University is designed to help prepare you for the post-graduation world of work by providing you with the practical skills and theory you need to thrive in your chosen field. But putting tertiary education on your resume doesn’t automatically translate to any job you want – after all, you’ll likely be up against other, equally qualified people vying for the same position.
La Trobe alumni Ness Ciardulli and Steven Foo pass on the tips that helped them turn their degrees into careers.
Make the most of your networks
University provides a unique opportunity to meet and mingle with various groups of people who share your passions and interests – and you never know which of these contacts will come in handy later down the line.
Steven, who graduated with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in 1997, is a strong believer in the value of networking, and with good reason. He left a middle-management position at Lucent Technologies in Singapore to concentrate on his studies, but stayed on good terms with his former employer. Six months before the end of his course, he accepted an offer to return to Lucent Technologies at a higher level when he finished the program.
This progression would turn out to be the first of many steps up the corporate ladder for Steven, who is now Head, Asia Business Development for Australia Post.
‘The MBA gave me a lot of opportunities to network among my local and international cohorts, with my tutors and professors, and many of them are still in touch with me,’ he says. ‘I have made a number of business connections into numerous countries through these connections and gained a lot of insights into various industries.
‘The ability to network well is extremely important when it comes to career progression and realising opportunities in the industry, as most of the good jobs are by word of mouth.’
Indeed, Ness, who graduated in 2003 with a Bachelor’s degree in arts, humanities and social sciences and a graduate certificate in fraud investigation, credits a friendly tip-off with kick-starting her postgraduate career.
‘In my final year at university, I heard about an internship vacancy with the Commercial Attaché at the Turkish Consulate General in Melbourne through a friend who knew I was interested in a career in diplomacy,’ she says.
Ness successfully obtained the position, which, after she graduated, led to a full-time Consular Services Officer role with the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Play to your strengths
While there’s no doubt industry experience looks great on a resume, there are other ways to attract attention when applying for positions. Steven suggests highlighting the specific and unique skills and knowledge you can bring to a role.
‘Focus on your strengths and value proposition when it comes to the start of your career, since there are often many applicants for one job,’ he says.
‘For example, it you are an international student from China, your strengths could be your knowledge of the Chinese market and the Chinese language. This, combined with your experiences in Australia, could make you the ideal candidate for an Australian employer who wants to enter the Chinese market.’
Leveraging transferrable skills gained from a part-time or casual job could alo help you stand out from the postgraduate crowd. For example, Ness says the retail job she had while studying provided the basic communication and customer service skills she would need for her role as a Consular Services Officer.
‘I think that having a part-time job and studying is the best way to prepare students for the post-university workforce,’ she says. ‘We learn a lot from our professional interactions, whether it be our first part-time job or our post-graduate careers.’
It’s worth mentioning any experience she adds, even if you think it’s not relevant.
‘A Vodafone manager once told me that he looks for “McDonald’s experience” when hiring staff, as they have well-established customer service skills and drive compared to other employees he had hired.’
Don’t be afraid to ‘fail’
Ness , who took a position with the Department of Justice and Regulation after five years with the Turkish Ministry, says that when it comes to landing your dream job, you need to be willing to take chances.
‘I was persistent in getting into the field I wanted too – I never gave up if I was unsuccessful,’ she says. ‘If the opportunity came up again I would reapply.’
Ultimately, you won’t be any worse off for giving it a shot – and it’s not failing if you can learn from the experience. So, whether or not you are successful in a job interview, Ness recommends asking for feedback so you can hone your technique and do better next time.
‘I think practice makes you successful in interviews and job applications,’ she says. ‘I still regularly apply and sit interviews to expand my portfolio within the Department, and I have gotten better at doing this over time.’
Another important lesson she’s learned along the way is that it’s okay to change your mind.
‘Never be discouraged if you don’t end up working in the career you studied for,’ she says. ‘If you don’t enjoy your career choice, change it.’
‘By the time you figure out what it is you like doing you will already have the core skills that have made you the successful career man or woman you wanted to be.’
Whether you’re considering undergraduate or postgraduate study, setting yourself up for career success as early as possible is a must. View our course listings today.