International Students: Yes, you can get the job of your dreams!

The Employability Podcast Episode 4


It’s time to face your limiting beliefs and rewrite your story!


As an international student or recent graduate, you might think that you’ll not be able to secure your dream job in Australia…. 

Think again. 

On today’s show, your host David Phua catches up with Nigel Atkinson, Manager Industry Experiences at RMIT University.  

RMIT is one of Australia’s leading universities and provides extensive support for students looking to start their professional careers in Australia. 

Join David and Nigel as they discuss the importance of getting out of your comfort zone and connecting with people from other cultures to grow your network. 

Plus: Find out what support universities provide for students, as well as what to look for in third party internship providers.  


Find out: 


  • Why it’s important to step out of your comfort zone
  • How to grow your professional network
  • How to utilise the support provided by your university
  • How to select a reputable internship provider
  • How to address common misconceptions around international graduates and their working rights in Australia 



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Tune in again next week, for a new episode of The Employability Podcast, brought to you by Gradability.


Prefer reading over listening? 


Here is the full transcript of this episode:

00:00 David: You’re listening to the Employability podcast, where graduation meets employment. During this series, we uncover the good, the bad and the ugly in terms of being more employable and ultimately getting hired.

Hard truths. No bullshit, no filters. Just the information you really need to kickstart your career, presented by Gradability. In today’s episode, I catch up with Nigel Atkinson, Manager Industry Experiences at RMIT University.

RMIT is one of Australia’s leading universities and provides extensive support for students looking to start their professional careers in Australia. We discuss the importance of getting out of your comfort zone and connecting with people from other cultures to grow your network.

The support universities provide students, as well as what to look for in third party internship providers. I hope you enjoy the show.

01:05 So, today we want to break down some of the misconceptions international students have about employability and employment in Australia, including touching on some of the initiatives universities have in place to support students, the benefits of third-party providers, as well as some red flags to look out for and to avoid.

So let’s get straight to it. International students, Nigel, they struggle with getting roles. What do you think holds them back in terms of getting a job?

01:30 Nigel: Good question. I think it probably comes down to really two main factors. I think the first one is I think we’re all aware there’s a lot of industries really not aware of the working rights of international students, and particularly those who move over to 485 visas.

So what we find from RMIT when we’re connecting with a lot of industry partners is that after we start the conversation and start making them aware that there are a lot of opportunities, and really being able to tap into a lot of untapped talent.

They start to swing around, but unfortunately there’s not enough people out there having those conversations with those partners. So that probably comes more to probably from an SME point of view, if you go to the large multinational organizations, that’s a bit tougher.

02:14 The main reason is that just got their policies and you got to also understand with grad programs, they’re having 6,000-7,000 applicants every year, so therefore why would they bother trying to change their policies or different ways?

So, we’re doing a lot of work around trying to educate them and make them understand using a lot of the different providers out there to help advocate for international students and help them from that.

So, I think that’s where they’re up against. It’s a pretty tough gig trying to get out there as an international student, I’d say that’s one of the main things. The other thing is we’ve talked about this a lot of different times, is really the students we find are often just not prepared.

They’ll come into a university degree, they’ll focus on their academics and completing their course, which they have to, of course, and that’s a very important aspect of it. But they fail to see around the outsides of developing those other skills.

You can call them all different types, we call them employability skills, 21st century skills, a range of life skills. There are so many different areas they should be focusing on. And not saying that they’re unskilled in a lot of those areas, but coming from different countries, it’s a pretty big adjustment to the Australian business environment.

03:25 And trying to understand that and getting into that, it’s a big step. So we could go into to a wide range of areas of where they really need to focus on and they’re pretty standard. And when we look at the first one, just off the top of my head would be communication skills.

Look, it’s not necessarily their English language. There’s a whole range of things that come into communication skills. So, the body language, that’s the interpersonal skills, it’s the way that a lot of people just communicate.

You could also see a lot of Australian students as well, or Australian national or local students have the exact same problem, but certainly international students are up against it in that way.

