Download our guides Your Next Career Accommodation Money and banking Cost of living Visas Employment Health and safety Language Life in Australia Studying Getting around Travel Advertise

The Benefits International Students Bring to the Workplace

international students

As someone who is looking to enter the Australian job market, you’d be forgiven for thinking it might be a slightly scary task. But there’s actually a lot of evidence that backs the benefits that international students bring to an organisation, not least for employees themselves. In fact, if you work within a team that’s openly inclusive (meaning it welcomes diversity in all shapes and sizes: diversity of culture, religion, gender and the like), you are 19 times more likely to be very satisfied with your job, according to the Inclusion@Work Index by the Diversity Council of Australia.

There are plenty of industries with major skills gaps that are waiting to be filled by talented, innovative and creative workers – and that might just be you. Here are a few reasons to be encouraged to enter the Australian workforce.

Fresh perspectives

Employees from different countries provide new perspectives, and these are what drive a business forward.

“International students bring fresh and different perspectives to existing challenges if they are encouraged to share their thoughts and ideas,” says Professor Shanton Chang, Associate Dean (International) at the University of Melbourne’s School of Engineering and IT. “They tend to understand that there are different ways of doing things [and that] there are multiple perspectives that one can take in solving problems.”

Oskar Santos from Ducere Business School agrees: “We have found that international students bring a global perspective to our business,” he says. “As a company that already operates internationally, but has plans for further expansion, being able to leverage off an in-house resource has been really valuable for future growth.”

Greater creativity

It’s believed that Picasso, Handel, Hemingway and Stravinsky created their best work while living overseas. This could happen to you as well. In fact, studies suggest this is the case. It’s thought that when you enter a new culture and are exposed to a new way of living, you’re encouraged to think in a more creative way in order to navigate the peculiarities of your new home.

The Inclusion@Work report also found that as a member of an inclusive team, you’re nine times more likely to innovate and five times more likely to provide excellent customer service/client service experiences than non-inclusive teams. Again, this benefits both you and your colleagues. These are the types of employees that Australian businesses want to be hiring.

Unique skills

International students possess unique skills that are great additions to most workplaces. Given international students usually speak two or more languages and have cross-cultural experience, they can take up multilingual roles or positions that require global connectivity.

“International students have language abilities to work with clients from different language bases,” says Professor Chang. “This also includes the ability to help with basic translations of material from overseas – including social media engagements, and websites. Companies that are looking at expanding globally, are servicing international clients, and are working with teams overseas, would benefit from having an international student presence within their organisation.”

More money

A McKinsey report found that organisations with ethnic and racial diversity in their management teams were 33% more likely to have financial returns above their industry average.

This is supported by a separate report from the Boston Consulting Group, which surveyed 1,700 organisations across eight countries and found that those with above-average diversity within management teams had a 19% higher revenue rate than companies with below-average diversity.

While you’re not likely to jump into a management position as soon as you graduate, this is good information to keep in the back of your mind, because employers think about the long-term benefits when making hires.

Entrepreneurial success

If you’re a highly motivated individual who is just bursting at the seams with good ideas, it’s likely that you will only further flourish in a local business.

In the United States, studies show that immigrant workers make up 27.5% of all entrepreneurs, yet they only account for 13% of the whole population. This is the case in many other countries too. What’s the reason for this? One researcher, William Kerr, says that immigrant workers just know how to get the job done.

“The very act of someone moving around the world, often leaving family behind, might select those who are very determined or more tolerant of business risk,” says Kerr.

Both Professor Chang and Santos echo this idea.

“Many international students have succeeded in an independent environment where they have had to thrive under a different framework, and this has enabled some growth and maturity,” says Professor Chang.

“I have found many [international students] to be risk-takers,” says Santos. “Leaving your home and family to study overseas takes guts to begin with. Particularly, as in many cases, when English is also a second language.”

So, what next?

If we’ve assured you that there are plenty of good reasons to enter the Australian workforce, what should you do to prepare?

Professor Chang offers this advice:

    • Volunteer, network and engage with the wider community. From there, you will find opportunities. Do this from the start of your degree and maintain your studies, while engaging with the community and industry. Employers in Australia often look for excellent communicators who are ready and have a balanced CV.
    • Understand the trends within the industries you want to enter. So many international students are ‘technically’ competent but have little idea about what the industry expects of graduates. Yet, all the information is there online and on the websites of these companies. Students make the mistake of listening to ‘friends’ who often hear it from other ‘friends’ instead of networking directly with the companies.
    • Build resilience. While it is true that some companies do not take international students, there are lots that do as well. Students get caught up with the negatives and forget that networking is more important and that there are multiple paths to success. Networking with the wider community is particularly important in Australia – including through volunteering.
    • Have the ability to understand work and client culture in the country you want to work in. Whether students want to work in Australia or in a third country or home country, they need to keep up with what the culture is like in those countries.

And when it comes to choosing a company to work for? Santos says you should channel what excites you.

“Find a company with a vision that inspires you,” he says. “It will always be easier in a job interview or when writing a cover letter if you can truly say that you are inspired and aligned with the vision of the company and be able to articulate this well.”

If you’re in the process of looking or applying for jobs, make sure to check out our guide to getting a job in Australia. To find out more about what to do when you graduate, including applying for a work visa, have a read of our guide. Good luck!