8 tips to land a job as an international student
5 May 2022
"Unfortunately, we regret to inform you that..."
We've all read those words at some point in our lives. As you get older, however, the stakes get higher, especially when you start competing for the most sought after jobs in the country.
As an international student, having applied to over 200 jobs across 2 years*, I’ve always wanted to read those words as the outcome of my application. Fast forward to 2 years later, and I can be seen working as a Digital Marketing Specialist at a Melbourne-based agency.
*(Fun fact: 20 of the above rejections were from Coles - one of the largest supermarket chains in Australia. What position was I applying for? A good old Store Team Member!)
Ever since then, I have received several LinkedIn messages from recruiters enquiring about my interest in an advertised role, and from international students planning their maiden trip to Australia.
So, if you’re thinking of coming to Australia, and have zero work experience (just like me when I got here), then this blog is for you.
Here are the 8 Things you need to be on top of
1. Look for internship while you're a university student
Don’t wait till your final semester of studies before you start looking for part-time job opportunities, including internships. Source an internship that directly aligns with your career aspirations.
Whether successful or not, sourcing your own internship will equip you with the skills required for active job searching, assisting you in preparing and choosing your own path for employment prior to graduation. I relied on Indeed, Seek, LinkedIn and relevant University career portals to source internships in my field.
Illume Foundation's flagship fellowship program is another place for students looking to secure internships. The program brings together talented graduates in a cohort-based learning environment to provide valuable skills and gain practical work experience to kickstart your career.
2. Get active in a student club
Student clubs are another avenue to improve your graduate employability outcomes. These clubs often teach you skills that will translate to success on the job. One of my proudest achievements at the University of Melbourne was becoming a Project Consultant at the Global Consulting Group, a charity which provides pro-bono consulting services to other charities and not-for-profits.
The club honed my problem-solving skills and gave me a glimpse into what life as a Management Consultant might look like. While I eventually pursued a marketing job, I am still grateful for the opportunity to have been part of that club.
3. Find a mentor
As an international student, it is always crucial to find a mentor in your field to give you proper guidance as you navigate living, working and studying in Melbourne. These mentors can be found in a variety of places, including, but not limited to:
Immediate supervisors at an internship.
Formal mentor appointed by a University or student organisation.
I was fortunate enough to have found an amazing mentor at University. Being 2 years older than me, my mentor already had some professional work experience, arming me with the information needed to succeed in a foreign country.
She even put in a good word for me to her old boss, who, in turn, interviewed me and gave me the job I'm currently working at. A Godsend indeed!
It was this act of kindness that inspired me to join VicWISE, a platform that advocates for international students across Australia. As part of the marketing team, I mentored a team of writers who created compelling social media content for the organisation.
4. Join a professional association
Early involvement in a professional society can encourage competence, confidence, and awareness of and access to lifelong learning. In addition, joining professional societies gives students personal professional development opportunities, such as networking, job searches, or learning about unexplored specialties within their field.
Most associations have periodic publications and sponsor annual conferences or seminars to keep members informed about the latest developments in the field, ensuring that you are most informed student in your class. Some professional organisations websites are listed here.
5. Perfect your resume and cover letter
There can be no applications without a tailored resume and cover letter, including applications to most student clubs on campus. Most firms use an Automated screening for resumes (ATS) software that categorizes your resume into different sections - work experiences, skills, education and contact information.
Then, it searches for the specific keywords and phrases that relate to the job and company where you're applying. As robotic as this sounds, it’s the truth today. The irony is not lost on me because, as a Marketing Specialist, I literally get paid to strategically insert keywords into website content to make it rank higher on Google’s search results.
Make full use of all the career services provided by your University. I used a University of Melbourne AI-run software called VMock, which gives you real-time, comprehensive feedback on your resume using its SMART Resume tool.
VicWISE has partnered with Jobs Victoria and Settlement Services International to provide our students with job placement pathways and career support through a comprehensive government funded programme.
6. Attend networking events
Confession: Networking events still scare me. People make it look easy, but if you ask me, there’s nothing more terrifying than interacting in a room filled with 100 strangers.
Be that as it may, I have come to accept it as being something necessary to survive in the market. Apart from meeting like-minded people, it allows you to practice your own elevator pitch – describing yourself in a professional setting in 60 seconds or less.
As panic-inducing as that sounds, it’s not. I had attended a networking hosted by VicWISE in Melbourne. I remember the speaker, Peter Cobb from JCI Eastern, and his words that night. He told us to "prepare a short summary of your professional life and interests before every networking event, and simply let that flow when conversing with peers."
During this exchange, you gain useful insights into how others present themselves at these events. Its always best to connect with those whom you meet at these events on LinkedIn and possibly schedule a coffee catch-up for the following week if there’s something you wanted to discuss.
7. Make the most out of LinkedIn
Do you have a LinkedIn profile? No? Please make one right after reading this. You will thank me for life. You only need a headline, image and bio to get started.
Here are some things I used LinkedIn for as a university student:
Connect with peers, seniors, professors, and recruiters in my field.
Apply for part-time jobs and internships.
Stay updated with industry news.
Follow influencers in my niche.
Write about things I am passionate about.
I took this a step further and even displayed my entire portfolio of blogs in the Featured Section of my profile. Several recruiters started viewing my profile and even asked me to apply for positions they were recruiting for.
8. Speak the lingo and learn about the culture
Cultural competency goes a long way in improving your employability outcomes and helping you stand out from the competition.
In my second year of University, I participated in Project Global Citizen, an 8-week cross-cultural competency accelerator program designed to make living, studying, and working in Australia easier by imparting essential cultural competency skills to students.
Having worked in both Indian and Australian agencies in Melbourne, I have got acquainted with the various norms that exist within professional settings.
In conclusion, I still believe that Australia is a land of opportunities. Everyone who comes here has potential in them. But potential left unused will not get you very far, for this is a land that rewards only those who have the perseverance and determination to overcome every obstacles in their path, if it means achieving their goals.
There are several things an international student would need to know to go from an unemployed student to an employed graduate. If you have any questions about living, studying or working in Australia, please don't hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.