04:03 David: There’s a hell of a lot to unpack there. So let’s just start right at the start of what you’re talking about in terms of an understanding of visas, right? So, we know that at the moment, or previously, international students, when they came to Australia, they were able to work 40 hours every fortnight?

So, 20 hours a week, roughly. And the government has just scrapped that and allowed unlimited work rights at the moment. So, any international student coming in has full work rights at the moment. Once a student graduates, or once a university student graduates from university, they go on to a post study work rights visa.

Typically, as you were saying, the bridging visa leading into the 485, that gives them two to three years of unlimited work rights, not including the actual length of the bridging visa, which can be between six to nine months, sometimes even longer than that.

So, in theory, an international student, when they graduate from university, can have up to three or four years where they actually can work, as with all the rights of a domestic candidate, no restrictions whatsoever, which a lot of businesses, as you were saying before, don’t actually understand.

05:01 And I think there’s a real misconception or lack of information about that. I actually attended a conference not long ago where there were a couple of industry association heads there, and they talked about the fact that from their perspective, they would not touch an international student for an internship because from their perspective, it’s a really archaic view, but they take their knowledge and then they leave the country.

Now, from our experience, we don’t think that’s true. We certainly see that the international that we’ve employed actually stay longer than domestic employees. What’s your take on that?

05:27 Nigel: No, totally agree. The different international students I know, or those who recently got their permanent residency or moved on to those post-study work visa, a lot are not looking to returning back to their home country. Of course, there are some, but if you compare that and take that logic, what you’d find is exactly the same situation and talking to a lot of grad recruiters, they have a lot of the same problem with a lot of local students or local students that they employ there.

It’s that they’ve got so many different offers on the table for them and they’re so highly sought after, and there is a skill shortage in certain areas. They’re poached very, very quickly. An example is we’ve got a company we work really quite closely with, with Salesforce, and what they find is that they’re training up all their students, being able to be proficient in Salesforce from a tech point of view, and they will get them into their partner organizations.

The trouble is they’re there for six months, and then their competitors will see that and there’s such a shortage they’ll offer them another 40, 50, 60, 70 grand more

and they’ll poach them off them. So, you’re always going to still have that kind of problem with a local student to an international student or those who have been on the post study work visas.

06:41 David: I thought Salesforce was doing the poaching. I didn’t realize they were getting poached as well. You talked about the life skills or employability skills that potentially are holding students back. It’s interesting and you also link that to the fact that some of the students are coming in and they’re not actually working or not actually doing any sort of part time work while they are studying.

Talk to me about that because conversation I had in a previous episode with one of our employers, we talked about the fact that there are significant transferable skills. Even if you’re driving an Uber, if you’re stacking shelves at Coles, there are significant transferable skills that can be had when you then take that into permanent employment or professional employment.

Yet we are talking about the fact that some people still don’t work. When I went to university back in the dark ages, I initially didn’t want to get a job because I was a spoiled kid, but then eventually started working in a kitchen. I worked in a glass factory for a while, and the skills that I picked up there were really important in terms of communication skills, integration with Australian society, understanding just the work culture, what’s allowed, what’s not allowed, which is very different to Singapore, where I’m from.

07:42 Tell me about with the students that are coming in for your guys, how do you get them past that sort of block of, “No, no, I’m just here to study.” What do they need to do to get past that?

07:52 Nigel: That’s a tough question. And we’re always grappling with that all the time because, look, we have a lot of different programs that are available for our students. The difficulty we have is actually how we communicate across that to the students, to both local and international students.

And the trouble is that there’s just so much noise out there. There’s so many things that everybody is trying to communicate with them, not just internally at RMIT, but also externally. So it’s hard to get that information across.



Look, there are so many different varieties, and everybody is different. Everybody’s different. But I think what we find where we’ve got our successful students is probably the best way for me to focus on answering this question, would be, a lot of them will be involved or they get connected just with their peers.

