Melbourne International Student Conference 2017 – Day 1: Next Gen Now

Day one of this year’s Melbourne International Student Conference invited delegates to explore the problems facing this generation, fostered growth and paved the way for innovation for tomorrow’s leaders. Mihika Hegde has the full report.

Photo: Michelle Leong

Opportunities, growth and innovation were the key takeaways from day one of the 2017 Melbourne International Student Conference (MISC) as speakers and conference activities offered students a chance to learn what diversity really means in the workplace, understand what it means to truly connect with others and perhaps most importantly, discover what’s important and of value to oneself.

In his opening address to the student delegates attending MISC, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said he enjoyed “putting young people on a rewarding path in life” and believed that Melbourne, a city voted the world’s most livable city six years in a row, offered rewarding incentives for international students to find their place in the city.

Following the Lord Mayor’s welcoming speech, MISC’s program officially kicked off with Beau Leese, co-founder and CEO of Intersective, an education technology start-up. Mr Leese narrated his previous start-up endeavours and the experiences that brought him to his current role. With a penchant for adrenaline, Beau described his constant chase for something new and innovative as similar to sky-diving. “You have to construct your parachute on the way down,” he said, in reference to the pursuit of a career.

On innovation, Beau said: “The execution of new ideas to create value is the most powerful force in this world”.

He also discussed the importance of failure; that delegates need not dwell on missteps and use failure to developing character. Don’t make the same mistake twice. Move on to bigger and better and more spectacular failures.”

Closing out his speech, Beau imparted seven crucial tips to students wishing to “survive and thrive” in the world of business:

  • Have purpose: Know what you’re about and what you want to achieve
  • Create value: Understand what makes you important and why consumers and stakeholders will take interest
  • Future hunt: Be innovative, inventive and prepared for the trends of the future
  • Play the game: Understand business politics, know who to speak with and how to communicate with them
  • Positive experience: Give back, consume as much experience as you create for others
  • Work hard: Knuckle down, commit time and resources to a job
  • Be adaptable: Resilience and flexibility are imperative

A chance to network; MISC 2017 gives delegates to meet their peers and mingle with industry professionals. | Photo: Michelle Leong

After breaking for a catered afternoon, the conference kept up pace with the ‘Working It Out’ forum which discussed the age-old dilemma of striking a work and life balance. Panellists shared their experiences in developing self worth, attributing meaning to their work, and their shifting ideas of purpose throughout their professional careers.

Chen Liu, operations manager at the International Women’s Forum explained her arduous path to her career. Having been on the receiving end of rejections after sending out resumes to numerous employers, she imparted some frank words of advice to international students struggling to make their mark. “If you’re desperate, you keep going”, she laughed.

Jingjing Ge, a PhD student at the University of Melbourne shared her experience in initially feeling isolated as an international student in Australia. Approaching social situations with trepidation due to the concerns she had over her language capacity, she said this only delayed the inevitable. Networking and communication can form the backbone of not only an international student’s career but also their social life. Imparting two tangible actions for international students to take part in, Jingjing said that it came down to taking the plunge. “Feeling shy is normal, but it’s important to improve your English and participate in volunteering and activities”, she said.

Manesh Nesaratnam, freelance content producer, writer, and director, approached the forum with quick wit and honesty, laying out his ongoing journey to achieve a balance within his professional life. Manesh said he struggled with managing people’s expectations of his work. Instead of trying to impress others, Manesh said he now tried to embrace his own path. “I just go into a situation and do my best”, he said. Speaking of his career in the arts, he said a predominant takeaway was learning to appreciate the work. “The process of creation is meaningful”, he said.

Vong Chen Wen, dentist and artist presented an unusual dichotomy when it came to his career. Initially studying dentistry at the advice of his family, Vong said he was constantly looking for more. Now, he juggles both jobs and spoke of how he was happier for it. When asked to provide advice to recent graduates or those considering specific field of study, Vong said it was important to understand the nuances of a job. “Don’t look at the cost, look at the lifestyle”, he advised international students, before making a choice. He said that the process of working in a field he chose was wholly rewarding.

Speakers at the ‘People, Place and Technology Futurecast on the importance of creating a diverse workforce. | Photo: Michelle Leong

Following lunch, MISC attendees also participated in the People, Place, and Technology Futurecast, a forum focusing on diversity in the classroom and at work. Panellists included Laura Blackmore (Founder, Multilinguals of Melbourne), Jonathan Lee (Partner and Co-founder, Particular), Kimberly Pierzchalski (Community Animator, Library at the Dock, City of Melbourne), Aun Ngo (Community Manager, Foundation for Young Australians) and Wesa Chau (Director, Cultural Intelligence).

Speaking about the lack of diversity across various professional sectors, Ms Chau explained how it was important to acknowledge that, “diversity doesn’t happen by itself”. She explained how tokenism was preventing a nuanced understanding of difference – whether by culture, religion, gender, sexuality or ability. She said that striving for diversity wasn’t futile however. “If the culture of an organisation allows for diversity then it will happen”.

Delegates then took part part in a workshop designed to challenge the way in which they regarded their education. Participants shared their views at the ‘Design Your Education’ split-stream workshop and then collaboratively designed different elements of the international student experience including: admissions and enrolment, career progression, personal growth and day-to-day support and diversity and inclusion within the classroom.

With innovations regarding education fresh in their minds, delegates then partook in an online psychometric test to identify their strengths and weaknesses for the job market. This online learning platform offered an effective means of communicating career advice, skills training, and a great understanding of the delegates’ capabilities.

Day one of MISC culminated in the popular Professional Networking Night, hosted by the City of Melbourne. Delegates were encouraged to put their recently honed skills to practical use by speaking with peers and various guests from the business, engineering, health, hospitality, and media sectors. Without knowing who they were speaking with, students students got to know the best in the industry with standout students offered one-one-one coffee with guests for further mentoring and conversation. The Professional Networking Night also included the launch of this year’s Tertiary Scholarship Fund.

Stay tuned for day two coverage of MISC2017! For more on the Melbourne International Student Conference, visit its official website and follow the conference on its Facebook official page

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