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How to Find a Job in Australia: Why Your International Experience Is Your Greatest Strength

This article is sponsored by Future Female

There’s no denying it: finding a job is often no easy feat. When you’re job-hunting in a foreign country as an international student, the process can become even more challenging. You may not feel completely comfortable speaking the language or navigating the culture. You may lack social support, professional experience or confidence in your abilities.

In the face of these hurdles, your international background may feel like more of a burden than an advantage. The reality, however, is the complete opposite.

Although international students face a unique set of challenges, they also offer incomparable insights and skills. All you need to do is tap into these strengths and leverage them in your search for work.

To help you learn how to do that, we spoke to Sarah Senanayake, talent acquisition specialist with Monash Talent at Monash University. She works with international students every day, connecting them with employers and boosting their employability. Sarah is one of the three expert speakers at the Future Female Kick Start Your Career workshop on 1 December 2021, where she will be on-hand to guide attendees to help advance their job opportunities.

Read on to discover her tips for using your international experience as your greatest employability strength.

Apply your adaptability

As an international student, you’re extremely resilient and adaptable. You were courageous and flexible enough to move to and settle in a different country. You are constantly adapting to a new culture, a new climate and much more. Due to the pandemic, you’ve even had to adapt to border updates, remote learning and other hurdles.

“Their resilience and adaptability [likely] helped them to overcome those challenges,” says Sarah.

These two criteria are exactly what you need to face unexpected events and handle them in stride – both in personal and professional settings. So, when looking for a job, use these examples to highlight your adaptability skills to potential employers.

Focus on transferable skills and values

Oftentimes, it’s tempting to not include certain jobs or volunteer experiences on your resume because they don’t seem “relevant” to the position you’re applying for. However, Sarah warns to avoid this common misstep.

Instead, she recommends including all your professional experience on your resume and highlighting the transferable skills you learned in those roles.

“Even if you’re driving Uber, that’s [helping you boost your] time management skills. It shows your resilience, your [flexibility], and it shows that you are employable,” she says.

She lists employers’ most in-demand transferable skills as interpersonal skills, communication, motivation, a strong work ethic, technical skills and an eagerness to learn. 

Tap into your cultural awareness and diversity

Having grown up in a different country, you understand how to relate to people from different cultures. You may speak another language or several. This diversity and cultural savviness are invaluable to employers.

“When it comes to teamwork, having a culturally sensitive person is very important,” says Sarah. “It helps in improving the team productivity and fosters cultural awareness among the other team members as well.”

Sarah adds that this sense of awareness extends to various parts of culture, including food, attire and even thinking patterns.

“The diversity [that you bring as an international student] comes from different aspects,” she explains. “It’s not just culturally, but also how you think – and that’s important. It’s already proven by research that diverse teams perform [better] compared to non-diverse teams.”

If you’re wondering how to better integrate your cultural awareness into your job applications, the Future Female Kick Start Your Career workshop is tailored to international students in this exact position.

Network, network, network

According to Sarah, networking often gets a bad reputation among international students.

“Most of our students [at Monash Talent] come from collectivist cultures. For these students, networking is often misunderstood as favouritism,” she explains.

She encourages students to move away from these misconceptions and find value in networking. With more connections, comes more social support and a better understanding of Australian culture.

Get involved

Your education provider, online upskilling platforms, non-profit organisations – there are so many ways to boost your skills.

Whether you attend a university, TAFE or VET institution, Sarah says there are countless resources available to help you become more employable. For example, most institutions host workshops on how to create LinkedIn profiles, how to practise for interviews and so on. Your institution likely features a career services department as well as student-run clubs designed to help you improve your professional skills. Visit your education provider’s website to learn more about these incredible resources.

Get maximum use out of your university from the first day onwards,” she urges.

Sarah also adds that students can find upskilling opportunities on online platforms like LinkedIn, Udemy, and even YouTube. Additionally, there are non-profit organisations that are committed to improving students’ employability.