So we have a peer to peer mentoring program. It’s not what we run, but it’s a part of RMIT in the offering. So if you start to connect with somebody on your level who’s been recently through what you’ve gone through and can really talk to you from their life experience from only like half a year or a year before that, it’s a perfect opportunity to just give you the lay of the land and where to go.

09:01 They don’t want to come and talk to someone like myself because I’m old and what would I know? But certainly to give them the understanding of where they can go and from there, there’s so many different types of options.

I mean, not just thinking about, say, going to get a job, which is obviously what you need to go and do, and you can build up that experience and while we’re on that topic is don’t just think about the course that you’re studying.

You’re doing engineering. Don’t think you have to get a part time job in the engineering space. Think about just a hospitality job. Think about any type of job where you can communicate and start creating a network.

Because you just never know where that network can take you because leave a good impression and you’re going to be able to really get on a good footing and start heading in the right direction. But look outside that.

And look, you’re right into your sport, but join a sports club, join a club at the university, get to know people and that’s the next thing is just don’t stick with the people you know, as in people from your home country.

Start mixing with locals or other international students from other countries because that’s the best way to really kind of relax into it. It’s not all revolving around work, it’s about connecting to people on a real social and a personal kind of basis and that’s where you’re going to start developing and ease that tension on yourself.

10:14 David: It’s an interesting concept. I was an international student many years ago. I played rugby at university. I was able to integrate quite easily. Language wasn’t an issue for me but if I put myself in the shoes of a Chinese student who’s just come in, who’s not great at English, it’s easy I think, to say look, you need to go and mix with locals.

Perhaps not that easy to do in real life. And I suppose when we talk about that there’s a concept of what this integration actually means. What does it mean to actually go and meet people? And I think what you’re saying isn’t that you have to go and completely just only mix with Australians and only hang out at a sports club or at work or those things.

But there’s a balance, there’s got to be a balance. We’re not saying completely disown your culture, but there has to be a balance in terms of even if you’re doing one or 2 hours a week, where you are putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation, where you have to talk to people, Australians, other internationals, different people…

That’s going to help you with your networking, with your networks, and with your ability to then integrate with different groups. That’s what you’re saying.

11:11 Nigel: Yeah, exactly. And look, it’s a tough gig, I mean I’m naturally an introverted person and it’s tough going and starting to talk with people and interact with people that you don’t actually know.

But I liken it to exercising or you’re going for a run. And the hardest part of going for a run is just putting your runners on and getting out the front door. The actual part of it, once you put yourself in that position and just grit the teeth, get out there and just build up that courage to get over that first hurdle.

Once you’re over that first hurdle, it just becomes easier and easier all the time. And look, there’s so many things out there on Instagram and YouTube and all that. You can get a lot of different skills up and build a lot of different skills or get really handy tips that can really get you going.

12:06 It is just developing. I mean, I’ve got a team member that I was just talking with just the other day, and she’s Vietnamese, and what she was saying is she’s a fantastic team member of ours, and we’re really happy to have her in the team.

But what she really finds hard is small talk. Small talk is tough, and the only way you can do it is practice. You can’t just go and do a professional development activity to learn how to small talk.

You’ve just got to get out there and about and do it. Practice with your mates, practice with anyone you come across. Just got to keep practice. When you go and order a coffee, just making that small talk, it’s just step by step, little by little, you can actually build it up. Not just, I’ve got to go to a networking event and off you go, like cold turkey.

12:44 David: Go to a networking event and face the wall. Don’t talk to anybody. I think it’s really good advice. And I think the other thing, if you are an international student, you’re listening to this I think one of the key things to understand is that if you put yourself out there, whether it’s a sports club, whether it’s getting a job working in a fish and chips shop, whatever it is, by putting yourself out there, by having that initial conversation people aren’t expecting you to have as Nigel said, people aren’t expecting you to be a brilliant conversationalist straight away.

And they understand the fact that you’re coming from a different culture. They understand the fact that English isn’t necessarily your first language. They’re not expecting you to be all things to everybody, but they’re going to respect the fact that you’re actually making the attempt. And I think that’s half the battle. It’s actually putting yourself out there, having that first conversation.

