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Three students holding employability signs

An expert's guide on how to get a job in Brisbane

For international students
Published 16 Jan, 2023  ·  6-minute read

Setting off on your first-ever job search can be daunting, but with some guidance, you’ll be well on your way to finding work as an international student or graduate.

We sat down with Dr Dino Willox, the Director of Student Employability here at The University of Queensland, to find out their top tips for getting a full-time job in Brisbane.

Use your university work as a portfolio

One of the biggest obstacles for students or recent graduates is when they have little real-world experience to demonstrate their skills and abilities to prospective employers. Dr Willox explains that you can overcome this using examples from your study in your portfolio instead.

“Bring a portfolio of things you’ve worked on during your degree or interning. Not only does this show interviewers you’ve got the skills they want, but you can always draw on the material in case you get nervous.”

At UQ, a number of courses include Work Integrated Learning (WIL), which helps you get workplace practice, building your employability. These WIL experiences can also be excellent additions to your portfolio. Speak directly to your school or the Student Employability Team to discuss whether WIL opportunities are available to you. 

Use your network to find a job

Of course, you can use the usual sites like SEEK and LinkedIn, but Dr Willox explains that a lot of jobs in Brisbane these days will come from your established connections. The ‘hidden’ job market – meaning jobs that are not publicly promoted – can be accessed through word of mouth and people knowing about your skills. Having connections who can put in a good word for you when they hear of jobs becoming available is invaluable.

“One of the best things that international students can do is get involved in clubs and societies at their university or college, as this can exponentially expand their network as well as improve their language skills,” explains Dr Willox. “There are many jobs that are never advertised, so those networks and connections really matter in the current climate.”

Keep up to date with the skills employers are looking for

While you shouldn’t be too concerned with what skills are in demand now while you’re a student – as they can change quite rapidly – it’s a good idea to look towards the future and see what skills might be popular in three or four years’ time.

“The World Economic Forum is the place to go to find out what’s happening globally in this space, and they cast forward to 2025,“ shares Dr Willox. “As mentioned, lists of skills can become redundant fairly quickly, but this is a good resource for students.”

Some of the skills the World Economic Forum believes will be important in the near future include:

  • Complex problem solving
  • Active learning and listening
  • Leadership
  • Technology design and programming
  • Resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility

Use your lived experiences to your advantage

A lot of students – and international students in particular – may believe they must present themselves as a ‘finished product’. According to Dr Willox, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

“An interview should be a two-way conversation, not just you sitting there and agreeing with whatever’s being said. Even if you feel inexperienced, try and draw on moments of your life that demonstrate your qualities and values,” they share. “All lived experiences have value. For example, having to move countries to establish yourself somewhere else demonstrates your resilience. Show the interviewers what you’ve been through in life to be in front of them, and it will go a long way.”

If you haven’t made it to the job interview stage just yet, try and integrate examples of your unique background into your cover letter, and explain why this makes you the best candidate for the job.

Be genuine and authentic in your interview

Speaking of interviews, sometimes it’s hard to stand out amongst a sea of candidates. Luckily, there’s a way for you to elevate yourself above the rest and grab the attention of prospective employers.

“Employers right now are finding it difficult to get the best candidate, so making it easy for them by cutting through the usual ‘sales pitch’ and being yourself will go a long way,” says Dr Willox.

Be your own boss

Exploring your entrepreneurial side can be a great way to earn an income and build your experience.

“Don’t forget that you can always start your own business if the perfect job doesn’t seem to be coming your way!” shares Dr Willox.

As an international student, freelancing or starting your own business can be a good way to work, with flexible hours arranged around your study time. If you have a particular unique skill, promote what you can do on websites such as Upwork or Airtasker. If you can speak a language other than English fluently, why not tutor fellow students? There are plenty of options allowing you to leverage off your passions and talents.

Speak to the experts!

Sometimes, you might just need a helping hand! One of the best first steps you can take when looking for a job in Brisbane as an international student is to chat to the team at Careers and Employability for advice. With them, you can learn how to make an impact through your work, engage in career development and find ways to give yourself an edge in the job market.

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