The Antidote to Unemployment

People come from all over the world to study in Australia. According to the latest report from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, there were 628,279 international students in Australia between January to April 2020.

The international student community is strong and there is enormous potential among international students in Australia. It is important to highlight that the international student community involves not only young talent but also skilled professionals with many years of experience and very specific skills that came to Australia to advance their careers by taking further studies.

That said, the data presented in the "Historical Migration: The data behind your Australian dream article" doesn't reflect this amazing potential. In this line, there are many factors contributing to that outcome.

For example, international students should not rely heavily on immigration policy changes and the recent shift of government incentive to regional areas. It is important for students to understand their professional shortcomings in order to improve their employability. By doing that, students can feel a sense of control that can make a huge difference.

Several studies concerning employability of international students identified common barriers such as lack of local work experience, lack of confidence in language skills, insufficient professional network, as well as lack of awareness from employers in regards to working rights for overseas students. These topics are explored in detail below.

1. Lack of work experience in the local market

Newly arrived students tend to work in casual jobs within hospitality, construction, and customer service in order to pay for daily living in Australia. However, too often, they end up staying in jobs that are unrelated to their studies far too long, and when they finish their studies, they look back and have a gap of 2 or 3 years of relevant experience.

The article "The Possibilities Are Limitless: Expand Your Mind" highlight ideas about internship opportunities as well as part-time jobs. In addition, another article "The key to getting full-time employment in Australia after graduation" offers important data regarding the employability of Temporary Graduate visa holders, showing that relevant work experience while studying improves employability after graduation.

2. Lack of confidence in language skills

This is a tricky one because although in many levels confidence is important, students also need to put in the work to be able to get that confidence. Meaning, to study and practice English.

It is understandable that many students lack confidence in their speaking skills, it is a common factor. The speaking part can be the hardest to master, however, results can come more rapidly if students can develop solid skills in writing and reading. Often a student with poor speaking skills also lacks skills in both writing and reading. Improving the latter two first can be a strategy to support the development of speaking skills.

3. Insufficient professional network

Although several studies back the importance of networking, some argue it is overrated. It can be very relevant, however, it is important to consider that international students already are under a lot of pressure and if considering item two (lack of confidence in the language skills), the exposure to network building situations can have a negative impact.

Networking can be very relevant, however, there are other strategies that can improve employability.

Students can apply other strategies to compensate for the lack of networking opportunities. As an example, understanding what companies are looking for in your industry, having a great resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile as well as applying for positions that really fit your professional profile can be enough to secure a job.

4. Lack of awareness of working rights for overseas students

Simply put many employers do not understand the situation of international students in Australia, especially their working rights conditions. Many companies assume that a student visa holder cannot work or will need a sponsorship visa in the future.

This is a misconception and international students can help to lead the change by educating the companies they are applying for. For example, when going to an interview, it is important to take the relevant visa information (visa status, working rights conditions, and future visa progressions), this way the candidate can explain to the recruiter what is the present situation and future progression.

Most student visa holders are allowed to work (up to 40 hours per fortnight), which is a perfect match for a part-time job. In addition, many students will be eligible for the Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485) which allows them to work full-time after graduation, usually for 2 years, in some cases for up to 4 years. Thus, in many cases, students can work part-time during their degree and then move to a full-time job after graduation.

The antidote to unemployment among international students and skilled professionals is information and self-awareness, therefore, it is crucial for these candidates to be aware of their shortcomings and understand the barriers as highlighted in this article to be able to overcome the challenges and progress their careers in Australia.