And we see, we talk about internships, certainly in our world, and the fact that when an international student, particularly when an international student goes into an internship, the first two weeks, they find it’s really uncomfortable because they’re not sure how to interact, how to act with the host.

13:39 And then they slowly warm up into it. And the host employee, the ones that we work with, are very welcoming. They make sure they go out of their way and they understand that this person is going to need a little bit of support.

So if you put yourself out there, what you’re going to find is that you’re going to give yourself more opportunities, you’re going to open your networks up and the more you’re doing that, the more you’re giving yourself a chance at success.

13:57 Nigel: Yeah, we just had another staff member who’s from India that started with us just recently, and she looked like a deer in headlights in the first few days because we’re all joking around and we’ve got a very relaxed atmosphere, and I’m sure it’s the same as your work environment.

And those little things, is you’re going to really quickly adapt to that because often you’ll leave an impression that you’re a little bit uptight and or they don’t really want to talk to you, and never hold back with asking questions or trying to find somebody who you connect with first and get them to give you a little bit of advice as well.


14:30 David: And I think getting that sort of peer support and it’s interesting you talked about the fact that RMIT, you guys, have this peer to peer support to help your students, not just necessarily having them go to an international office or a careers office to talk to somebody.

When you get into a university, when you come to Australia, you’re going to have people within your networks that you already know or that you might meet somebody in the first few weeks, they form that first stepping stone into another group, another group, another group.

But I want to touch on that peer support that you talked about before and that model in particular, because when I was a student and bear in mind when I was a student, the year started with a one, so it was a long time ago.

15:06 I remember going to the international office and this was in WA and going into the careers office and just thinking, this isn’t for me. Nothing in here screams or says to me that they actually are interested in me as an international student.

The people I saw there, they couldn’t relate to me. That peer to peer model that you’re talking about, that seems a very different model. Tell our listeners a little bit about how that works.

15:26 Nigel: Yeah, well, first of all, I hope I don’t say the wrong thing. It’s not actually our program, but that program, as soon as a student starts at RMIT, what they’ll do is join directly into that program, which, they’ll be connected up with another student who’s studying the same program.

Now, we don’t always look at trying to connect an international student with an international student. We try to always look at connecting internationals, locals, which is also really quite important.

And they will be their guide for a good year to help them through those periods. And then the best thing about it is then they move to becoming a mentor and then you can give back and help from there.

Going back to what you’re talking about from the careers area, I think that things are a bit different and I can’t see the comment…

16:08 David: I hope they are.

16:10 Nigel: Yeah, they are. Well, that was 30, 40 years ago or something like that now. But what we’ve recognized and we did a study around, I think it was about four years ago, where we looked at personas of students and therefore we broke it down to all the different types of students that come through RMIT.

One thing that was common across every student, from international students, to domestic students, to the introvert to extroverted, to mature age students, is they want connections with industry. So, what we do, rather than actually trying to be the experts across all areas when it comes to careers, pretty much along the lines of what you just said, that’s not really for me because I don’t really want to hear from somebody who’s within the university, I want to hear from industry.

17:00 So what we really focus on, what our team is and what our team is all about, is actually bringing in industry to deliver all of our professional development activities for our students, informing them what’s happening with Industry.

So in a way, we will bring them on various types of panels or we will look at doing the skill building exercises that are all revolved around what it is to like to work, say in PwC or something along those lines.

So therefore I think students will often feel it’s a lot more relevant to them in that way. And the other thing which was really quite surprising is when we have done a lot of these. We used to think, oh, you know, we need to get somebody who’s got 10-15 years of experience in industry to really guide them and help them in that way.

What we actually, we try to do a mixture of those who just graduated, who are in a grad program, a year and a half out and the students just gravitate towards those people. Because again, it’s a little bit like we were saying before, is connecting with people who are just around about the same experience as you.

18:00 So that’s often what we find as well. Another popular thing that we find, again, connecting back to industry is that we’ve got our industry or career mentoring program where we can connect our students directly with an industry mentor, where they can have a relationship with them for three months, where they can meet with them as many or as little time as they want.

