Chinese international students currently make up 29.1 per cent of the entire international student population in Australia. They, along with international students from other countries, study across a range of disciplines and have the shared hope of using their overseas education as a means of launching their professional careers. Some may wish to stay in Australia after graduating to do so, others may look forward to returning home with the knowledge and skills they’ve acquired abroad.
Yet with an increasingly competitive job market and limited opportunities, some Chinese students have found it difficult to land their first major job. So what can current Chinese students do to ensure they stay ahead of the curve?
Dr Jasvir Kaur, an Early Career Development Fellow from La Trobe Business School, recently conducted research on Chinese students’ employability in a study titled ‘Employability Experiences of La Trobe Alumni in China’.
Supported by the China Studies Seed Funding Research Grant from the La Trobe China Studies Research Centre, Dr Kaur spoke to Chinese alumni in Shanghai and Beijing and gathered valuable tips and suggestions on how current Chinese graduates could increase their employability skills while studying in Australia.
Take the opportunity to get involved in volunteering opportunity in Australia
Volunteering opportunities are available to international students in Australia. The best place to start looking for these opportunities are in the university that the student is in currently enrolled in.
Volunteering is strongly encouraged by the alumni Dr Kaur spoke with as students would be be exposed to varied skills such as critical thinking and analytical skills, problem solving skills, team work skills, communication skills and other related skills.
Many Chinese international students come to Australia with limited employment experiences, therefore, learning how to engage in a job environment would certainly be advantageous.
Chinese students must be aware of where, when and how to apply and seek information on jobs as early as possible. Do not wait until the last minute to seek for employment in China.
Take proactive actions in looking at Chinese employment web pages for jobs in China during second or third semester. Find out where the specific page for job listings is, what type of jobs are in the market, what type of skills are needed for the job and other related information about the job that you are interested in.
Internships in China (Winter and Summer)
According to one of the Chinese graduates in Dr Kaur’s research, internships in China can be more easily secured when they are back home for semester holidays.
Graduates are urging current students not to just waste their time ‘holidaying’ but to apply for internships which are related to their field of studies in China. Internships are important as companies are looking for employees who have related work experiences during their internship. This tip was revealed by one of the research participants who works as a HR consultant in China.
In China, establishing relationships is deemed to be very important in securing employment at a respectable organisation. Therefore, current international students are urged to establish ‘connections’ and/or ‘relationships’ with their family members, friends and/or even their neighbours. Most first jobs are secured entirely though connections.
Alumni in Dr Kaur’s research have mentioned that they secured their first few jobs based on recommendations either by family members and/or friends.
CV and mock interviews while in Australia
Although the CV and interview procedures are similar in China as it is in Australia, there are also some differences that students will need to be wary of.
In China, for example, you need to include some personal details such as age, date of birth and you need to attach your picture to the CV. As for interviews, some personal questions may be asked. For example, your marital status and age. So, be prepared! Some companies also have their own template/form for you to fill in and so a CV is not asked for. In Australia, personal details like these aren’t often requested.
One research participant encouraged current students to attend as many interviews as they can in Australia. If students don’t get the job, they can consider their interview experience as practice for when they do end up returning home for more job interviews.
Be open also to taking suggestions from career counsellors or other employment specialists who can help develop your CV or prepare you for an interview as well.
Attend Alumni events
Building connections with other graduates who’ve finished their studies not long ago is also encouraged. These connections are enhanced by attending Alumni functions/events in China or at your university. Alumni do await for these events as they feel connected with the university as well as other graduates.
Dr Jasvir Kaur is an Early Career Development Fellow at the Department of Management, Sport and Tourism, La Trobe Business School. For more on Dr Kaur, visit her profile at La Trobe University’s website. She can also be contacted via LinkedIn.