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Monday, 17 February 2014

Tips for International Students

I clearly remember my first day of the Master of Marketing program at The University of Sydney Business School last year. I could not sleep during the nights leading up to it. I was nervous, but also very enthusiastic. I had so many questions. Besides general study concerns, there was one question that worried me the most – as an international student, what skills would I have to gain and improve alongside my Masters to be recognised by industry employers?

I was happy to find support from my local classmates and University staff in this regard. So here are some useful tips I received from the Education, Careers and Employability Office at The University of Sydney Business School to help our new international students dive confidently into their first semester.

Elena Sveshnikova
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at The University of Sydney Business School

Tips for International Students, provided by the Careers and Employability Office

International students face more challenges in gaining work than their local colleagues due to two main factors – (1) Lack of English speaking skills and (2) lack of experience in the Australian workplace. These facts were gleaned from research recently conducted by a Monash University academic who was commissioned by the CPA to find out what International students are facing when marketing themselves to the Australian workforce.

Based on these findings, it would be recommended that International students who struggle with their written and verbal communication skills improve them where ever possible. This can take the form of joining conversational English groups, and attending student society groups for an opportunity to use English language skills more often. Many international students have an understandable tendency to gather in their own language groups and fall into a regular habit of speaking in their own tongue. It would be recommended that you join or create a group within your community to improve English speaking skills, where you speak it as often as possible and get honest feedback to make any improvements.

The other way to improve your communication skills is to get any sort of work experience, be it paid casual or part-time work, an internship or voluntary work. This is a great way to get you speaking with different members of society.

A common misconception amongst International students is that the more you study and the better your grades, the more employable you will be. This can be true in part, however without the basic communications essentials, a Masters and several degrees under your belt will not be sufficient. As with any workplace in the world, communication skills, be it written or spoken are always going to be at the top of the list. To assist you with this process, identify your strengths, both skills and personality, and articulate these by using demonstrated examples for use in your interviews, cover letters and resumes. It really comes down to (a) transferrable skills (not just your technical ones), and (b) your experience.

Another tip is don’t de-value the non-discipline related work experience or opportunities that come your way – all of this can enhance your employability and are often the skills sought by employees. For example, you may be studying Engineering, and work in sales at a whitegoods retail outlet. Your customer service skills, your technical knowledge and knowledge of how a business runs will score you points when applying for other work.

Most importantly, practice your English speaking skills as much as possible and don’t be afraid to make mistakes! People will respect and admire that you are making an effort to communicate your thoughts and feelings and will often assist you to make your point clear.

Susan Smith, Careers Services Manager – Education, Careers and Employability Office, The University of Sydney Business School

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