Work experience tips for international students

Series of white doors on green grassy hillStudying in Australia will provide you with many great experiences, from making new friends to exploring new cities. You might also consider gaining some work experience to improve your job prospects after graduation. If you need some assistance, our checklist is here to help.

1. Investigate your work experience options

There are many options available if you would like to undertake work experience, including casual and part-time work, internships and volunteering. The first step is to decide which of these is best for you. You might seek a paid opportunity to help pay for your daily expenses, or consider a short-term internship (some of which are unpaid) to explore an occupation of interest. Volunteering is also an option if you are interested in helping out in your community. If you are still researching your study options, look for courses that have work experience opportunities built into the program structure. This may include cooperative courses (known as ‘co-ops’), which allow students to combine paid work with study. These courses are most commonly found in accounting, engineering and information technology, and they are very competitive. If you find a paid opportunity, keep in mind that you are restricted to working 40 hours per fortnight during semester.

2. Search for job opportunities

If you are seeking a paid opportunity, the best place to start is on job-search websites such as Seek, CareerOne and MyCareer. You will also find positions advertised on employers’ websites, generally in the ‘careers’ section. Your institution may provide its own student job search that links students to jobs in their industries — be sure to check the website or student portal. Although internships and volunteer positions may be advertised, it is often up to you to approach employers directly to see if they are able to run a work experience program. If you are looking for work experience in a particularly competitive field, do not despair if you are not able to find your dream placement. As a fashion student, you might volunteer at your city's fashion festival or at the local council if you’re completing a politics major. Remember that there are opportunities on campus too, such as writing for your institution's newspaper or assisting with event planning for the annual ball.    

3. Seek advice from your institution

Before applying for work experience opportunities, it is important to speak to your course coordinator or student advisers at your institution. They will be able to provide further information about working in Australia, including wages and your rights as an employee. They will also help you to fill out and submit some of the forms that are required before commencing work. While you are automatically granted work rights when you receive a student visa, you will need to apply for a Tax File Number (TFN) from the Australian Taxation Office before you begin paid work. Speaking to advisers is also very important if you are looking for unpaid opportunities, as they will be able to provide information about what you should expect during your placement.

4. Prepare your application

The very first step in the application process is to put together your résumé (also known as a curriculum vitae) and cover letter. It is important that each application is tailored to the specific job. For example, your cover letter should address why you will be suitable for the job based on the tasks provided in the job description. You should not send the same cover letter to each employer. If English is not your first language, it is important to get a native speaker to proofread your applications to ensure they are free of mistakes. Most institutions offer career services to students — look for résumé preparation workshops, career expos and networking nights.

5. Practise your interview skills

Whether you are applying for a paid position or an internship, you will need to meet with your employer before you are offered a position. Although there may be a little less pressure put on applicants for unpaid opportunities, it is still very important to prepare for your interview or meeting with your employer. This includes researching the company (its aims, culture and recent projects, if applicable) and understanding how your role would contribute. You might also practise with a classmate, instructing them to ask you common interview questions to make sure you will be able to answer them during the interview. Take the opportunity to ask your own questions during the interview as well — this shows the employer that you are interested in the role, but also gives you the opportunity to clarify anything about the position that you do not understand.

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