So they normally meet around about five times over those three months, where it tries to give them that. It’s like a personal coach for three months, helping them understand what we’ve been talking about, culture, understanding what it is to work in those industries, understanding and be frank with them as well.

And try to make sure that you don’t beat round the bush. Really tell them how it is and to provide them with that type of guidance.

18:47 David: What sort of take up do you have from your students with those programs? Good take up or?

18:51 Nigel: Look, it is good, but again, as I alluded to earlier on, we’ve got a lot of different programs that we deliver. The trouble is that noise and us communicating. We’re doing a lot of work around how we can connect with our students better.

I would have to say we’ve got a lot of very good programs that can help our students. The trouble is students finding out about it is that’s the hard part. And we’re doing a lot of different strategies around how we can improve our presence on social media, how we can actually get across. But getting that information across from me is really quite difficult.

19:26 David: RMIT is pretty advanced, as far as support services for students. And it’s certainly recognized as one of the more forward thinking universities as far as employability and employment is concerned. Not every university is as far advanced as that.

So we’ve got people listening in who may not be from the university that has significant programs. What do you see? Or do you see a role for third parties to the supporting students through their employability journey, employment journey, particularly where they don’t have those services at their own universities?

19:56 Nigel: To start off with, look, yes we are. RMIT is certainly focused on trying to be a leader in that area, but there are a lot of other universities that are doing fantastic work, either that’s in central career services or within the various types of colleges and schools or faculties.

There are always a lot of different opportunities. But in saying that, you don’t want to just limit yourself, don’t just keep focus on with it. My university has to provide everything that I need. There’s so many different resources out there.

There are third party providers that can help you and connect you with industry, which is important to keep your eye out for looking at those and they provide a lot of different opportunities. You just want to be careful which ones you connect with.

Of course it’s important to make sure that you talk with others, again after you connected with your peers and created those connections and understand where that’s from and really shop around a bit from there and know who are the quality ones, because there are some dodgy ones out there, just like there’s dodgy people as well.

But there’s not only just that. There’s a third party providers, there’s a lot of just general training resources you can have. We’ve got our career mentoring program, of course, but if you actually start developing your LinkedIn profile at an early stage, you can just reach out to people on LinkedIn, ask them for a coffee, meet up with them.

21:13 It could be somebody who came from your country that ended up being an organization where you actually want to work. You’re creating that connection. And everyone’s heard the word, I’m sure this is across every country. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know and where you got to go.

21:32 David: And I think that concept of, you know, reaching out to somebody in your network, I think it’s really powerful, because anybody who’s made it in life or has sort of come along the journey, they always want an opportunity to give back.

I think in regard, unless you are completely callous, you always want the opportunity to give back. You also love, I think, generally speaking, the opportunity to help somebody out. I’ve been approached by people to, “Look, can I buy you a coffee, would love to have a chat with you.”

I had one very specific instance of that a few years ago, and I had a coffee with this person who was just starting out in their career, and they wanted to learn, they wanted to find out what they needed to do to get forward in their career.

22:04 They were also looking for a job, which we didn’t have at the time. It was absolutely right to ask the question, is there an opportunity for me? No, sorry. There isn’t one at the moment. But I remember very, very vividly keeping this person’s name in mind.

And then when there was an opportunity, having a chat, by that stage, it was too late. He got another job. He’s now a director in the firm. He’s doing very well for himself. But you’d be surprised. I think people will be surprised how seldom it happens, how seldom people actually reach out to go, hey, look, Mr. So and So or Miss So and So, can I take 10 minutes of your time to have a coffee with you?

Just have a chat. I’d love to pick your brain about how to broaden my experience and the power of that, just in terms of setting yourself apart from everyone else. I talked in a previous episode about for every graduate role, you’re looking at between 150 to 200 applications for each graduate role.

What are you going to do is to set yourself apart from that, bearing in mind also that most roles nowadays aren’t filled through seek ads. They’re filled by people tapping people on the shoulders or knowing somebody who can refer them because you don’t want to go through that whole process.

