An insider’s look at what employers want

An Insider's Look at What Employers Want

 

Confidence is key

 

Today, our CEO David Phua talks with Sam Hassan, Chief Technology Officer at Link4 in Adelaide, an eInvoicing solution for businesses of all sizes.

Having hosted many of our students as interns, Sam gives us an insider’s look at what host employers want from their interns. 

 

Find out: 

 

  • The most common challenges when migrating to Australia
  • What expectations employers have of their interns
  • Why soft skills are just as important as technical skills
  • How to prepare yourself for a successful internship
  • What to do during your internship to stand out
  • When asking questions is not optional, but a must
  • How to demonstrate the right attitude to secure a paid job after your internship
  • What the most successful interns have in common

 

Keep listening for Sam’s top tips on how to successfully launch your professional career 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 episode transcript

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 kick start your career, presented by Gradability. In today’s episode, I catch up with Sam Hassan, Chief Technology Officer of Link4.

Link4 provide an E-invoicing solution for businesses of all sizes and strive to make the world a better place by making small and medium businesses more successful. We discussed the challenges of migrating to Australia and how interns need to overcome their natural shyness to stand out from the crowd, and why it’s okay to ask questions and make mistakes. I hope you enjoy the show.

01:00 Sam, you first came to Australia in 2013. You’ve got a really interesting story. I suppose what we’d like to know is tell us a bit about your personal journey to where you got today and the different challenges that you faced along the way.

01:12 Sam: Yeah, thank you. I came to Australia back in 2013 and I used to have a software company before that back in Egypt. And then when I came to Australia, I joined several companies before thinking about starting my own.

There are several challenges when you are migrating to a new country, and especially if you don’t know anyone there, which was my case. But I was lucky enough to meet my business partner Robin, after a couple of days at a business event.

That makes me always say that networking and going out is really important. So, yeah, as I said, we met after a couple of days. I joined the company he was working in. We worked together for a while and then we even worked together in another company before we started Link4.

That journey is usually, I would say, and I totally understand, it’s confusing at the beginning. When you are coming to a new country, what should I do? At that time I was mainly focusing on getting a job, not starting my own business at all and even exploring other industries that I might even make a career shift.

02:09 And I think it’s a great opportunity for someone moving to a new country to think about a career shift because it’s a great opportunity to do that. You can study something here in Australia and start a new career.
Not saying that your previous experience is not important, it is, but it’s an opportunity for you to do that rather than just keep doing what you’re doing if you don’t like it. If you like it, I would strongly recommend that you start looking for a training or a certificate related to your industry.

In my case, I had training before in Egypt, so I took certificate for training and assessment first and that helped me get my first job as a trainer and then mentor. But I’ve also joined another government program called NEIS, N-E-I-S, New Enterprise Incentive Scheme that helped me get a certificate for small business management.

So all those training and certificates was very helpful for me to get first job, second job and move forward to start my own business later.

03:04 David: And what was it that first brought you to Australia? What was the main rationale for coming across?

03:10 Sam: Well, mainly I was looking forward to start my family here. I was just married the year before, just a couple of years before moving to Australia and we started discussing moving our family to Australia.

My wife had some extended family here and I have always been thinking about moving and living in another country. My first option before Australia was the UK, but I was looking forward to moving to a country where I can become a citizen, which was more important to me, and that’s why I selected Australia as well.

03:37 David: Okay. A lot of our listeners are ex-international students. A lot of them have come here looking for that exact opportunity. That was essentially what I did as well. What you’re saying basically is if you are going to come to Australia, if you are looking to get ahead, you are looking to start a career, you may have come in as an engineer, you may have come in as a techie, but at the end of the day, that doesn’t necessarily define you.

Come in here and have a look at the lay of the land. Have an understanding of what’s going on and see whether there are other opportunities for you to look at, whether it’s a change of career, et cetera, to try and get ahead.

One of the things that yourself, as an individual and Link4 as a business have been great at for us is actually taking on our student interns and giving them opportunities. And you’ve been a real champion. And certainly we’ve had conversations about it. What is it that drives you about taking interns?

04:24 Sam: Well, two things. One is when I moved to Australia, I was in that almost similar situation where everyone was basically saying we need local experience.

