Australia’s leading international student news website

International student graduates beat the odds to find jobs in Australia

Hadi Ismanto

Fri Jan 18 2013

International student beat the odds to find jobs in Australia

NO relevant work experience? On a temporary residency visa? Hadi Ismanto shares the success stories of international student graduates who overcame the odds to land their dream jobs in Australia. 

It’s a story we’ve all heard before. Job hopefuls who have all the qualifications, but get knocked back time and time again because they don’t have any experience, or because they only hold a temporary residency visa. So how do some international student graduates do it?

1. Treat job-hunting process as a full-time job

Meet Michelle, a graduate from The University of Melbourne. She has a Bachelor of Commerce with Honours majoring in Actuarial Studies.

While she had plenty of work experience, including time at McDonald’s, Kumon Centre and a brief stint as a Peer-Assisted Study Scheme leader – none of that had anything to do with what she studied.

Yet, Michelle now works as a skill assessment officer at VETASSESS, where she conducts skill assessments for migration purposes to Australia. Her starting pay? $57,000 per annum.

It’s her dream job, but it wasn’t easy to get.

With little relevant experience, she sent out more than 800 unsuccessful applications before she got her job at VETASSESS. But she did it all in five weeks… with a temporary residency visa.

How you ask? Michelle treated the job hunting process like a full-time job. Every day, she would start applying at exactly 9am, take an hour’s lunch break, and resume until 5pm.

At night, she would spend time practising interview questions or recording herself answering questions from job seeking self-help books. She also constantly revamped her cover letter and CV.

It’s no surprise that Michelle preaches the importance of perseverance when it comes to job seeking.

So don’t just leave it up to chance or be resigned to the fact that some people are just “lucky” to find success after the first few job applications.

By treating your job-hunting process seriously, you will increase your chances statistically. Not to mention get into good habits that will pay off when you transition from student to working life.

2. Get your foot in the door by working for free

Nicholas is looking forward to starting a full-time research job at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute later this month.

After completing a diploma in biotechnology in Singapore, Nicholas came to Melbourne to pursue a Bachelor of Science majoring in biotechnology.

Realising late in the game he had no relevant work experience, he acted on a friend’s advice during his honours year to get his foot in the door by offering to take on unpaid work. He began by looking for research experience at his university’s labs.

One of his lecturers was able to give him that opportunity, but couldn’t pay him.

Convinced it was the experience that counted and not the money, Nicholas took the offer and worked hard in his role as a research assistant.

“It’s pretty difficult for international students to find work, and I wanted to increase my chances of finding work after graduation,” he said.

“I also wanted to find out through the internship if I would enjoy research work.”

During one of his late night stints in the lab, he had a chance meeting with the laboratory head who invited him to attend an upcoming staff dinner. And over the course of that dinner, the topic of Nicholas’ job hunt came up, which led to an impromptu interview, and subsequently, a formal job offer with the laboratory he was interning at.

Nicholas’ best piece advice for graduates is to network. A good starting place is to get better acquainted with your lecturers, but there are also organisations in your field of study that you can get involved with. Above all, it’s not about who you know but who knows you.

3. Consider going interstate

Despite graduating with a Bachelor of Science with Honours majoring in pathology, Irvin had no relevant experience to back up his degree.

At job interviews, he felt he was continually being trumped by applicants with more relevant experience.

After a year of unsuccessful job seeking, Irvin decided to try his luck interstate, leaving family and friends behind in Melbourne for Sydney.

The move paid off, as he soon found a job as a research assistant in the colon and lung  cancer research group at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research – a dream job and definitely relevant to the degree he studied!

It can be hard getting out of your comfort zone, but as in Irvin’s case, it’s sometimes worth biting the bullet, expanding your horizons, and trying your luck elsewhere.

In additional to that, Irvin’s top tip is to get your CV and resume checked time after time and to always make sure you customise them to suit the job you’re applying for.

4.Get connected on LinkedIn

By now, you should have realised that social media is not limited to Facebook and Twitter. LinkedIn is an excellent way to get connected in the professional world.

Jason, MBA graduate and now consultant at a boutique management consulting firm based in Melbourne, used LinkedIn to his advantage.

He started his job hunt some nine months before he was to graduate, attending industry events and sending out his first tentative LinkedIn coffee invitation around the same time. It went well, and opened the door to other meetings – and he was in almost 20 meetings by the time he graduated.

“In the process, I realised that almost unknowingly, I had accumulated sufficient industry knowledge to speak intelligently on a variety of industry specific questions – this would later prove to be crucial as the firms I interviewed with regularly required multiple rounds of panel interviews,” he said.

And with neither permanent residency nor extensive local work experience, every little nugget helped. While following the LinkedIn trail down to roles I was interested in, I managed to land a role in a great company that ticked all the boxes.

So for international students on the job hunt who are avid uses of Facebook, yet have never tapped into the world of LinkedIn, take Jason’s advice and apply your social networking skills to the world of LinkedIn.

For more tips on using LinkedIn, Jason shares more extensively here.