How a former int’l student beat the odds and found her place at Bendigo Bank

With more than a decade of experience in the banking and financial advisory sector in her home country, former international student Alexis Phang faced a grim reality upon returning to Australia – the prospect of starting all over again. Now as a Mobile Relationship Manager at Bendigo Bank, Mihika Hegde catches up with Alexis to find out how she beat the odds and found her place in an organisation that values diversity.

Photo: Michelle Leong

When former international student Alexis Phang completed her overseas studies in Australia, she returned to her home country of Malaysia with a specialised proficiency and an aptitude to match.

Armed with a double major Bachelor of Business degree from the University of Technology Sydney and a Masters of Commerce degree from the University of New South Wales, Alexis steadily climbed the corporate ladder, working as a corporate financial adviser and an investment banker. She also accrued experience in commercial banking, wholesale lending and strategic planning.

Her biggest career challenge came when she had to leave her last role as a Vice President for a second tier bank in Malaysia and made the decision to move to Australia to be with her husband. Despite more than 12 years of experience working in Malaysia’s banking and financial advisory sector, she was faced with the prospect of having to start all over again.

“I was well aware that it was going to be difficult [prior to coming to Australia] because all employers are after Aussie working experience. So what if you graduate from a prestigious university in Australia with impressive results? They want [local] work experience.”

It’s a challenge that many international student graduates can relate to.

Not one to throw in the towel, Alexis prepared herself for an uphill but ultimately worthwhile journey of improving her employment prospects.

“I was more than ready to start my career at any level so long as I [was] given an opportunity to path my way into a bank,” she said.

Knowing she lacked local experience, she started by volunteering. She undertook training at her own expense to become a social worker and various other roles which helped her to connect better with the community.

“I just kept telling myself to be patient, to persevere, and deal with the challenges”, she said.

While volunteering, Alexis continued to apply for jobs.

“I’ve gotten an enormous amount of automated emails rejecting my job applications”, she said.

Refusing to let the rejections get her down and keeping her chin up, Alexis persevered, sending out applications and emails everywhere she could.

Her persistence paid off, and she got her break when a role at Bendigo Bank came up.

Initially when she applied for a role at the bank, she was unsuccessful. The interviewer (who ended up being her Regional Manager) nonetheless kept her CV and they both continued to keep their relationship warm. Alexis waited until eight months later when Bendigo Bank was looking for a Mobile Relationship Manager; she was called for the role which played to her strengths.

“I came to Australia without networks. English is not my first language. And my job necessitates me to have extensive business relationships which is tough as a new immigrant.  But my multilingual capabilities, extreme determination and ability to adapt to a new environment were my selling points”, Alexis said.

As a Mobile Relationship Manager, Alexis is required to drive the performance of the Melbourne Central Region by delivering exceptional customer experience and assist Bendigo Bank’s customers with tailored financial solutions. In her daily role, she has been able to engage with a vast range of communities in different cultures as she works across all branches and offices within the Bank’s Central Region. She is grateful to find herself right at home in an organisation that values diversity.

Reflecting on her job-hunting experience, Alexis has some advice for international students seeking to enter the Australian workforce after graduation.

She acknowledges that while everyone’s situation may vary, volunteering is a good starting point for accumulating local experience while giving back to the community.

Persistence and perseverance are key, she said, and “you have to be very patient”.

She said keeping long-term aspirations and goals at the forefront of her mind helped her through the lengthy process of job-hunting.

“There will be ups and downs, but you will pull through,” she said.


For more information, contact Alexis at: alexis.phang@bendigoadelaide.com.au

Alexis Phang will be running the ‘How To Kick Start Your Career’ Teach Anything Good workshop at the upcoming 2017 Melbourne International Student Conference on Saturday, May 6. Alexis will share her story on how she began her career here in Melbourne and the challenges she was faced with as a returning international student with zero local work experience. Alexis will also help students identify the strengths and competencies they already possess that employers will look for. 

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