Successfully graduating from an Australian University is a battle only half won, as another challenge awaits you after graduating: to find employment in Australia.
Whether you are looking for your first job, establishing your career, or want to hone your skills, we have collated this guide to help you on your journey to success.
It will provide essential tips and practical steps which can help you find better work opportunities, progress in your career, and tackle the hurdles you may face while getting your foot in the door.
While this guide focuses on employment in Australia, it will still be useful for future work outside of Australia.
What are the skills and qualities employers seek
Employers look for a diverse skill set in their potential recruits. These are skills you learn during your course of study, through on-the-job training, and the lessons that life teaches you.
But most importantly, employers are interested in knowing you as a person and the value you will bring to their organization.
1) Technical Skills
These skills are reflected in your formal educational qualifications and are specific to that occupation, such as accountancy or journalism skills. You will be considered as a potential candidate for an interview based on these technical skills.
2) Enterprise Skills
In the business world, employers are searching for candidates who exhibit strong enterprise skills such as learning, communicating with others, problem-solving, and productivity.
The following are some of the enterprise skills that matter to employers and it is important to demonstrate them in the workplace.
3) You should be a good communicator
It is not enough to possess technical skills alone. Employers look for candidates who can communicate effectively in the workplace. This is why English language proficiency is important. As an international student, studying with native English speakers will enhance your skills greatly. You should write clearly and in a concise manner, and produce well-written work such as emails, letters, and reports.
You should be an active listener and contribute to professional and social conversations in the workplace. You should display confident non-verbal behavior, such as body language, eye contact, posture, how you greet people, and respect their personal space.
4) You should think creatively
Our work processes are slowly becoming more automated, replacing the need for people who can do routine jobs. Employers are seeking graduates who exhibit strong analytical and problem-solving skills. They are interested in people who can analyze and solve problems creatively. You should be a confident, resilient person who can self-manage and persevere in the face of challenges.
5) Who you are as a person beyond your CV matters
Employers will focus on your education and work experience first. But they will also be interested in who you are as a person beyond that. They look at voluntary work, community involvement, sporting activities, mentorship, and coaching roles. You should add these to your CV and also talk about them in your interview. This will give the employer a better idea of your personality, what you care about and believe in.
Planning for career success
The first step to career success is identifying your capabilities and knowing your value. You should be aware of your strengths, skills, knowledge base, and behavior traits. You cannot predict your future but you can build yourself up for success by realizing what you are good at and what you love doing.
1) Identify your goals
Start to build skills that align with your career goals early on. This will ensure that you are more employable. Map out your aspirations and career goals and then work towards developing and honing your skills.
2) Reflective activity
There are many online tools available to guide you in understanding your skills, interests, and passion. For example, Headspace offers a template to help map your future career, myfuture helps you identify your interests, build your career profile.
Building your skills and marketing yourself
1) Improve your communication skills
To gain a competitive edge you must continuously develop your English language skills while in Australia.
Interact with native speakers who can help you to understand Australian culture and communicate effectively. You will gain confidence and communicate comfortably with different people and in different contexts. Sign up for courses and workshops which will help you improve your pronunciation and writing skills. Speak in English while having a conversation daily with peers and other people.Consume more English media such as radio, podcasts, watch films, and TV.Build your network by joining clubs and societies and participating in different activities. It will improve your confidence in social settings.
2) Gain industry experience
Start building your portfolio early by gaining relevant work experience during your studies. Employers expect potential candidates to demonstrate their skills by drawing from real-world experiences. It will enable you to talk about your strengths and the work you enjoy in your interviews. Gaining relevant industry experience will help you build an impressive resume and network before you start your career.
Types of workplace experience
International students can work up to 40 hours per fortnight during study periods, and unlimited hours during study breaks. This type of work has many benefits – you experience Australian work culture, meet diverse people, and build customer service, problem-solving, and software skills.
To gain volunteer experience you can join cultural societies, local community groups, schools or churches, sports organizations, etc. All volunteer work is unpaid. It is a great way to enhance your teamwork, cultural and communication skills.
Education and training courses provide opportunities for gaining professional experience through courses. It can be in the form of internships, real-world projects, or simulated work experiences.
Internships usually take place in the second last year of studies for a fixed period such as three months during summer break, or part-time during a semester.They are a precursor to graduate roles or entry-level positions and are highly competitive. They are paid, provide real-world experience, training, and development.
If you perform well it can also transform into a full-time opportunity.
Consider exploring global opportunities as an exchange student or undergoing study abroad experience in another country. It is usually recommended to second-year students, so it is better to plan for this in your first year.
Job search and identifying opportunities
You should familiarize yourself with the industry you want to work in before beginning your job search. It includes exploring graduate opportunities, understanding the hiring process, and available career paths.
1) Research the recruitment process
Gather information on when major employers in your sector are likely to start hiring and the skills they will seek.
