If you are intending to work in Australia during and/or after you finish your studies, it is important that you start preparing as early as you can. This is especially important if you are interested in obtaining permanent residency and working in your discipline area upon graduation. International students who succeed in gaining employment in Australia usually have:
- advanced communication skills in English
- local experience related to their discipline area
- well-developed employability skills
- good understanding of Australian culture and workplace expectations
Pathway to employment
Below is an example of the approach needed to develop experience and employability skills in order to get a job in Australia. This is an example only and does not indicate the particular jobs or activities you should undertake. Your choices will depend on your career goals, qualifications, and the skills and experience you will need to develop.
Upon Arrival in Australia
- Get ready for employment: obtain ‘Permission to Work’ in Australia and a Tax File Number.
In your 1st year
- Find out early what options are available to you for migrating/working in Australia upon graduation
- Learn about the Australian culture and your local community
- Improve your English communication skills
- Learn how to write a resume and other job application material
- Develop skills and work experience to add to your resume
In your 2nd or middle years
- Continue improving your communication and interpersonal skills
- Continue developing experience related to your studies
- Extend your network of contacts and learn about your occupation/industry in Australia
- Improve your skills in writing resumes and other job application material
In your final year
- Meet and learn from professionals working in your field of study
- Check what options are available to you regarding working in Australia upon graduation
- Keep on improving your skills and be flexible in your job search
Performing well at work
Once you start working in Australia, it is essential that you apply yourself to the job, develop good work habits and behave professionally. This is essential regardless if it is a casual/part-time position in a restaurant or a full-time position with a professional services firm. Below are the main habits you should aim to develop and display whilst at work in Australia:
- Be punctual and work efficiently
- Inform your supervisor if you will be late or absent from work
- Present yourself well, by having good hygiene standards and wearing clothing that is appropriate to your workplace
- Work diligently and conduct personal business on breaks or outside work
- Learn and implement the organisation’s policies, procedures and values
- Work safely and in accord with occupational health and safety regulations
- Treat colleagues and customers with respect
Communicating clearly and openly is also a good habit to develop. Australians communicate in a direct and open way in the workplace, which differs from a lot of cultures where the communication style of employees towards supervisors is more passive (they might only speak if requested, might not voice their opinions or ask questions). In the Australian workplace, staff and management will communicate openly. Disagreeing with someone’s opinion is not offensive, if you use evidence and arguments to back your case and if you provide constructive feedback to the other person.
Australian workplace culture
If you are an international student intending to work in Australia, you might find the customs and practices that Australians engage in at work quite different from your country. It is important that you familiarise yourself with the cultural practices in Australia in order for you to be competitive in finding work and in performing well once employed. Culture can be defined as the way people behave in a group. In simple terms, culture is “the way we do things here”. Cultural systems are learned and shared by individuals. They are constantly evolving. Below are some of the most common cultural characteristics of the Australian workplace.
Australians usually employ an informal style of communication in the workplace. The use of Australian expressions and slang (e.g. “mate”, “no worries”, etc) is common, as is the discussion of non-work matters (e.g. footy results, TV shows, and current affairs). A common discussion to have on Monday mornings is the result of football or cricket matches. Workers usually socialise at lunchtime, during breaks or after work. It is common at certain workplaces to have drinks on a Friday evening after work.
Having a good sense of humour is also valued in the workplace, as long as no one gets offended. However, despite the use of informal language and humour, workers should communicate in a professional manner at all times. This means expressing yourself in a clear, direct and brief manner. This is most important if you are communicating in written form. Emails are the most common way to communicate nowadays; however, it is important to remember they are still business correspondence and should be written in a business like way. The informal language used with friends or on mobile phones is usually not accepted in written communication: shortening words (e.g. “c u tomorrow”) and slang (“awesome”). The language in letters and faxes is usually more formal than emails.
Communication also involves non-verbal language. When being introduced, Australians (mainly in professional jobs) will shake hands and exchange business cards. The use of direct eye contact when speaking with others is also a characteristic non-verbal communication style in Australia.
Hierarchy and leadership style
There are generally flat hierarchical structures in the Australian workplace, which exist mainly to facilitate decision-making. Management and staff usually relate in informal ways. Workers usually talk on an equal basis with their superiors, sometimes using sense of humour or irreverence which can be seen as a sign of disrespect in other cultures. Promotions in the Australian workplace are usually based on merit and seniority rather than on other factors.
Most businesses rely on teams to get projects completed, make decisions and set goals. Being a good team member is an important skill sought by Australian employers. Workers in lower level positions (e.g. cleaners, filing clerks, delivery people) are usually treated with respect and as equals by those above them.
The Australian workplace is increasingly diverse. In most settings, you can expect a multicultural mix: more than 40% of Australians were born overseas or have a parent who was born overseas. Diversity also extends to other characteristics, such as marital status, gender, sexual preference and age. This, however, does not apply to all workplaces. There are certain industry sectors or work settings which are very homogenous.