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Standing out from the crowd – The T-shaped Graduate

By Jakeb Wilkinson

2021. Leap Up Mentor Team at a Western Sydney High School. People in photo (left to right): Tomisin Demi-Ojo - Bachelor of Medical Science, 2nd Year, Angelina Lam - Bachelor of Speech and Hearing Science, 3rd year, Jakeb Wilkinson - Bachelor of Medical Science, 3rd year, Rachel Chong - Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of professional accounting, 4th year, Rahin Badar - Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Security Studies, 2nd year


When you are at university and completing your degree, many students think that grades are the be all and end all and that nothing else matters within the job market. However, after graduation this concept radically changes when students learn about the secrets that employers don’t tell you. When employing a graduate there are many aspects that an employer looks at, with grades being only one part. That is why being a T-shaped graduate is crucial to succeeding after graduation. But what is a T-shaped graduate?


A T-shaped graduate is a metaphor that describes the the abilities of a person, particularly in relation to their skills in a workforce. Think of a T, the vertical line represents the depth of related skills, such as your degree that you have achieved. Then the horizontal line of the T represents what you did outside of your degree - where you learnt new skills and applied your knowledge in areas of expertise other than one’s own - be that volunteering, completing the global leadership program, or doing a course of interest outside of your degree.


But why do you want to be a T-shaped graduate? The simplest answer is that the skills a student learns, and the skills employers need are changing. By becoming a T-shaped graduate you will not only leave Macquarie University with a degree but a wide breadth of knowledge and skills that will set you apart from all the other graduates with an identical degree.

But being a T-shaped graduate is not as simple as doing many random activities and throwing them onto a resume, hoping an employer will like it. Being a T-shaped graduate is following your passions and finding ways to develop skills that are crucial to the workforce and your everyday life, from communication and teamwork to adaptability and perseverance.


I am in my final year of studies and have tried throughout my time at university to become a T-shaped student, however, I was not always like this. In my first year at Macquarie University, I did not go beyond my degree, I did only what was required of me. I found I learnt a lot and made friends but only within the small area I was working in. I am now in my final year of my degree and have pushed myself and followed all my passions. I found new areas of interest from completing the Leap Up Mentor Program, being a Mentor Team Leader, volunteering with the Smith Family Foundation, completing the Global Leadership Program and courses alongside my degree in mental health and crisis support, sign language and statement of attainment in leadership.


I chose certain areas that built upon my degree and increased my depth of knowledge in the hope of being a T-shaped graduate, but I also made so many friends and was given so many new opportunities along the way that I never would have had if it was not for attempting these opportunities. They lead me from a degree, which involved minimal public speaking, and gave me a voice where I have now spoken in front of hundreds of people to talk about my passions and to help others to achieve their goals and aspirations in tertiary education.


It is never too late to be a T-shaped graduate regardless of whether it is your first semester or last, there is always time to make an impact. But where do you begin? Personally, I found the GLP was the easiest way to start. They open the first door and guide you through, showing you all the opportunities that are available and then it is up to you follow your passions.

My last piece of advice is for you to follow your interests and never be afraid to say yes because every time you say yes, a new opportunity will always present itself. The saying, "When one door closes, another will open", has never been truer for me in my journey through university and in becoming a T-shaped graduate.