So even though I had more than ten years of experience in different fields and even different industries, but everyone was talking about the local experience, and I totally understand that now. When I moved to Australia and everyone was talking about local experience, like, I have experience.

But now, after living here for a while and even I have my own business and getting interns, I understand what that means. So, that was one of the drivers and in Link4, me and Robin, we are trying to give our interns this opportunity of getting the local experience they need.

We have seen many good candidates coming through this internship program and we even hired some of them in Link4 after that. So, yeah, the main drivers is giving the interns the opportunity to get the local experience to help them get their first job.

And we are always happy to see them coming back and say, I got my first job. You are my reference. Can I use your name as a reference? And definitely yes. I’m always happy to see some of them getting jobs somewhere else or even with us.

05:30 David: Can we touch on that little aspect around local experience? Because it’s something that comes up all the time and someone like yourself who’s got ten years of experience, you’ve come to Australia and you’re getting told you have to have local experience.

Australian businesses, I think, are quite, to a certain extent, quite unique in that sense, where unless you’ve got Australian experience, a lot of your other experience doesn’t really count. From your experience, what is the main difference or what are the things that employers are looking for when we talk about Australian experience?

05:56 Sam: I would say mainly two parts. One is the kind of skills you have to be able to work in Australian work environment. And that could be things like not just the language, the language might be one, or even the accent might be one of the points because I would be completely honest with you, we got some interns with a very hard language skills.

It was even hard to communicate. And that’s the point. If I’m an employer I would like to hire someone, I need to make sure that they are going to be at least able to either talk to customers or even communicate with the team as well.

So, that’s one of the things. And the other thing is more around personal skills like integrity, authenticity. Unfortunately, in some cases we have seen CVs that doesn’t match the skills of the person at all.

So, all these points together are one thing. The other thing is the technical or local experience from technical point of view. In some industries you will find that technical requirements or codes in Australia, especially for something like engineering, might be different to other countries.

07:00 I’m not going to talk about medicine or anything like that, but I would talk about engineering or similar industries where you need to be aware of local laws and regulations, codes and all these things. So, this is what’s meant by the local experience.

It’s not, you know, how to do that job, it’s you are going to be able to fit with the rest of the group, the rest of the team and understand the market as well.

07:17 David: And the same thing I suppose applies too if you look at it from a finance perspective, accounting standards at different countries, you need to understand what the Australian financial standards are and how that applies to whatever role you’re doing.

I suppose the same to an extent will apply in a tech sense. I wanted to just touch on one thing that you mentioned which was around communication skills and the fact that sometimes interns or people starting out do come across with really challenging communication skills.

Accents are one thing and I think for anyone that’s listening, if you are an international or even if you’re local, accents are one thing but communication skills are really important. And I know that some people say, well look, I want to role as an accountant, so I just need to be able to do the thumbs, I need to just be able to do the calculations.

08:02 But at the end of the day, if you can’t communicate what you’re actually doing to your client or to your manager or to your peers, then you’re not actually going to be able to do well in that role. Because you might have the most brilliant tech technical skills, you might have the greatest Excel skills in the world and be able to build spreadsheets that are beyond next level.

But if you can’t actually explain that contextually to the person that you’re working with or working for, it’s a massive gap that you’re leaving in your skill set. And there are things that I think people can do prior to graduating, even post-graduation in their day to day life to make sure that they are improving on those communication skills, it’s not necessarily about waiting to be given an opportunity to say, “Oh now I should work on it.”

But there are things that you can do day to day. We’ve done episodes with other guests who talked about the fact that you need to go out and meet locals, meet with other people, not just in your own community, but go outside that and put yourself in situations where you are forced to communicate in English.

And that may not necessarily be in a professional sense, but just practice the language skills. Get people around you who are prepared to give you positive feedback and constructive feedback, more than positive feedback so that you can actually make that leap, I suppose.

09:09 Sam: And I will always say about this point, try to take it in a positive way, not in a negative way if someone’s trying to correct what you’re saying or whatever, try always to be positive about it. Think about it from, “Okay, how I can improve?” Rather than, “Yes, they are trying to make fun of me…” Or something like that.

That’s not the case. It’s about improving your skills in many different ways. And even with writing, I would strongly recommend that you use one of the available online tools now to check your writing.