This varies from country to country, however in Australia:
– Applications for graduate roles and winter internships open in late February and close towards the end of April
– Career fairs and employer sessions on campus happen during March and April
– Applications for summer internships are open from July – to August
2) Attend career fairs and sessions
Universities host career fairs, industry events, and career planning sessions through which employers assess talent in the market. It is a good opportunity for you to discover what skills and qualities companies are looking for. You should treat these events as an informal interview and be prepared by making a list of organizations you want to prioritize.
3) Search for open job positions
Find out where your prospective employers advertise jobs
Search the career sections on the company websites
Sign up on job sites such as seek.com and careerOne.com.
Utilize the career resources at your university
Build your professional profile on LinkedIn and follow key companies
4) Start networking and explore the hidden job market
There are many short-term and part-time jobs on the hidden job market which are not advertised. It can help you in networking and gaining experience.
Another key factor in improving your employability is to expand your professional network.
You need to build authentic and strong connections with people you interact with daily.
This will help you in seeking valuable opportunities throughout your entire career.
As a successful networker, you will balance formal and informal networking opportunities that exist in work and social life.
5) Build a social media presence
Employers usually screen the social media profiles of potential candidates. Your social media presence is an extension of your personality, what you express on your page can give employers an insight into your values as well as writing and communication skills.
Keep your profiles private, instead, use professional networks such as LinkedIn to build your brand and connect with prospective employers.
6) Seek opportunities in small and medium enterprises
Entry-level positions at large firms can be quite competitive, so consider SMEs where you have less competition and relaxed visa and language proficiency requirements.
You can benefit a lot from working in SMEs:
You will gain hands-on work experience and develop a broader understanding of the way businesses work.
You can shoulder responsibilities early on which will improve your confidence and get you a senior role within the company. You will be able to contribute to different functions and areas of the business, rather than limiting yourself to one role. It can be a stepping stone to a bigger organization after a few years because of your generalist skills in a small business.
7) Contact a recruitment agency
In Australia, employers pay recruitment agencies to find suitable staff for short-term roles.
This is a great way to gain experience, technical skills, and insight into Australia’s workplace culture. For many, these opportunities are a stepping stone towards more permanent positions.
Here are some of the popular agencies:
8) Consider a relocation within Australia
If you are planning on living and working in Australia then expanding your job search to other states and regions is worth a shot. Some regions even offer incentives and sponsorships to attract skilled workers so the opportunities are plenty. Relocating to regional communities will offer a unique insight into Australian culture and lifestyle.
Applying for a job and preparing for an interview
1) As a new graduate you might work in a variety of roles before finding the right fit for you. When applying for jobs keep the following things in mind:
Be flexible as your first job may be a short-term contract or casual position that transitions to a permanent role.
Be realistic about your expectations regarding the role you are applying for
2) During the process your ability to communicate effectively will be assessed
via the following steps.
Writing: This is how you respond to selection criteria, write tests and applications, structure and tailor your resumes, emails, and cover letters
Speaking: This is how you talk about yourself in interviews, answer behavioral-based questions, analyze case studies, psychometric testing, and assessment center group tasks.
3) If you are applying online, be mindful of the following:
Concisely answer questions and avoid word vomit.
Address the question by demonstrating your technical and enterprise skills with examples.
Cite examples of projects, volunteer or work experience, and extra-curricular activities to demonstrate your skills.
Mention your goals and motivation for applying and why you are a suitable candidate for the role.
4) Tailor your CV to each job you are applying for
Ensure that your resume or CV is updated, of a high standard showing attention to detail.
Thoroughly check for grammatical and spelling errors.
Customize your cover letter and resume according to the skills required for the job.
Carefully read the job description and duties and evaluate how you can add value to the role.
Write a cover letter to show employers that you can perform the particular role rather than sending a generic resume.
5) Preparing for the interview
To feel at ease enquire what type of interview it will be (personal, telephonic, or online) and who will conduct it.
Prepare and practice thoroughly for your interview. Ensure you understand the role and responsibilities of the job you are applying for.
Thoroughly read the organization’s vision, mission statement, core values, the business, and competitors.
Demonstrate your skills by citing examples from your previous work or study experience.
Communicate how you will be an asset to the organization and why you are the right fit for the role.
On an important note, if you are applying in Australia, be transparent about your visa status and your work rights.
We hope that through this guide you gain insights into the recruitment process in Australia, gather tips on how to make yourself more employable, and have an edge over others in the competitive job market.
Latest Update (As of 7th April, 2020)
According to the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment, the Education Council has decided that all students will be able to achieve a Senior Secondary Certificate of Education this year. This certificate will help students access university and further education and employment. Furthermore, all revisions to school assessments are to be made with students’ best interests in mind and to honour the intent of the learning described in the curriculum. To ensure that students applying for university entry interstate are not disadvantaged, the Education Council has decided that the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) results will be released in a nationally consistent window of dates beginning in 2020. You can find all the information details here. Finally, the NAPLAN test (held during May 12-22) will not proceed in 2020. Details of the same can be found here.
Having said that many of the existing universities have delayed their semester start dates to help international students who might be impacted because of the travel ban. You can either contact your college/university directly to understand your possible study option, or you can visit their websites for the latest updates: