Where and how do you go about finding employment?

INTERNATIONAL students may be tapping into only a small portion of job opportunities on the market, says Monash University’s multicultural employment consultant Danny Ong. 

Photo: LotusHead via pixelpusher.co.za

Photo: LotusHead via pixelpusher.co.za

Many international students take a passive approach to seeking out part-time and/or graduate employment opportunities.

Some wait for employment opportunities to be listed on newspapers and job websites such as CareerOne and SEEK, while others rely on word-of-mouth recommendations with the hope that job opportunities would be offered to them.

But students may be losing out simply by waiting for the right job to come along.

Remember, opportunities do not present themselves unless you actively seek them in the first place.

According to the 2011 Graduate Outlook Survey by Graduate Careers Australia, the most common recruitment mechanisms used by employers were:

  • Their organisations website – 85  per cent
  • University Careers Services – 67.8 per cent
  • Employment websites (e.g. SEEK, CareerOne) – 65.2 per cent
  • University careers fairs – 58.8 per cent
  • Graduate recruitment handbooks – 42.2 per cent
  • Social media websites (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn) – 29.6 per cent
  • Newspaper advertising – 21.1 per cent

Two observations can be made from the above results. First, a large proportion of employers advertise jobs on their company’s website. This strategy not only reduces their cost of advertising, but also communicates the expectation that prospective employees should proactively keep a lookout for opportunities on their websites. To tap into these opportunities you can:

  • Identify the key companies that you wish to work for and understanding their corporate values and strategic directions (this will help you to draft a suitable cover letter – highlighting how you can help the company to achieve its strategic objectives).
  • Visit their websites on a regular basis to look for job opportunities. You could potentially determine their recruitment strategy and operational plans based on the types of jobs available.
  • Send your resume (with an appropriate cover letter) to the human resource department. I’ve come across cases where students sent their carefully drafted letters of interest to the chief executives or bosses for their consideration; and some of them were successful in securing employment.
  • Keep a lookout for news relating to your companies of choice and take note of the potential opportunities available – for example, if the company is expanding its operations in the near future, it is highly likely they will be recruiting new employees soon.

Remember, opportunities do not present themselves unless you actively seek them in the first place. Most employers also appreciate student initiative and the courage students display to approach them. This active process may include participating in events (such as career fairs and social functions) that enable you to meet potential employers – so keep an eye out for such opportunities.

Second, the survey confirms the importance of international students engaging with their university careers offices – this was raised in my previous article for Meld Magazine. Employers (67.8 percent of total responses) are utilising careers offices as a platform to reach out to specific universities and groups of students. This is achieved through university events like career fairs (58.8 percent) and career workshops for students. Further, any distribution of graduate recruitment handbooks (42.2 percent) is most likely managed by the careers office as well. Thus, by simply engaging with your careers offices, your access to a wider variety of job opportunities will grow. You may engage with your careers office by:

  • Checking their websites on a regular basis for updates on career events and tips on developing your employability skills.
  • Register for online access to employment vacancies.
  • Visiting their Facebook page (or any other social media) and “Like” them to access their posts.
  • Participating in career workshops and seminars that they organise.

I hope you are convinced by the need to adapt a proactive approach in your job-seeking behaviour.

In closing, I want to share a real story with you. An Australian company listed a graduate position on SEEK website and in less than one hour, more than 400 individuals applied – just imagine your chances of securing a job if you just rely on employment websites and newspaper advertisements.

Danny Ong is a multicultural employment consultant at Monash University. 

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