09:38 David: There are so many.

09:38 Sam: Yeah, and I’m not afraid to say I keep using Grammarly all the time. My English was good before coming to Australia, I always do that just in case I miss a spelling mistake or something like that. It’s always good to use one of those tools.

09:53 David: It’s a really simple tool and it’s a really simple technique, but it’s one that people tend to overlook. I work with somebody who is from overseas who’s got a very strong accent, he’s from Europe and he talked about constructive criticism and not taking it to heart. He is very open about the fact that if I’m saying something that doesn’t make sense, if I’m saying something that’s incongruent, I need you to tell me.

I think that a lot of times when we graduate from university, we think we’ve achieved our goals, we’ve got what we need and therefore we are infallible. We don’t want to be told or what we’re doing that’s wrong.

I think, as you’re saying, I think that’s the wrong approach. I think whether you are a graduate, whether you’re a CEO, you should be open to the fact that you are in a world where you have to learn every day.

And putting yourself in that vulnerable situation to say, yes, I am prepared to learn. I’m prepared to take criticism. I’m prepared to ask for it and grow from it. I think that’s really vital. I think it’s a really important piece of information to be sharing with people and for people to take on, I think, to heart and go, they call it growth mindset nowadays, but it’s just wanting to get better.

10:50 At Link4, you take a lot of our interns and you obviously nurture them really well. What we see within the broader sort of industries, there are a lot of employers who are reluctant to take an intern, particularly when they know that the person potentially comes from overseas and will have things like language challenges, et cetera.

What would you say to employers who are potentially considering taking an intern, but aren’t actually sure and feeling potentially uncertain about that decision?

11:15 Sam: First, I would say that maybe because me and Robinson, my core partner, we both worked in international companies and in different countries around the world, so we have seen candidates from different countries and their skills and that would make us feel more comfortable getting some interns on board from overseas.

I would basically say that I understand the employers’ concerns. When you get an intern and you are investing your time and also money in them, you are not sure if the outcome is going to be good or not.

And one of the things that helps with that is having a clear internship program before they get them in, what you want them to do. Communicate that clearly to them. And basically we coordinate with performance, education and the Gradability team to make sure that what we are looking for in terms of skills and requirements is I wouldn’t say it’s there with the intern, at least they have the basic understanding of what we are looking for.

12:08 We understand they might have experience in another industry or in the same industry, but not in Australia, but we make sure that they have the base that we can build on rather than they don’t have any base in relation to what we are doing.

And we came across that before and that’s how we learnt over time how to make those internship programs more efficient for us as an employer and for them as well. And as I said, many of the interns that came through the program were hired by Link4 at certain stage for different roles.

And I would say that we use this as a good opportunity for us to work with those interns, find out if they can be a good fit for the organization in terms of culture, if they will fit with the team, if they have the skills and then that will allow us to hire them for different roles.

12:55 David: And it’s also a commitment that you guys make to make sure that you’re providing the right environment for them to be able to grow as well. And I think it’s important to note that there is no, certainly from an employer’s perspective, there is no obligation to employ somebody and you’ve taken interns who you haven’t hired.

But there is a responsibility and onus on the employer as well, the host employer to provide an environment that is nurturing and allows the student or the intern to actually grow. I do like the fact that you talked about the fact that it is a bit of trial and error, a bit of a learning experience when you started off doing a certain thing and then you had to tweak it.

And then you worked, obviously, with us, with our team, to try and make sure that we provide the right outcomes for you. Because certainly from our perspective, that’s really important to make sure that for the employer, but also for the actual interns, that if something isn’t working and we’ve got to be able to tweak that to make it better for all three parties, including ourselves.

13:45 And I think that’s crucial. In terms of the interns themselves, what are you looking for? If I’m coming into Link4 or any organization, for example, as a mentor, what are you looking for from that person, from the individual?

13:56 Sam: Well mainly, as I said, base understanding of the role that they are going to be doing, but also their ability to learn and openness to learn. So, in some cases we have seen candidates and interns, you can see them growing or learning a lot during the internship.

And that’s good even though it’s a short period of time, just twelve weeks. But you can see those who are learning fast or willing to learn compared to others who are like I know how I do it, or that’s not the right way to do things or things like that.

