Student blog: 5 ways to overcome job barriers as an international student

Avis Hung

By Avis Hung

Hi, my name is Avis (yes, the same as the car rental company). I study a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting at QUT and am one month away from graduating. After three years and nine months, Brisbane has become my home away from home. I am now employed and ready to move on to the working stage of my life.

I realised that if I had someone to guide me at the beginning of my student journey, I would not have needed to make so many mistakes to see that I was only a few steps away from where I am now.

As an international student, language, values and culture can sometimes suppress our true potential to employers. Some employers may even worry that you will just disappear and go back to your country (it sounds like an exaggeration but from my experience, it is true).

So here are five steps to help build your competitive advantage and find your first job out of uni.

1. Have the right mindset

I come across lots of international students and ask nearly every one, why do you study abroad?

The most common answers are:

  • My parents' decision
  • My relatives/family friends are here

Without a doubt, it is the truth, but when you are not doing well or stressed from your study or life, you should not blame it on others but think of what you could have done better. You are the founder of your life, and compared to most of your friends in your home countries, your experience in Brisbane is valuable and unique. The earlier you decide to take action and step out of your comfort zone, the more opportunities you can encounter. It’s a changing moment in your life to learn and grow.

Ready. Set. Go!

2. Participate in volunteer events and get involved in the community

Brisbane is a multicultural city and there are always great events on. For example, Brisbane Asia Pacific Film Festival is opening in two weeks and has been a great success in the past few years.

Instead of searching online, check out the associations and clubs at your university. Find a group that has ties to events outside the university and keep an eye on any volunteer work they advertise.

Last but not least, the best volunteer experience for you as an international student in Brisbane is to be an international student ambassador. Through this role, I have experienced so much and I know it will be even greater for the students in the roles next year.

You can never underestimate how these volunteer jobs will help your resume stand out in a pile of applications. It shows your enthusiasm and motivation, and it adds value to your future career.

Avis Hung

3. Take advantage of resources and training programs

The next question is how do you present all your great experiences in two pages (resume)?

All universities run programs to help prepare students for their future careers. For example, I was able to enrol in a training session at my university to learn about what employers want and how to achieve their expectations. During the session, we received advice to improve our resume, cover letter, interviews and networking skills. I also joined a program that paired me with a mentor who was working in my study field and, throughout the semester, equipped me with various skills I need for employment.

All these great opportunities are available for you.

Something that is available for all students is the Brisbane Student Hub at The Edge, SLQ. It provides workshops for employment and teaches networking skills.

4. Choose the right networking events

After getting your resume and cover letter ready, it is time to promote yourself by joining networking groups/events. A big tip is to make sure your potential employers are attending the events as well, not just students.

As an international student, I know it is hard to start a conversation with a stranger, and nerves can make it harder to talk properly. Make sure you practise alone with a mirror or with a friend – be confident in yourself.

5. Seek out an internship

Volunteer work experience is the last step to prepare you for your first paid job. International students are allowed to work 20 hours per week on a student visa in Australia. Instead of using the time to work in a restaurant to earn pocket money, use it to get more relevant experiences for your future career. For me, an accounting major did not provide me an internship directly. Through a volunteer event, I was lucky to find a business-relevant position to gain experience in the industry which landed me a paid position.

The last thing I would like to say is that you have so much potential. Do not let your mind limit what you can do.

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