August 12, 2020

Advice to Employ: Your Path to Employability

Advice to Employ: Your Path to Employability

Employability skills are hot on uni students’ minds. How can I get a job, internship, interview, or even a foot in the door? Uni won’t guarantee these things. The future feels precarious at best. HEX Virtual participant, Ashna Nain, recently told the Australian Financial Review, “Millennials don’t want a hug. We want opportunities.

So, what next? How can newbies to the workforce find and create great opportunities?

This stuff is super hard, so we asked Hacker Exchange alum, Anna De Bortoli, to pass on some firsthand experience.

Anna De Bortoli (centre) with Hacker Exchange mates, Zoe Kappos (left) and Helena Lo (right).
Anna De Bortoli (centre) with Hacker Exchange mates, Zoe Kappos (left) and Helena Lo (right).

Anna is an Account Manager at tech giant Cisco and studying Honours in Marketing at Monash University all at once. But in 2018 she was just like any other Business student about to graduate. She knew if she wanted a job, she had to have a strategy to stand out.

Build Yourself

When you don’t have prior industry experience on your LinkedIn, show you have the drive to create it. A grad role is great, but spots are extremely competitive so you need to create an advantage for yourself.

  • DON’T rely on getting an internship
  • DO an international innovation program or a global hackathon online
  • START your own side hustle and join a uni accelerator
  • OR, better yet, do all of the above!

By the time Anna was applying for grad roles, she had done TAFE courses in business, marketing and wine making, a Chinese language summer program, an internship in Beijing, a corporate innovation program, and the Hacker Exchange Global Innovation Program in Silicon Valley.

These things snowball. The important thing is to get the ball rolling. And now, with the whole world online thanks to the pandemic, you can access virtual international education and experiences easier than ever before.

Experiment With Different Markets

In this analogy, you are the product and your prospective employers are the markets you want to test. Apply to lots of different jobs and programs. If you don’t get accepted right away, notice patterns in the responses you get: are you getting interviews/callbacks/questions for some kinds of work but not others? Follow the threads that unravel when you tug at them.

“One of the most exciting things about university is the sheer amount of opportunity at the end of it … I applied to a lot of different programs … honestly, keeping track of all the applications and different processes was one of my biggest challenges! I recommend noting everything down on a calendar so you can balance the applications with work and university, as they do add up. I also gave each company and application the time and energy required to stand out. I didn’t want to waste my time or theirs.”

— Anna De Bortoli, Cisco Account Manager

Get To Know Your Users

Also known as “Do Your Homework”. Make an active decision to invest time and energy into each application and interaction. LinkedIn and Google are your best friends.

“I would stay up late preparing for any presentation and making sure I was ready. In actual interviews I would be a bit more casual and focus on working out if I was the right fit for the role and if the role was the right fit for me. If you put the effort into showing that you are capable, you don’t have to spend time in an interview trying to prove it.”

— Anna De Bortoli, Cisco Account Manager

Fail Fast

Anna says expect rejection: it is normal and ok. Feel it. Process it. It doesn’t mean you’re not capable. Don’t spend time mourning the loss of one opportunity then let another three pass you by.

Learn from it. Ask for feedback (if you get the chance) and try to put it into practice. Thank those involved for the opportunity and their time. Feedback is a gift.

Product-Market Fit

Remember, the goal is to get a job, which you’re good at and you love, earning a great living, at a company that’s saving the world and hosting nightly puppy petting and unicorn rides. You’re going to write LOTS of applications before you find the right fit. So here’s a little short-cut:

Read the job descriptions, only apply if it sounds like a good fit, and tailor your application every time. (Note: eligibility requirements can be more flexible than you think, so don’t be discouraged).”

— Anna De Bortoli, Cisco Account Manager

When you land an interview, ask questions, be engaged, and remember, you’re there because they think you have something to offer.

Prove them right.

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