It’s usually a red flag when you see that at the beginning and at the same time, that doesn’t mean that we want them to come up with ideas or make suggestions to improve what they are doing. But it’s important for you to understand first what you’re doing and then start making suggestions, not the other way around.

14:44 David: One of the obvious things. You’re a CTO. And if I’m coming in as an intern, and I’m straight from Uni, I don’t actually know a lot. And I suppose culturally, with a lot of interns, if you are from overseas, most of our students tend to come from Asian countries.

To be able to look vulnerable or seem vulnerable in front of a superior or to ask and by extension, to ask questions can be seen as a bit of a well, “That’s really, I can’t do that, I don’t want to be seen to be making a mistake…”

“I also don’t want to openly challenge or question my superior because that’s disrespectful from my perspective.” What are your views on that?

15:14 Sam: We make sure that we highlight those points in the onboarding process of a new intern. Basically saying, always feel free to ask questions. Make sure actually you ask questions so you don’t make mistakes. Or even if you make mistakes for whatever reason, just be clear about it.

Just tell your superior in order to find out what happened. Solve that problem quickly rather than hiding, which is part of the culture, as you said in some areas of the world. So, we try to make sure that we tell the interns from the beginning that it’s fine to ask, talk, if you make mistakes, that’s all fine.

It happens. That’s part of the learning experience. But what’s more important is being clear about it. Communicate it to your supervisor or director and make sure that you learn from the mistake because it’s going to be very hard to have the same mistake done two times from the same person. Doesn’t make any sense.

16:04 David: That goes for whether you’re an intern or whether you’re five years, ten years in a role. I think everybody makes mistakes, and I had to learn this lesson some time ago when I challenged my executive coach and I challenged the fact that CEO at the time was making mistakes.

Are you saying that they can’t make mistakes? I actually felt like a bit of an idiot by making that comment. But I think what people, especially when you’re starting out, tend to forget is that you’re not coming in with all the experience in the world.

So, the people that are taking you out as an intern, your mentors, they know you’re going to make mistakes. They know you’re not going to have all the skills, and they know that you’re going to have questions.

So they’re expecting you to actually ask. They’re expecting you to not sit there and just go, oh, I’m just going to make this up and compound the error. But they want to be able to help you. But if you don’t ask, you’re not going to be able to get that.

And by not asking, it actually makes it worse because then you can go three, six weeks into a project, which may be really important, and then find out that actually because I didn’t ask the clarification question at the start, I’m now way down the track and I actually haven’t achieved the things that I need to achieve.

17:03 Sam: And unfortunately, we were in one of the situations exactly what you said. We got a couple of interns to work on a project and yeah, actually three weeks on, there was like a deadline. And we are looking at the work they have done and they basically didn’t ask the right questions or didn’t ask the questions from the beginning, and the result was not as expected from the project.

So, definitely we make sure at the beginning that we ask them to make sure they feel comfortable to ask. And I would say that also since COVID we had to switch to an online internship program and that allowed us to actually, it was challenging at the beginning, for sure, but it allowed us to get interns from different states, different backgrounds and skills as well.

We altered the internship program to be like a hybrid model, if possible, or online, totally, if possible, and trying to make sure that we have those open communication lines with the interns all the time.

It’s easy to jump on a quick Zoom meeting if you have a quick question, or even on Slack or whatever, email or whatever. It’s always okay to ask questions, and we understand that you need to ask those questions.

18:07 We basically try to split the internship program to three stages. In the first stages, the first two weeks, you are getting to know what we do, what’s your role, what’s going to be the outcome of this internship.

But in the next phase, we start dealing with you not just as an intern, but we start assigning real tasks to you. It’s your role to do this, to do that. In the last part of the internship, you are one of the team.

You have your responsibilities, you have your deliverables. You have to do this and that. And we have seen that this is more productive and a good learning curve for them rather than dealing with them as interns the whole time, they get to feel, okay, the work environment is different from the internship, and this is how work environment will look like in reality.

18:56 David: Yeah, and I think that point is really important, and it links very closely with what we talked about before in terms of going three weeks on a project and then going, “Oh, actually, I should have asked this before.”

At the end of the day, a business is a business, whether you’re a nonprofit or for profit business. At the end of the day, it’s not an academic project anymore. And I think anyone who’s coming into it, whether it’s an internship or a first job, whatever it is, you are going into a business that has deliverables, that has outcomes.

