped their careers into something their own, not letting the wording of a job description stop them. In fact, that was a key takeaway message from the day – don’t be limited by your degree, you can add your own spin to a role or use it to branch into many different areas. To any future scholars, I’d stress just how rewarding I found the employer visit and urge them not to miss it. The connections I gained from it are probably the strongest industry link I’ve made to date as a student.

What skills do you think you have learnt that will benefit future employers?

How to network and the importance of it has been crucial and will no doubt be invaluable as a future dietitian. I will need to be able to connect with dietitians, nutritionists and health professionals from all areas in order to implement health strategies, share research and stay relevant in the fast-changing industry. Similarly, building and maintaining a loyal client base will rely on excellent communication.

Self-confidence has been a huge one for me throughout the VCPEP program. In just one year, my levels of self-confidence especially in regard to my professional abilities has soared. The workshops and many discussions we have had about work experience and skills has allowed me to develop these to the extent that I feel confident approaching businesses and individuals for their time. I wouldn’t have known the manner in which to approach professionals nor felt brave enough to do it before, yet it doesn’t faze me at all now.

Similarly, the importance of, and a firm belief in open-mindedness has really resounded with me over the last year as a VCPEP scholar. Of course I had my reservations and nerves initially, over how much time the program would take up, whether I could balance it with my studies, whether I’d be ‘right’ for it. Those reservations were quickly quashed. Telling myself I was going to give everything a go, allowed me to approach each new event/workshop/meeting with an open and willing mind which I think is what has allowed me to gain so much from it. To future employers, this open-mindedness will be invaluable – who doesn’t want an employee who says yes to challenges and treats each opportunity with positivity, even if it scares them or they don’t think they’ll enjoy it. I’m certainly a testament to getting a lot more out of things than first anticipated.