Student blog: Tips to find the perfect student work placement
Stephanie Casas was one of the 2018 Brisbane International Student Ambassadors. She is from Manila City. She is currently taking up a post-graduate program called Master in Social Work at the Australian Catholic University. She is also on the 2019 Queensland International Student Advisory Panel.
Finding work placements, internships or work experience during your studies abroad may be incredibly helpful when you're looking to enter the workforce after you graduate. A placement or internship could be mandatory for some educational qualifications, while internships could be optional to others. Either way, these are both valuable experiences to gain as a student to prepare yourself for the real world.
I am a social work student whose first placement was at the Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital, and I want to share my personal experience about finding this placement and how it impacted me as an international student in Brisbane.
1. Know what you want, but be flexible
Knowing what you exactly want helps a lot when you are searching for a placement or internship experience. Most of the time, students do not know what they want, and that’s where they usually get stuck and miss out on many opportunities.
Know what type of experience, skills and qualifications you would like to gain during and after the placement, then aim for a specific place or role. However, be flexible and open to other options in case your first choice doesn't work out!
Have you tried using a blueprint when you make plans? An example would be using the S.M.A.R.T format to start with.
2. Identify your key skills and walk the talk
Sure, you are a hard-worker, a good communicator, and many other adjectives that you may use to describe the perfect intern. But remember, the person reading your application has never met you before. Therefore, when you describe yourself in a résumé, make sure you refer to an example or previous experience where you have demonstrated the standout characteristics that you possess.
3. Familiarise yourself with Australian work culture
Research and read articles about Australian work culture - one of the articles I recommend is "5 things that surprised me working in an Australian office", written by a South Korean student who had a work placement role in Brisbane.
Practice your skills and grow your confidence communicating in English because it is the official language in the Australian workplace. It is very important that your English is fluent enough to be able to communicate with others in professional workplace so that you can learn as much as possible and get the most out of your work experience.
4. Remember: one door leads to another
As an international student who has completed an internship and work placement, I can honestly say that employers appreciate if you have at least participated in a local activity or have worked locally in Australia. I strongly recommend participating in school or university clubs and organisations, community organisations, or finding volunteer work to get you started. This way, you get to meet new friends, gain new experiences and socialise with people from other cultural backgrounds. This is what makes studying abroad so special.
5. Be ready for some self-discovery
Internships and work placements are also the perfect opportunity to learn about yourself. It may be that you end up realising the job you thought you would enjoy is actually not for you. It’s important to remember that you are a student, and this is a learning process. It is still an investment – you gain experience from the real world and practical skills that you may use in other areas of your life.
6. Be yourself
The best advice I learned through my placement is being your awesome self. Everyone is unique. It sounds cliché, but it is true. Every single person is different and there is no one else like you. Your origin, family, experiences, circumstances, values and choices are all different. The beauty of being yourself is that you have something unique to offer. That is what makes teamwork a beautiful experience, because everyone brings in a bit of themselves for others to learn from.
Be truthful and honest about who you are because internships and placements are challenging enough. I believe it makes things easier if you stay true to yourself.
7. Find resources that can assist you in your search
Every university has a career and development office or officers that help you access internships and placements. Contact the office in your school and book an appointment. Once your career development officer gets to know your characteristics and preferences, they can recommend something for you.
Your career representatives may assist you on helping you get prepared. If a new opportunity comes up, your career and development officer will remember you because they know you and you have expressed your interest previously.
Another option is looking for a placement or internship program online. Check out websites such as Seek.com.au or Ribit.net.