It’s not a case of saying, I have three weeks or six weeks to be able to produce an assignment, and then they will give me a score. It’s actually about generating the outcomes. And I think that’s really important, and it links directly to what you’re saying.

19:36 But the experience that you’re giving them, it’s in a real world setting where they actually have to think as if they were part of the business. And I think certainly, from an employer’s perspective, I’m always looking for people who can think for themselves, form solutions, be able to come up with solutions, and not just, “Okay, well, I’m here, I have to sit here from nine to five, and so I will sit here at nine to five. I got a half hour lunch break, so I’ll take half hour lunch break, and every now and then I’ll go to my boss and say, if I only take 15 minutes, can I leave 15 minutes early?”

Because that’s not the real world. And ultimately, an internship is supposed to prepare you as an individual for the real world. And your role as an intern in that is to actually participate in it as if you are an employee.

Yes, you’re there to learn. Yes, you’re there to take learnings from the mentors and contribute to a certain extent, but ultimately you’ve got to go in with the attitude of, I’m going to be a contributor rather than just a passenger.

20:25 Sam: And to this point, we always tell the interns from the beginning, don’t come with just the problem or the issue you’re facing. Do your research, come up with a couple of suggestions. This is the problem I’m facing, and I’ve done this research, and those are two maybe options or ways to solve this problem.

And then your supervisor or director will look at that and tell you, okay, let’s do this or that, or even come up with something different. But the thing is, be ready to go out of your comfort zone. You will be challenged with things that you haven’t done before.

There’s hundreds and thousands of resources of learning how to do whatever it is you can think of, either creating a report or doing or a small thing like doing something in Excel.

As part of the internship, no one will tell you how to filter data in Excel or something. You have to go find out the answer. Do it yourself, do it right, do it wrong, but at least try to do it. And someone would check after you tell you what’s the right thing to do, what’s wrong.

21:19 David: It’s a really important point, I think, around coming up with solutions. Again, I don’t think you necessarily expect it, and this applies again, whether you are an intern or whether you’re a Chief Marketing Officer, whatever role you’re across an organization come up with solutions.

It may not be the right solution, but it does a couple of things. One, you might get the right solution, and the fact that you are on the ground with all the variables means that you’re probably going to come up with very close to the right solution as long as you’re thinking in the right manner.

But also it shows your supervisor, whoever you’re taking a problem to, your thought process, it shows how you’re processing the issue and the angle of thinking. It also serves as a bit of a guide for them so that they know, okay, well actually that’s a really good idea.

There’s five points there. The first four are great, the fifth one, maybe tweak that and we can do that a bit better by doing that. So, it actually helps drive better outcomes because if you just go to your supervisor with a problem, then, A, for me it begs the question, why do I have you?

22:17 But also it’s like, okay, well now I have to do all the thinking and no one wants to be the person who has to come up with all the solutions. And that’s why we have teams, that’s why we bring people on board to be able to help solve these problems.

So I think that’s a really, really valid piece of advice that if you’re at any point of your career, if you are given a challenge, you have an issue, come up with a solution. It doesn’t have to be the perfect one, but it does help with coming up with that ultimate sort of plan and solution.

We previously talked about the fact that internships are quite short and you just talked about the different sort of cycles, three stages that you put your interns through to help them with that process.

In your eyes, how can an individual set themselves apart from the others, whether it’s in a cohort or in the eyes of an employer?

22:57 Sam: Well, I think the first thing is be a good listener. Try to get all the information you need in the first couple of weeks max, but then be ready to start doing the work.

You will get tasks assigned to you, be organized. One of the main important things is being organized because now, as you know, we work in a hybrid mode. Sometimes work at home, even the interns are working from home.

But being organized to the point, deliver on time, ask questions, that will definitely set you to get through this internship in a successful way.

23:29 David: And the flip side of that obviously those are the things that you want to do. What are the absolute no-noes that you do not want somebody to do this when they’re with you?

23:38 Sam: Definitely don’t hide anything. Like if you make a mistake or something, don’t hide it. And if you are working remotely, don’t sit there doing nothing. If you don’t have something assigned to you or you have questions or whatever, be proactive. That’s the point. Like, be proactive.