23:00 So, the opportunity, I think, to be able to build your network that way is the most powerful thing. Absolutely right, it is not what you know, it’s who you know. And we’ve been in situations ourselves where it’s somebody who knows you, who taps you on the shoulder and says, “Hey, look, I’ve got this opportunity for you” or did somebody approach you and go, “Have you an opportunity for me?”

I benefited from that a couple of times myself, and I’m sure you have as well. So, it’s really important advice for you if you’re listening in. That you do want to make sure that you are working your networks.

It might sound a little bit like that sounds a bit like a hard sell. It sounds a bit hard to do. It’s actually not that hard. The hardest thing about it is putting that first message out, “Hey, can I meet you for ten minutes, can I buy you a coffee?” Can I… Wherever it may be, that’s actually the hardest part of it.

Once you meet the person, the fact that they’re saying yes, I mean, what’s the worst that can happen, right? They say no. All right, well, that’s one in mail that you’ve lost, you just put another one in there’s not a huge cost to it. So, something I think it’s really important for anybody who’s starting out, not just starting out, but throughout your career, to keep growing your network, keep working it. And some would say it’s more important the further along your career you go.

24:04 Nigel: Yeah, just to add on to that as well. And never forget, after you’ve actually got that foot in the door, in a way, for meeting with that person, just making sure that you’re prepared for it. So make sure that you go into that coffee or the catch-up with an understanding of what you want to get out of it and ensuring you did touch on it is you don’t want to go in and just the first thing you say, “Hey, have you got a job for me?”

It’s about and I would highly recommend don’t even ask them about a job at all, because you want to leave a good impression. And they’re automatically, again, as you’re saying, they’re automatically going to have you in the back of their mind in that way.

But you really need to make sure you construct, don’t have like a hundred questions there, but at least you know what you actually want to get out of it, because if you’ve got a skill mentor, they’re going to actually probably ask you, what do you want to get out of this relationship? And you don’t want to go, “Oh, um, err, yeah… I just want a job…”

24:56 David: I listened to a podcast and they said that I should reach out to people and have a coffee with them. That’s not what you should be doing. As Nigel is saying, you want to make sure that you go in there with a bit of a plan. You don’t have to have a fully thought out ten-page plan, but it’s about saying, well, at the end of the day, I want to put my name out there.

I want to connect with somebody who may be able to connect me later on. I want to understand what it’s them to be successful, potentially find a mentor through them. There’s lots of different things you can be looking for, I think.

As you’re saying you don’t necessarily have to ask for the job. If it’s appropriate to, by all means go for it. But it’s a bit like when you go to an interview and they say, any questions? You don’t want to say, what’s the salary? There’s a whole bunch of questions you can ask before you get to that point.

25:34 Nigel: Yeah, you can also, just to add to that, if you get stuck, all you gotta do is ask them about themselves. How did you get into your role? What were some of the things that you had to overcome? People love talking about themselves. So if you ever get stuck, that’s the best way.

And you’ll learn and you’ll understand their journey, how they got there, and understand that it’s not just a nice linear line to where they got to their role. They’ve zigzagged all the way to that point, and it certainly will give you some different ideas.

26:02 David: So tell me about yourself, Nigel! We touched on third party providers. We also touched on the fact that there are some that are more reputable than others.

And we like to think of ourselves at Gradibility, as one of those more reputable organizations. We also know that from a cultural perspective, if I’m an international student, I’m coming in and I’ve used education agent or a migration agent, and typically I’m going to use and I’m more comfortable with them because they’re in my own language. There are pros and cons to that approach as well. Have you got views on that?

26:30 Nigel: Yeah. Look again, I think any network is a good network. And I think as long as you get a clear balance between it, I think there’s no harm in going to your other migration agent or education agent to help you there.

Because often you’ll find some of those consultants and I’ve known many, many over my time is that they’ve been in exactly the same position as you. It’s almost not too dissimilar to what we’re just talking about, being a mentor.

