How to be proactive with your career development
International students face additional barriers when it comes to kickstarting and then accelerating their career in Australia.
They may need to improve their communication skills if English is not their first language; cultural differences may make the Australian workplace feel unfamiliar and daunting; and social and professional networks are unlikely to be as strong as they would be back at home.
UNSW Sydney is keen to help students from abroad deal with those issues, boost their confidence in professional settings and ultimately increase their employability.
Lyndall Mulconry, senior careers consultant at UNSW Careers and Employment, says: “I think it’s really important for students to think about their employability from the very start of their degree.
“That means when they start, really engaging in the support services around the university. Over and above doing their course and getting good grades, students need to think about what programs are available to them.”
One such opportunity is the Professional Development Program which is available free-of-charge to eligible international students and which features a three-day seminar on business communication, customer service skills, employer expectations and the recruitment process in Australia.
Students get the chance to take part in mock job interviews, learn vital networking skills and interact with successful international UNSW alumni, as well as potential employers.
A second important component is a 50-hour office workplace experience program organised by Careers and Employment and run in various departments at UNSW.
“The Professional Development Program was started as a way to give students experience and training to improve those global skills that are needed not just here in Australia, but also around the world,” Mulconry explains.
“The workplace experience is designed to improve employability skills, such as communication and teamwork and customer service. The experience won’t necessarily be in the same technical field as their study discipline, but we see the students coming out of this program with so much more confidence in their own ability just to be in the Australian workplace.
“It gives them career development skills and they learn how to manage their careers, which is a lifelong skill. They have the confidence to interact in what are often multi-cultural workplaces here inside the university.
“We are trying to help them get over that barrier of getting that first job here in Australia. Once they do that, they are often very successful.
“Students within the PDP also build up their network as it features people from all different faculties, who come from all around the world. The students can build really strong friendships on the program, build their support network and learn from each other.”
Indeed, international students who have completed the full Professional Development Program recognise all the ways it has helped them gain new skills and become more confident and employable.
Michael Tanujaya, originally from Indonesia, explains: “By joining the PDP, I learnt a lot of new professional skills that I can apply in the workplace.
“The good thing about the PDP is that you can apply these skills not only in Australia, but everywhere in the world. It teaches you the basic and most essential skills that are applicable in every professional setting.”
Bani Kaur, who studied a Master’s in IT at UNSW after moving to Sydney from India, says: “After I completed the internship, I feel if I had missed out on this opportunity I would have missed out one of the stepping stones of my career.”
The Professional Development Program is far from the only resource available to international students keen to make themselves more employable.
UNSW Careers and Employment offer advice about the content and design of resumes and cover letters, host seminars on a variety of career development topics and organise employment expos – including a special International Students Career Week.
“What I would suggest for a new international student to do once they’ve enrolled and settled in at UNSW is to register with UNSW Careers and Employment, book a career advice appointment and work with a Careers Consultant to develop a plan of what they can do throughout their time at UNSW. Be proactive with your career,” explains senior careers consultant Mulconry.