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Searching for jobs as an Indigenous student

Planning your search and exploring options will increase your chances of landing your dream job.

The more effort you put into seeking work, the greater your chance of success. Along with your studies, take advantage of resources and opportunities to learn about the job market and employers. Being aware of the skills employers are looking for and the organisations you might want to join will put you well ahead of the game when it comes to finding a job.

Where do I start?

Start by becoming an industry expert. Developing knowledge about a sector and any employers you might want to work for will help improve your applications, interview performance and career choices. 

Begin building your business know-how by doing some research: 

  • Learn about recent history and future directions of the industry or business.
  • Identify the major players (companies, organisations) in the market and understand how they compare and differ.
  • Unearth common recruitment practices; for example, do employers only recruit new graduates at a certain time of the year or is it a year-round process?
  • Research the company culture and working environment. Does it suit you?
  • Look at job growth; for example, how an industry is expected to grow or change in the future.

Once you have narrowed your focus to sections of the market that match your background, the next step is learning about potential employers. 

Don’t just rely on websites and generic information. Gain insight by contacting and building relationships with employers, recruiters or people who work in the sector. 

Along with big name employers (many of whom offer focused graduate programs), don’t forget about other options, including small and medium-sized companies, not-for-profits, the public sector, and universities and other education providers.

Here are some questions to help you narrow down the list and better prepare:

  • How do employers usually recruit in the sector?
  • Where are the jobs located? Does the role require interstate relocation?
  • Where and when do they advertise and recruit?
  • How does the recruitment process work?

Be realistic and flexible

Even though you may have a specific job or employer in mind, try and be open to other opportunities. A role might not immediately match your dream list, but it could help you build the skills and experience needed to land your dream role in the future. And remember, many Australian graduates take a number of months to secure full-time employment. 

Most students will need to put in a number of well researched and tailored applications before receiving a job offer. If you are turned down for a position, remember this is an inevitable part of getting started in a career. When this happens, dust yourself off and consider what you could do better next time and whether you need to take a different approach.

Image source: Aurora Project


What are graduate programs? 

Most major employers – and many smaller employers – offer formal graduate programs that include a structured training environment, mentoring, exposure to different business areas, and a chance to develop friendships and professional relationships with a wide range of people. 

These positions can be found across Australia and overseas with a wide range of organisations, from large multinationals and Australian banks, to smaller IT companies. They are also found across all avenues of the public service sector. 

In response to a government initiative to create more jobs for Indigenous Australians, many public service organisations have increased their opportunities and are actively pursuing new graduates. These include the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Defence, the Australian Taxation Office and the Department of Human Services.

Whether based in public or private settings, graduate programs are generally open to final year students and, in some cases, recent graduates. Applications open as early as the start of your final year. Some employers consider applications as they come in while others have clearly structured processes and deadlines. If you aren’t successful the first time round, some employers allow you to reapply again the following year.

Some graduate programs are closely linked with undertaking an internship or vacation program, so if you have your sights on a highly competitive sector or working for a high profile employer, be prepared to start your strategy early in your university years.

Job search strategies

Balance your search with both reactive activities and proactive strategies. If you only base your job hunt on checking job websites and responding to published advertisements, you might be missing out on a wide range of opportunities that aren’t publicly advertised. Taking proactive steps, including networking and speculative applications, will widen your scope for finding a suitable role.

Tips for smart job hunting: 

  • Use your university careers centre to look for vacancies and opportunities.
  • Take every opportunity to meet employers at campus events, including career events, employer presentations, forums and fairs.
  • Bookmark your favourite vacancy and employer websites and check them regularly for updates.
  • Consider temporary, contract and part-time work as a way to enter an organisation or as a stepping-stone to more permanent employment. Don’t forget about universities. Many graduates have developed successful careers in tertiary administration and research, sometimes by starting in an administrative support role or working casually while studying. Visit timeshighereducation.com to find, compare and apply for university jobs throughout Australia.
  • Read local, regional and national press that cover locations where you’d like to work. Switch up which editions you read; arts jobs might be advertised in the arts section or weekend edition, whereas information technology or higher education jobs might be advertised on other days.
  • Stay on top of industry and sector-related media – including journals, websites and newsletters – for information on opportunities, the state of the industry and insight into organisations.
  • Join a professional organisation in your target sector; they often have special rates for students and offer a range of activities, from mentoring to networking events.
  • Visit indigcareers.com.au, an Indigenous owned, staffed and operated careers site, designed to connect Indigenous candidates with potential employers.