So, I think it is worthwhile going to them. Again, you just want to make sure you’re getting the right advice. But the best way to get the right advice is get multiple people’s advice. So look at within your university, look at, say, like within Gradability or you look at going to your agent and maybe you might connect with somebody you may not necessarily connect with.

You’ve got to find the right person you actually connect with in that way. And again, always have a bit of a plan up your sleeve of exactly where you want to go and why you want to do that.

27:25 David: Yep. And it’s obviously a risk, right? So, you know, there are players out there in the market that will charge you 30, 40 grand for a “job”, in inverted commas or to get you employed. And a lot of the times that’s called what it is, it’s a migration scam.

I personally think that people should be very, very mindful before they go down that path. Now, if you choose to take that risk yourself, that’s a decision you make. But I think you’ve got to be really aware of what the risks are and how that actually can backfire. But that’s my view.

27:51 Nigel: And you want mine? I 100% agree with you. I’m quite a bit removed from that. I don’t actually see a lot of it, but I think as soon as you’re tangling yourself up where you got to actually pay to get some experience, there’s always going to be that element of dodginess and exploitation and none of us want to see people being exploited.

And I’ve heard of many bad stories of where that’s actually happened and I personally wouldn’t recommend it. And again, everything we’ve been talking about today, if you start from day dot when you start moving and you’ve got to put in a lot of effort, you’ll get there.

But I’m talking from my point of view, of course, and I’m certainly not taking away that it’s a tough gig and it’s a tough ask to get going, but you need to just connect with those people who have actually been successful, and there’s been a hell of a lot of people who’ve been successful.

28:43 David: You want to start the right way. I think you want to make sure that you don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. There are shortcuts or that appear to be shortcuts, and I’m not saying that they’re all bad, but I think kind of to reiterate the point that you made before, it’s buyer beware.

You’ve got to do your homework, you’ve got to understand what your rights are. I think, particularly if you’re looking at things like an internship or employment, you want to make sure you’ve got proper contracts, proper agreements in place so that you are protected because you have rights, whether you’re an intern or an employee, there are rights you to be aware of.

If you’re not sure what they are, you need to go and get advice on them. If you think it sounds a bit fishy, you absolutely need to go and check to make sure that you are not being taken advantage of and that your rights are protected.

Because the last thing I think you want to do, particularly as someone who’s not Australian, someone’s international, you don’t want to come in here and find yourself in a tricky situation legally, whether that’s from employment or otherwise. So, a 100%, you need to check what your rights are. You need to make sure that you are protected in those situations.

29:38 Nigel: Yeah. And look, I think it’s also important before you actually even get here to start understanding those rights, but just starting to get the lay of the land. And I think there needs to be a lot more work around that to help our international students before they arrive.

I just had a conversation just before I came here with an international student who’s been here since the start of this year and she’s living in the city. She hasn’t got a hell of a lot of money because we all know it’s not cheap to become an international student. She’s paying $355 a week, and for staying in a little student accommodation, she signed herself up for one year and that she can’t get out of as well, or you’ve got to pay a penalty to get out of there.

30:23 You set yourself up in a pretty tough position to begin with. So we’ve been talking a lot about employability and how you get your life started and all. You’ve also got to be thinking about just your general life as well.

And that’s an important thing that as a student, if you’re over here now, is how you can actually help your fellow family members understand how they can actually get over here as well. And start off on the right foot. You don’t want to get a sour taste in your mouth from the get-go.

30:45 David: Yeah. So we talked about the fact that it’s not impossible for an international student to get employed. We talked about the fact that they’ve got full work rights at the moment, and post-graduation, they’ve got between two to four years where they have full work rights.

And obviously, we touched on the fact that there are significant bits of information that we need businesses to be aware of in terms of policies, in terms of the fact that internationals are employable.

I think that’s really important and certainly is something that we at Gradability are trying to do more often, is to ensure that employers are actually aware of that, the fact that they can employ international students, they don’t necessarily have to transition to permanent residents.