If there is a task assigned to you and you need collaboration from other team members, make sure you reach out to them. But also understand they also have their work and this kind of understanding of, okay, when I can do this or when I can do that, how the process works, who should assign the tasks or the dynamics of the work environment.

Because it’s not that, like if you have a task to do, you have to stop everyone from what they are doing to get your task done. It’s more important to, “Okay, I understand how that works or how the dynamics of the work environment works.”

24:23 David: Yeah. And I think just on that being proactive point that you just made, you’re saying don’t just sit there if you’ve got nothing to do and wait for something to be told. At the end of the day, yes, the mentors are there to provide guidance for you.
Mentors are there to support your learning and growth and give you tasks and things to do. But they also have their own jobs and there’s going to be times when they’re focused on their own outcomes and their own deliverables and they’re not necessarily 100% thinking, “Okay, Johnny’s sitting there, I need to find something for Johnny to do.”

So, you’re absolutely within your rights and you should as an intern, be able to go up to them and say, “Hey look, I’m actually not doing anything.” Rather than, “I’m not doing anything at the moment, I’m just going to sit here.” I’m not fully occupied at the moment, can I potentially take on something?

25:03 Sam: Help you with something…

25:01 David: Yeah, can I help you with this? Or I noticed you’re working on that. Is there something I can do? Demonstrate that you’re actually thinking. Demonstrate that you are observing what’s going on and not just waiting to be given instruction.

25:13 Sam: And that usually sets those interns apart. Like even if you don’t have work to do and you come up and talk to your supervisor directly and basically say, “Can I help you with this?”

I can see that maybe you need some help with this task or whatever, if you are aware of what they are working on. And that usually helps because that will make you think, okay, this person is proactive enough and willing to take responsibility of other tasks that they were not assigned to them. That’s a very good thing to do.

25:38 David: And ultimately, if you’re looking to employ anyone, this goes for you, I’m sure, as it does for me. If I’m looking to hire somebody, I’m looking to hire the person that’s thinking, the person that’s proactively going, I think I can help with that solution, or I think I can do something more.

The guy that’s in there going, pick me, pick me, rather than the guy that sitting there going, “I’m just here because I’m getting paid…”

 

25:57 Sam: I’m going to hide until they try to give something to me…

25:58 David; I think it’s interesting because I think even just organizationally, as a business leader, business owner, if I have a project, if I have a need to be able to deliver on a project, the person that you’re looking for is the person who’s volunteering for stuff.

The person who’s saying, look, “Let me do that, let me help.” It’s not the person who turns up every day and just does the job and there’s a place for those people and  you absolutely need people like that.

But if you want to get ahead, these are the sort of things rather that you have to be doing, it’s volunteering, it’s putting your hand up and not necessarily saying I’ll do that, but okay, can I get a bit more money for it?

Because it doesn’t always work that way. A lot of times businesses need to prove a model before they can actually monetize it. And in many ways, that’s about actually finding the people who will offer their services, who will volunteer to do a bit more just to prove that model.

And the advantage that you get as an individual, I think, is you’re putting yourself ahead of the queue, you’re putting yourself in front of key decision makers, so that when there are opportunities for promotion, when there are opportunities for pay increases, etc, they will come.

 

26:54 But I think if you set out looking for those things, that becomes quite, I believe quite transparent, or this person is only doing this because they want some extra money, they’re not doing it because they actually want to do it. And that almost paints the offer to a large extent, certainly from my perspective.

 

27:06 Sam: Yeah, that’s true. And I would just add to that when we are working with interns and there’s like a deadline and you can see them working after working hours or so, we always try to say don’t do that.

But that gives you an indication they are willing to do the work. They are keen about the team now, that shows that you can be part of the team. The team can rely on you. Again, we always say don’t work additional hours, but that’s a good indication that this person is taking responsibility of the project they are working on and they are keen on delivering on time.

27:34 David: Yep. You’ve got to be able to demonstrate that you’re prepared to do a little bit more rather than just actually just turning up. Two more questions. One is we talked about experience. We talked about students or graduates trying to gain experience.

For a graduate, if you’ve come or you’ve gone through the system, you don’t have experience. From an employer’s perspective, how does a graduate potentially demonstrate that they’ve got transferable experience and transferable skills even though they may not necessarily have worked?

