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Job-hunting: Advice I wish someone had told me

Meld Magazine

Wed Apr 27 2011


AUSTRALIA’S fast food and retail workers union UNITE says 20-hour work restrictions are forcing students into low-paid sectors where they are vulnerable to exploitation. Elisa Scarton and Marcella Purnama report.

IT IS the inescapable habit of Melburnians – having coffees, day or night. And it’s in that little pause of silence between sips as you catch up on life with friends, that you often catch snippets of other people’s conversations.

Whenever I hear an international student talking, I feel a little tweak inside me. Perhaps it’s just nice to know there are more of you out there; or perhaps I just wish I were like you again.

I will eavesdrop a little on complaints of fast-talking lecturers and silly group mates, or songs of praise for tutor-cum-eye-candy combinations, and deep inside I want to be back in my uni days.

Unfortunately, my current employment status is rather shameful despite being a recent graduate. No, I don’t really worry about never being able to find a job – I know that I will… someday.

The thing is, finding the job you really want, at the company you worship, with the big, pretty-looking salary – that is the difficult part. Especially when you’re an international student in Melbourne and your degree isn’t in demand, things can get quite tough.

The point of studying is to get a job. But now that I’m in this stage of life (the miserable job-hunting stage), I’m able to look back at my student days, and reflect upon those things I missed out on.

I wish someone was able to tell me the things that I’ve come to understand now – hence I hope you will be able to take home some words of advice.

Get involved. Your parents probably sent you to Melbourne to study, hoping for you to have a fulfilling overseas education. But somehow, some parents stress that top grades are paramount – they’d better be all distinctions, or else! I’ve come to realise that while having high scores are indeed important, especially for entrance into graduate programs, many employers look out for your co-curricular activities.

Join clubs, societies, volunteer programs, competitions, or conferences – just keep your eye out for opportunities to develop and demonstrate your initiative, leadership abilities, or team skills. Being the president of a club will look impressive on your CV.

Make as many friends as possible. It’s comfortable to just stick with the same clique of friends in uni. But try venturing out of your safety zone and meeting more people. For example, after a tutorial finishes, ask what everyone’s doing later – perhaps you could find someone to have lunch or coffee with.

Keep up your relationships with people – you never know, someday you need their help with a job or task. Having a diverse group of friends that study different degrees is great because you can have go-to people for all sorts of issues. It’s a win-win situation!

Participate in your classes. Ah, how tempting it is to skip those 9am lectures. It’s important to go for as many classes as you can, and get to know the lecturers and tutors. Develop good relationships with them by coming to class on time and speaking up during discussions. Ensuring that they like and remember you will go a long way when you’re looking for people to act as academic referees in your future job applications.

Get a part time job or internship. Many international students return to their home countries during the summer and winter breaks. However, whether you go home or stay in Melbourne, it’s important to make use of your vacation periods to take on internships or part time jobs within your industry.

These engagements can help you get a foot in the door before you graduate, or show potential employers that you have customer service or retail experience. And do take them seriously. It’s important to leave a good impression with your employers, especially through internships, so that they may be able to refer you to other employers in the future or better yet, offer you a full-time position when you graduate.

Doing as many internships as possible will definitely go a long way in your CV. This is especially true for students in universities such as the University of Melbourne, where courses are more academically-focussed and do not provide any work or internship placements.

Volunteer. Doing charity or volunteer work not only helps those in need but shows that you care about causes and are willing to work for things you believe in. Furthermore, you can also find great leadership opportunities in volunteer work to boost your employability.

Finding a job is tough, but if you can make the best use of your university years to prep yourself for entering the working world, it can make your job search much more of a breeze. It’s easy to neglect everything else and merely concentrate on getting credits and happily passing the time with friends, but these are critical years of your life – make the best of all the opportunities you have right now, so that you may be able to reap the rewards in working life.