As international students deciding to come to Australia, our decision to study here is often made based on the pursuit of our career aspirations. When we arrive, we need to develop our language skills, and understand the environment and cultural trends to get a job and gather enough financial resources to afford our daily and study-related expenses. How can we achieve our career aspirations while we are doing all this? By identifying our personal strengths and weaknesses, defining our life goals and career purpose, targeting the roles we want to perform, identifying the skills we need to develop, volunteering and leadership involvement. These are all great strategies to help us work towards our desired careers.
Self-awareness and improvement
Business managers understand that they need to be aware of their organisation’s strengths and weaknesses to realise the potential of their stronger features and minimise their weaker points. It can be helpful to manage ourselves similarly. Understanding that we have great skills for some activities could facilitate our job-hunting process. For example, if we are good at relating to people and have great communication skills, probably hospitality and retail roles would suit well when starting our career pathway. On the other hand, being conscious of our weaknesses would help us to sharpen them, improving ourselves. That is the biggest challenge, because coping with situations that are not familiar to us, or might make us feel foolish can be difficult. However, when we leave our comfort zone, we can boost all our skills and fulfill all our commitments.
How can I get a job in Australia? In Colombia, we use a regular CV, but here the labour market prefers resumes and cover letters. The University offers a careers service, CQUni Careers, which can help us to address the design of our resume and the cover letters to apply to specific roles and organisations. They have checked my resume a couple of times, and it helped me to find a job in the hospitality industry.
Defining a purpose
A reason for being, in Japanese Ikigai, is the conglomerate of our life interests, objectives, passions and vocation. We could call it – our motivation. When we are planning our lives to do any academic program and to develop our skills, we should identify what is our Ikigai, why we wake up every morning, why we do everything we do. For example, facing global warming, improving world peace, creating the cure against a mortal disease, etc. Of course, those aspirations cannot be achieved in just one day. Those objectives would take a long journey of learning and development. Starting to know more about ourselves and to identify those personal factors that slow down the achievement of our life goals, is the first part. Then Kaizen, Japanese for progressive improvement. Each action we do each day should help us to improve ourselves a little bit, to take us a step further on the way to our Ikigai.
The Social Innovation Team has conducted some workshops where administrators of big companies have spoken about their motivation, and how through it they have been facing their challenges of interest. For instance, the CEO of Second Bite, during the Festival of Change, spoke about the huge issue of food waste, and how his company is collecting food to feed people in need, instead of letting it go to waste. Similarly, an executive of Patagonia addressed a workshop about how they are facing global warming and unfair trade in the textile industry. So, what matters is to identify a big motivation, huge enough to make us pursuit it every day.
Job vacancies and opportunities
When we attempt to get a job in a specific area, field or industry, it is important to understand the current labour market using online job browsing platforms like CareerHub, LinkedIn or Seek to review what kind of skills employers are looking for. If you already have some of these skills, it is important to keep using them. Otherwise, we should try to acquire and develop the new skills to fit with current vacancies.
There are several short, online, free courses that students can join, such as LinkedIn learning, google, coursera and the Uni workshops. It is important to remember that the University’s Career Advice Team could help with the skills and competencies process. For example, I have improved my Excel skills with LinkedIn learning and understood how to improve my networking skills with the University workshops. Also, the University sometimes has vacancies to work in the Library, student support or IT. Be sure to subscribe to the CareerHub newsletter for more advice about these.
International students often find it difficult to gain field experience when we are striving with our academic commitments. However, the development of competencies could be addressed through volunteering. Having a short chat with the career advisor of the Melbourne campus, let me know that employers understand the obstacles international students have to get a professional job after graduation. However, they consider our commitment with the society and the “Mateship” behaviour we have as a striking feature of our professional profile. These skills could be developed and proved through volunteering and community involvement. Also the career adviser stressed the huge importance of meeting people. Our career depends 50% on what we know and 50% on who we know.
It is possible to be a volunteer in many areas such as health, sports, age and childcare and tourism. For example, Study Melbourne recruits international students to support tourists around the CBD, visitors in the library, etc. Sport clubs provide volunteering opportunities to students to help in the merchandise, information and ticketing area. And local councils are often looking for candidates to support tourists in the area, pets-care, sports arbitration, among others. Also, the University is often looking for volunteers to support sports events, wellbeing activities and cultural plans.
Leadership is probably the most in-demand hard skill in the workforce. It is not difficult to be involved in. Just at our doorstep, the Campus Life Committee (CLC) strives to improve the life of students in academic and non-academic regards. Volunteering with the CLC has allowed me to build a strong network, relate with people from different backgrounds, suggest and implement projects at the campus and outside; and, perhaps most importantly, to contribute to the improvement of the life of my fellow students. Similar groups at the University and through external companies provide leadership opportunities, groups like Engineering Without Borders, Study Melbourne, Second Bite, Ylab, Salvos, Ceres Community, Lentils as anything, or you can simply talk to the Student Representative Council to create a club with specific purposes.
In summary, to achieve our career aspirations and prevent obstacles from blocking our career pathway, we should identify a big motivation: Ikigai. Then identify our strengths and weaknesses to improve ourselves through the Kaisen methodology. It is important to target the job positions we are interested in, and consider how our strengths and weaknesses would allow us to fill them. Otherwise, we could harness online and Uni programs to improve our skills. Volunteering also could help us to gain more on-field experience and develop our personal competencies, while we expand our network. Finally, leadership, the most in-demand skill in the labour market, could be developed by getting involved with communities and Uni programs like the CLC.
Be positive, be proactive, and get involved. Don’t be shy, talk to others and NEVER GIVE UP! For more career advice, contact CQUni Careers.
Carlos Bravo is a current Master of Human Resource Management student and a member of the Social Squad – a group of content creators helping to promote student and campus life at CQUniversity.