A Brave New World: Advice from One International Graduate to the Next

A Brave New World: Advice from One International Graduate to the Next

A Brave New World: Advice from One International Graduate to the Next

Author: Grace Loke
Special thanks: William Nanda, Danny Chong, and Alicia Ho

You’ve probably heard a lot about why it’s important to be job-ready, how to prepare for the Australian workforce and your opportunities as an international student. But how often do you hear
from those who have once been in your shoes? We recently interviewed a diverse combination of international graduates to share their insider experience of what it’s like to work in Australia, what they’ve learned so far, and some advice on how to excel in your journey.

William Nanda, 25
Head of Integration at MyDeal.com.au

Young and determined in March 2016, William embarked on his career journey in the I.T. field after graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce in Actuarial Science and Finance. William’s remarkable story of how he climbed the corporate ladder started with a ghosted application, but his luck changed six months later when he reapplied and literally got the job the next day. “I truly got lucky. After I graduated, I landed an internship at my current company, which was supposed to last 3 months. I worked hard for it and luckily enough, I was offered my full-time position just after a month of joining the company! Fast-forward 8-ish months later, my employer decided to sponsor me and well, here I am,” he recalled.

Being an international student in a foreign country can pose challenges in entering the workforce as a fresh graduate. However, William persevered through the stigma in efforts of proving his worth, not just as an international, but as a studious individual. “Of course. It’s a known disadvantage that international students are at a loss when it comes to career prospects. Most local employers prefer to hire those who fit the ideal profile of good English and no visa restrictions. “I shifted my focus away from that and decided to showcase my strengths instead. Proactivity is super important as it shows employers that you are serious. You should find out about your company, do your research, and flaunt your skillset! Ask yourself this: If I were an employer, would I employ myself?” said William.

Entering the I.T. industry with no prior experience, William set out to learn everything about his job from scratch, emphasizing that the learning process never stops as new trends arise and continue to shape the future of the industry. Being thrown into such environments as an introvert forced William to challenge himself, not only in talking the talk but also walking the walk. “I started my internship knowing nothing, but I wanted to prove to my boss that I could excel at my job despite that. I slowly built my confidence to voice out my potential and propose my involvement in better opportunities,” he shared.

 With 4 years and counting at his company, William actively finds ways to keep moving forward. “Find your purpose. Having a career is like a roller-coaster ride – I’m not motivated all the time. What matters is that you know what makes you happy and keeps you passionate about your job, or else it would be like working in a graveyard,” he laughed. William added, “When I feel like it’s time for a change, I would ask my boss for new projects and show him/her that I am ready and up for the task. If you’re dissatisfied with something, speak up! Communication is key, and if you don’t communicate with your employer, you’ll be stuck with that feeling forever.”

Alicia Ho, 30
Senior Quality Coordinator at Soulfresh APAC

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Food Technology & Nutrition in 2013, Alicia is now a seasoned asset to the food industry, having professional connections with industry experts across her field. “In today’s employment criteria, employers may not choose candidates with the best qualifications or interview skills, but they will choose the candidate with a positive learning attitude, who they believe will fit well into their team. Having good communication skills and being a strong team player is also essential,” she shared.

 Changes in the scientific field occur rapidly and continuously with new technology, research, and innovation. However, since joining the Australian workforce, Alicia has witnessed others falling behind and unable to catch-up with the changing times. “Always be prepared and never have the mentality that someone will hand you the answer. Google is your friend! Search up your queries and discuss it further with someone who can help. There are ample studies and research materials freely available online nowadays. This helps ensure that you stay ahead of the game and are aware of what others are talking about,” said Alicia.

Securing a job is only the first step in any career but having enough gusto to maintain it can be difficult at times. Alicia stays motivated by setting both short- and long-term goals for herself, consciously working towards them. “If there are hurdles, I think about how I can resolve the issue or work differently to still achieve my goals. A word of advice to never give up when there are challenges – instead, learn to persevere through them. Always have a curious attitude and be open to changes, adapt to them, and sharpen your skills while you’re at it,” she commented.

For clueless international graduates looking to kickstart their career in Australia, Alicia advises early preparation and proper planning for a smooth-sailing journey ahead. “Ensure that you have a valid visa to stay for work in Australia once you’ve graduated. Don’t limit yourself to one location – look towards other states that could potentially have better employment opportunities and job progression. You could also get used to the Aussie working culture through internships and volunteer work.” Alicia added, “If you plan on staying in Australia, understand your pathway options to obtain a PR. The earlier you plan for this, the higher your rate of success. As a tip, get IELTS done first since it’s required for all post-grad TR visas.”

Besides the traditional advice of brushing up on interview skills and building a resume, Alicia makes a creative suggestion to help students stand out in job applications. “Get professional feedback on how to improve and make your resume stand out. You could make a video of yourself as your cover letter and attach it to your resume,” she shared.

Danny Chong, 22 
Malaysian Cultural Ambassador & Business Development at iDibs.it

An international graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture, Danny is currently pursuing his Master’s degree and working for iDibs.it at the same time. His job at iDibs.it relies on a sales and marketing background which he was not familiar with until recently. “Although this job isn’t related to my field, I’ve enjoyed having a purpose in helping others and building connections with international students, while also taking care of them,” he commented. From one degree to the next, Danny describes that having a job while studying is a balancing act.

“Working while studying was difficult to juggle at first, but I also come from a long list of leadership experience through clubs and societies that have helped me get used to it. I decided to work while studying because it’s a productive way of occupying my time – essentially, it takes consistency and discipline with time management,” he said. While we all know that a good-looking academic transcript is, to some degree, important to employers in their hiring process, securing a job is also more than just a piece of paper! To Danny, being a holistic student with extracurricular involvements were just as (if not more) important. “I was never a top student, but I was heavily involved in volunteering opportunities, clubs, and associations too. It’s important to build connections as it also increases your job prospects in future. In fact, that’s how I got my job!” said Danny as he recalled his experience.

Joining the workforce as a fresh graduate comes with the initial fear of knowing nothing and putting pressure on yourself to know everything. While those feelings are valid, it shouldn’t stop you from asking questions and growing from your mistakes. Danny stresses that having a supportive work environment helps to overcome that tension but if not, you should be confident in raising your hand when help is needed. “Don’t be afraid to not know anything. Get to know the people you work with because having good co-workers is a plus and it helps you ease into asking for help,” he added. Feeling inspired? Here are some additional resources:

Resume Help
Job-Readiness Resources
English Proficiency Test Training
Migration Services

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