Why the Phrase ‘It’s Who You Know’ is Vital for International Students

By Esita Sogotubu

‘It’s who you know’, that’s what they say, right? This is particularly true for international students, and was the focus of an event by the same name held in August 2018. The event gave international students the opportunity to network with former international students who now work in Sydney after they graduated.

This was the first time (as far as I know) that we have had such an event, specifically for international students with international alumni at UTS. It was a dream come true for me, as a former international student, to work at a university that enabled my team and I, to provide another opportunity for international students to network and gain knowledge relevant to them.

Why?

Not only is networking one of the main job search strategies in general, but for an international student it is essential to adapting to Australia. Since we have left our networks behind, we need to establish new relationships with friends, classmates, colleagues and – for most – having to go without family nearby.

If you have a realistic view of workplace culture in Australia, your potential to find an internship or role after graduation increases. According to the AAGE Graduate Survey, “cultural fit” was the highest rated skill to employers in 2015-2017, and is still number 2 in 2018. Therefore, for international students, networking needs to start as soon as you’re approved to come to Australia. But don’t worry, it’s never too late to get started.

Take note of a couple of myths on networking:

  • “High marks will get me a job”: In Australia, and according to the AAGE surveys, your uni grades is only one of the main criteria they’re searching for. What they are looking for is a well-rounded graduate who fits into the culture of their organisation.
  • “Networking is an event”: Networking for me, means connections. Therefore, whatever you’re doing to connect with people – whether in class, at work, or at an event – is networking, where you’re learning from them just as they’re learning from you.

Define

To get started, map your network and figure out where your knowledge and experience gaps are to determine who you should connect with to help fill that gap.

Ensure that you have specific goals for attending a networking event. For this particular event, the goals I hoped the attendees would have had were:

  • To practice networking with other international students and alumni;
  • Know the specific information they were looking for, whether with someone from their country or their course;
  • To ask what the alumni did to keep their hope when times were tough;
  • To ask how they managed the visa process after graduation and how this affected their job search.

Refine

Start connecting with as many people as possible is the usual advice. I would suggest, that you still have a purpose for connecting with someone, not just so a goal to know the most people in your group of friends. The more people you connect with the better you will become at judging and knowing how deep the relationship needs to be. By this, I mean that there are those who you will need to nurture and maintain the relationship while others will happen organically because your paths are intertwined by the work you do or your studies or other groups you belong to.

For the ‘It’s Who You Know’ event, we heard from Darrell Bagang, an international student doing his Practical Legal Training at the Redfern Legal Centre to complete his Juris Doctor. Darrell spoke about the importance of getting involved as much as possible in uni life to gain knowledge and experience, as well contribute to improving your opportunities to find work experience or a role when you graduate.

Practice, practice and keep practicing

I’ve had international students ask me how I’ve managed to build my networks and it’s because I kept at it and I am still at it. For me it’s not about looking for work or adapting to Australia, but it’s about maintaining and growing my industry knowledge, experiences and relationships which is essential to the work that I do as a career development practitioner.


Esita Sogotubu is an experienced career development practitioner with 10 years of service at UTS Careers. She has worked in hospitality and was a newspaper reporter in another life. As an Employability Manager she is a great believer of self-awareness being key to personal and professional development and success. Her work in the Career Programs Team has included the Accomplish Award and Univative. She has a particular interest and passion for international students, as she was one herself.


 

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash 

Author: Guest Contributor

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