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"If you study something you’re passionate about, the opportunities will be there".

One of the most valuable lessons Emily Jackson says she’s learnt through her university and early-career years is to pursue an area of study that you love. Not one that simply seems to offer the best job at the end.

Now working as an economic advisor with the National Broadband Network (NBN), it’s an approach Emily took while still in school by picking up Year 12 subjects that interested her most: international relations, Indonesian language and economics.

‘I had a strong sense that to be able to really understand international relations, a baseline understanding of economics was important. It provides a framework for understanding what incentivises individuals and governments behave in certain ways,’ she says.

Deakin’s combined arts/commerce degree – with honours in economics – provided Emily with opportunity to combine her interests as well as learning core commerce disciplines.

‘This provided me with a ‘safety net’ in case I decided that economics wasn’t for me after all. I’m really grateful for studying finance, accounting, marketing and contract law as I draw on my basic understanding of these disciplines frequently.’

As part of Deakin’s study abroad program, Emily was also able to incorporate a semester of study in Denmark and fourth-year internship in Indonesia.

‘I worked at a fair-trade NGO in Jogjakarta and this counted as credit towards my Indonesian major. My role included a combination of marketing, language translation and field trips to the villages and homes of the artisans from whom the organisation bought handicrafts,’ she says.

Between completing her degree and commencing an honours year in economics, Emily worked as an intern – which eventually led to a graduate position – at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) working on rural water pricing in the Murray Darling Basin.

‘It was a great opportunity to learn more about how economics can be applied in practice and find out about the diverse range of  employment opportunities open to people with an economics background.’

Her honours’ thesis explored whether scarcity pricing could adopted as an effective and efficient means of addressing the then-current urban water shortage in Melbourne when storage dams were hovering around 32% capacity.

‘Residents were subject to increasingly tight water restrictions and behavioural campaigns such as ‘Target 155’. I enjoyed the opportunity to apply the economic and research skills that I had learnt throughout my studies to such a topical and important issue.’

In her role with the NBN, Emily’s responsibilities are with stakeholder engagement and relationship management. She engages with staff in all other areas of the NBN as well as external stakeholders including retail service providers, government and the Australian Competition and Consumers Commission (ACCC).

‘There are always new challenges to work through and new questions that require creative, and sometimes complex, responses. I love the conceptual thinking that comes along with my job and I’m lucky enough to work in a team of people who continually challenge and motivate me to do my best work,’ she says.

While Emily sometimes wondered what she’d end up doing as an “economist”, she says her qualifications have led to a wide range of career path possibilities.

‘I soon learnt that there are so many jobs in the public and private sectors for economists which reinforces that if you study something you’re passionate about, the opportunities will be there.’

She’s also retained her passion for community development – particularly in Indonesia – and is planning more volunteer work next year.

‘I’m really interested in community and economic development and find the challenges associated with local community development fascinating. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that my career plans will continue to evolve as the opportunities available in terms of work and lifestyle continue to grow.’