For UQ Law and Economics graduate Mikhara Ramsing, the journey to her dream career included a double degree, a rural road trip, volunteering at Mount Everest and some honest conversations about mental health in Australia.
I was very privileged to spend seven years of my life studying a double honours degree in law and economics at UQ. I always loved economics, but at the tender age of 18 I had no idea what jobs were available if I just studied economics. So I combined it with a law degree, knowing that at least at the end of my studies, a person with a law degree could become a lawyer: a pathway that seemed well defined to someone fresh out of high school.
As it turns out, I fell in love with my law degree, from social sports and mooting to serving on the UQ Law Society. All my volunteer and clerkship experience was in law. My love for economics grew too, to the point where I committed to the hardest academic year of my life – economic honours. But I also loved working with young people, volunteering my time to lead them to Everest Base Camp and to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. In my penultimate year, I was torn. How could I pursue a job in law and economics and keep up my volunteer work in the youth space?
Fortunately, during university, a group of us decided to host Queensland’s first ever youth social enterprise conference — IMPACT — which exposed me to the idea of social enterprise. That is, a way for me to combine my volunteer causes with a source of income.
But what about becoming a lawyer or an economist, given I had just spent seven years obtaining a law and an economics degree?
I was fortunate to land a job at Deloitte Access Economics in Sydney upon graduating from economic honours, but only lasted one year. The work, my team and office environment was fantastic, but inside I still felt like something was missing. I had just been on a 10-year journey with my parents, bringing them into my sexuality as a queer South African Indian Australian woman. I was so proud of the progress we had finally made as a family and wanted to help others who may be going through the same thing.
I was also kept up at night by the fact the biggest killer of Australians under 44 was suicide, especially youth in rural and regional Australia.
So in 2017 I quit my job, moved to Byron Bay, built a tiny home on a box trailer, bought a ute with my partner and travelled 57,000 km over Australia to live, breath and understand what life was like in rural Australia. I started two social enterprises in the human rights space – Ethnic LGBT+, Australia’s national platform for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) LGBTIQ+ individuals to share their stories; and Ground Chai, a chai company which provided skill workshops to rural high schools, subsidised by chai sales.
Realising that I didn’t have to fit my law and economics degree into one dream job enabled me to work with hundreds of young people around the country, meet the Prime Minister, be selected as a Young Social Pioneer by The Foundation for Young Australians, be recognised as an Emerging Leader for the Australia-ASEAN region, be selected as one of 10 Australian Westpac Social Change Fellows, and be nominated for Young Australian of the Year Queensland 2019.
What helped me achieve all these things was understanding that my degrees, my volunteer experience and my leadership experience had provided me with a range of technical, enterprising and people skills. I could use these skills to craft whatever I wanted. This gave me the courage and confidence to create my two social enterprises.
I encourage you to drop this idea of a ‘dream job’ and instead focus on what your dream skill set would be and how you are going to use it to make the world a better place.