31:20 I think that’s really important for you, if you’re an international student, that you have the ability to continue to work in Australia, even post-graduation, as it stands at the moment now, that might change, but as it stands at the moment, there’s certainly, and there’s certainly a skills shortage.

And you talk to employers, and we’re one of the employers that go as well, actually, it’s really hard to get staff at the moment, particularly around that sort of graduate to two, three years’ experience.

There’s not a whole lot of talent in there. And I think from international experiences, looking at sort of migration patterns at the moment, there’s a big push for skilled migration out in the regions.

And regional Australia, which is great, we need some regional migration. But if you are actually looking to work in your field or looking to work as a professional in your area, there are some genuine opportunities in the city because businesses are actually struggling for quality skilled employees.

And so if you are looking for that, absolutely don’t feel like you have to go out into the regions. There are opportunities locally as well. Now, whether that leads to living permanently in Australia, that’s a whole different question. But you never know how policy changes over the next couple of years.

32:16 Nigel: Could just add to that as well. We actually notice with a lot of our international students as well, is you’re 100% right with going out to the regions, but we find there’s a big gap.

And one gap is looking at going out to regional or they’re looking at wanting to join KPMG, PwC, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, very much focused on those large organization, international and domestic organizations.

There’s massive shortage when it comes to the SMEs or those medium sized organizations. We’re trying to arrange a campaign just to open the eyes of a lot of our students and not just, again, not just for internationals, for locals as well, to get them to understand there are a crazy number of jobs out there that we are putting up onto, we’ve got a job platform in RMIT, we put on 150 roles every week which are crying out for staff. So there’s certainly no shortage of jobs. It’s just about setting the sights on the right areas that you got to focus on.

33:19 David: Yeah, and I know that certainly with a lot of internationals, there’s a big push on or focus, emphasis around the big brands, you know, the big four banks, big four accounting firms, those sort of things, the Googles, Microsoft, etc.

But a lot of the time, if you’re starting out, I think that the large firms have great graduate programs, they have great induction programs that are very thorough, but a lot of times you actually get a lot better grounding in a small to medium-sized company because you get a lot more direct interaction with management.

You get a lot more direct one-on-one time, in some cases with senior executives, CEOs, CFO’s, etc. And you don’t get that at the big firms. So you actually could get a much more balanced, much more rounded training and induction and experience in doing that.

And again, it depends on what you want to do long term. If your long-term goal is to work in a large corporate, then it absolutely sets you up for it. But if you’re not necessarily that way inclined, you don’t have to chase the big brands or the big name companies, because that doesn’t necessarily guarantee you the right experience that you’re looking for.

Just to wrap up Nigel, if you had to give, I don’t know, three bits of advice for international students who are looking to work in Australia or start their careers, just really it could be one bit of advice, what would it be?

34:27 Nigel: Gee. Where do I start? I think we’ve covered a lot of what I would believe would be the most important advice. I’ll just probably stick to one because I’d go on forever. But I would say what we talked about a fair bit is building up that network, you need to branch out.

Again, I think you mentioned it before, but I think every single job I’ve ever got, I’ve generally known somebody there or on the interview panel, which certainly helps a hell a lot because it makes you stand out from the rest.

I think that would be the first one. I could also say almost like what we’re talking about at the end there is really starting to look at the variety of organizations you need to look at and don’t just hone in on a certain area.

The direction of your career will go in all different directions. There’s just not one clear route in that way. You need to be aware of that. You can go in all different ways and try to think outside the box.

Don’t just think of that is the only way to go about it. I think that would be the main two that I would recommend.

35:25 David: Awesome. Thanks very much and appreciate your time. And that’s good advice, Nigel. Thanks very much and thank you for listening.

35:31 Nigel: Thanks, Dave.

35:37 David: You have been listening to the Employability podcast presented by Gradibility. If you would like more information about today’s topics, please check out the show notes or visit

A reminder to subscribe on your favourite podcast app so you don’t miss an episode. I’m Dave Phua. Until next time. Remember to control the controllables.




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