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Helping you take your first career step

Everyone has that friend who knew what they wanted to do at a young age. That person who dreamed of becoming an architect, scientist or lifesaver, then went ahead and did it. If that happens, amazing! But if you’re like most young career-seekers, it could take most of your twenties to work out what you want to do. And that’s okay. With so many options, how do you find something you like? As your career gets going, how do you manage money stuff like tax and superannuation? Read on for some ideas that could help.

Finding your feet

Don’t feel ready to jump straight into a career? You could always take a gap-year travelling, or spend a little time taking stock. Once you’re ready to get started, here are some good places to begin.

Start with your life goals

You’ll spend around a third of your life working and another third living (the final third’s spent sleeping). You want to have a fulfilling career. That starts with picking something that empowers your life plans.

So, take time answering the big questions: what are you passionate about, and what are your natural strengths? If you absolutely love nature and the outdoors, your path will probably be different from someone who’s super-social and feels most comfortable at a happening event.

Once you know the really big picture, you can start to narrow things down with a little trial and error.

Try as many things as you can

To really get a feel for things, you have to give them a go. If you worked through your studies, you’ll already have started this.

Instead jumping into a full-time job, why not try two part-time ones? You can compare the slower pace of retail to the fast pace of hospitality, or maybe try a desk job to see if corporate life suits.

You can also try short, full-time contracts. There’s no obligation to stay once its finished, and again, it will be another chance to try something new.

By the way, none of this is will be time wasted. Many of the skills you pick up in these jobs end up transferring to other ones. For example, you’ll learn to sell in retail and to prioritise in hospitality – great skills for any job. Best of all, you’ll learn the broad strokes of what makes work enjoyable for you.

Start-up, corporate or be your own boss?

Every career has a subset of opportunities. If you’re looking for lots of responsibility, consider working at a start-up. You’ll enjoy more influence in the growth of the company, learn lots and progress through your career rapidly.

If you’re looking for something with more security and a clear development path, it might help to take a more traditional corporate route. Research some graduate opportunities and internships to see if there’s a step into a role.

Last of all, you can be your own boss. You could become a gun-for-hire and work as a sole-trader. Or, if you’re feeling entrepreneurial and have an idea you believe in, grow your own business.

No matter which of the above you’re doing, it’s important to remember to challenge yourself so you continually grow your abilities.

Think of yourself as a project

Your skills are the asset that you take with you everywhere, they ultimately decide your value and your career level.

Think about your strengths. Will they matter in five years? This article forecasts what skills will be important.

To build yourself up, book in some short courses. Or choose a career based on its abilities to grow your skills in that way.

After all, a little planning can put you in front and really pay dividends.

Managing tax

Remember, when your income changes, your tax will too. Here’s what you need to keep in mind.

Should I do my own tax, or get help?

Many Australians do their own tax. You can do it all online via the myGov tax portal, and for many it’s worth saving the cost of a tax agent or accountant.

Then again, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and struggling to get it done, it might be worth getting help from a professional. You’ll pay for the service, but it will save you time and they might help you save money (or get more back).

How much will I pay, and will I get anything back?

Everyone’s tax return is different. A lot of things affect your tax return including your income (the more you earn, the more you pay), deductions (some expenses related to your job aren’t taxed), student debt (HECS gets repaid with your tax), private health cover and more.

You may get money back, but you may owe more money. Before you ‘claim’ your tax return, you’ll get an estimate of this amount. You can double check these figures to see if they’re correct. That way you can get prepared to repay tax or enjoy a return.

Thinking about superannuation

From your first day of work, you start saving for the last. You do this in the form of superannuation, commonly known as ‘super’.

How super works

Each time you are paid, your employer is required by law to make a contribution to your chosen fund. Your super account should grow over the course of your career to a substantial amount by the time you retire.   

How do I choose the right super fund?

The ‘best’ super fund depends on what you look for from your investments. Even within the same find, you will have choices about how aggressive you want your investments to be; people often opt for higher risk (and higher return) earlier in their career, then move to lower risk as they get closer to retirement.

Start by checking some comparison sites. Don’t forget to consider annual fees and insurance options that cost extra; a small difference each year can add up to a lot over your career. This calculator will help.

 Making your own contributions

If you ever work for yourself (as a sole trader) or run your own business, you don’t have to make your own super contributions -- but you can if you choose. Check with your Super Fund provider for more information.

Consolidating super

As you move between jobs, you may end up with more than one super account. Double-checking and consolidating all your super into one account can now all be done in MyGov. This helps keep your fees low and boosts the amount you’ll have come your retirement day.

Set up a savings plan

With a full-time income, you’ll find saving becomes a little easier. To make it as easy as possible, you could decide on a regular amount (for example, 20% of your salary, but it could be more or less) and then set up a transfer from your Everyday account (where you get paid) into a Savings account on your payday.

In the Westpac Life savings account, you can also set up Savings Goals. These let you split your savings between the things you want. For example, if you’re saving for a holiday and a car, you can do both from the one account.

Learn more

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Things you should know

Any recommendation made in this communication is general in nature and does not take your objectives, financial situation or needs into account. Read the terms and conditions, including the Online Banking Terms and Conditions available at before making a decision and consider whether the product is right for you.

The taxation position described is a general statement and should only be used as a guide.  It does not constitute tax advice and is based on current tax laws and their interpretation.