28:00 Sam: Well, maybe we have touched on this point before during our discussions. Even if they have done a project in Uni, if they took a course, they need to make sure they have this in their resume because that usually helps us understand their previous background. Even a uni project might help in building on these kind of activities that they have done before.

So, it’s always important to focus on what you would like to do as a job later on. And don’t just rely on the unique course that you are taking. If there is a side course, and I’ve seen one, I always remember one of the interns came through, he was always focusing on business analysis and product management.

And during Uni he took like another three or four courses focused on that subject and that definitely made them stand out from others in the selection process. And even when they got hired, actually, this intern asked us to extend their internship and we were happy to do that.

29:00 We don’t usually do that, but we were happy to do it because this person was learning and through the internship program he got introduced to a counter business partner that we’re working with. And this business partner actually hired this intern through us based on our recommendation.

So, don’t just rely on the uni courses. Make sure that you improve your skills in what you would like to do either through courses, through products. Don’t take Uni projects as it’s just a uni project.  It might be very vital in your career if that project aligns with the job that you would like to take later on.

29:31 David: Yeah, I think that’s really good advice. And again, it just shows that if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you’re going to look for ways to improve yourself, ways to get ahead, and that’s going to help you stand out.

Just on that topic of advice, last question for you. If you had to give any of our listeners advice, who are looking for roles, what would be your top three sort of bits of advice for someone looking to start their career who may be considering an internship? Top two or three things that you’d recommend them?

29:55 Sam: Try to have a clear goal in your mind, what you would like to do first, what’s the job that you would like to get? Or what’s the career line that you would like to join and based on that, you have to start building your skill set for that role, either through courses, and I’m not saying you take paid courses or expensive courses or whatever. There are hundreds of resources with a very affordable cost like Udemy LinkedIn courses.

30:17 David: A lot of free courses.

30:18 Sam: A lot of free courses as well. And having this basic understanding will allow you to stand out from others who doesn’t have any background in this area. The second thing is, we understand again that you are a uni student, but you need to get this internship to prove your local experience to employers.

So, I always recommend getting an internship. And I know as well that your one year program in performance and education at Gradability is helping and preparing those candidates to the market. And we have seen the difference between some of the candidates we got through the program and others who didn’t come through the program.

So, it’s very helpful for them to be ready to the market. But then when you get the internship opportunity, make sure that you do your best, because this internship opportunity is going to be your reference for your first job.

That’s why you’re doing the internship, so you can have a local experience reference. So, make sure you do your best to get the best outcome out of the internship and make sure that the employer or the internship or company, host company will give you a good reference when you go to the next step in your career.

31:20 David: Don’t just treat it like, “I have to turn and I have to be there, so I’ll just turn up and be there.” It’s not a stamp in your book, it’s something you actually have to work towards and if you’re lucky enough or fortunate enough that you actually get employed directly from it, that’s great. But it is a stepping stone, and you’re only going to be able to use that as a stepping stone if you actually demonstrate the capabilities.

31:39 Sam: And one last thing I would say is be organized as much as possible, because that helps with the whole experience. Again, we understand you might be working part time. You have to reschedule your shifts.

You might have this, you might have that, be clear about it to your manager as early as possible so they can reschedule the workload based on that, rather than coming on the day and say, “I have to leave now because I have this or that.” No, you should have given enough notice to your managers.

32:08 David: As we said before, the end of the day, it’s a business, and you might have stuff going on in your life just as anybody who does it in a professional setting. But that doesn’t mean that you take that for granted and you take advantage of that and just turn up or not turn up.

Communication, I think, is really vital, and it goes to that first point you touched on. You may have some language barriers, you may have challenges in that, but that’s not an excuse to not communicate effectively. And if you are doing it regularly, then you’re going to present yourself in the best light possible.

Sam, it’s been a real pleasure talking to you, as usual. Thank you for your time and thank our listeners for listening in. Thanks very much.

32:40 Sam: Thank you. Thanks.

32:42 David: You have been listening to the Employability podcast presented by Gradability. If you would like more information about today’s topics, please check out the show notes or visit www.credibility.com.au. A reminder to subscribe on your favorite 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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