Finding Your First Job in Australia - Observations From a Local

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Recently I’ve started attending some events that attract a lot of job seekers. As I’ve talked to people, I’ve noticed a lot of similarities in their struggles, but I’ve also noticed the actions most people are taking aren’t helping them to find a role.

For those in my network who think my examples in this article are based on them personally, they’re not; everything in this article is based on my observations of numerous people and I do not use any examples that are specific to one person.

Many parts of this article will focus on things that should not be done, or that do not help to find a job. Where possible I will suggest some actions that may help, but I am not an expert at how to get a job; I am quite good at recognising how not to get a job though.

# The resume machine gun

I’m going to start with the resume machine gun as it is the action that takes the most effort and has the biggest negative impact on a job search.

I’ve talked to people who have sent out hundreds or even thousands of resumes and got no response. When I first heard this, I thought there must be some bias in the recruiting process (there is, but I get to that later), but in this case that isn’t the issue. The issue is that these people are applying for anything and everything. I could easily send out 100 resumes in a day; and I can guarantee that I won’t get a single response because I’ve used a generic resume, I haven’t included a cover letter and I’ve made no effort to show that I actually want the job I’m applying for.

Before applying for a job there are a number of steps I go through. The first is to assess if I would actually want the job and would stay in the role for at least 18 months. If I get past this decision, I contact the recruiter/hiring manager to request a job description (also known as a position description). I use this opportunity to talk to the recruiter and find out what the most important skills are for the role and to tell them a little about me in the context of their answers.

Once the recruiter or hiring manager has sent through the job description, I customise my resume for the particular role; this involves updating my professional summary, key skills and highlighting the most important items in my recent roles. I then write a cover letter for the specific role; the aim of the cover letter is to provide a summary of my suitability for the role and to save the recruiter from having to extract the information from my resume. The process of updating my resume and writing a cover letter can take several hours.

# Networking with other job seekers

Another activity I’ve seen many job seekers undertake is networking; unfortunately, many of their efforts will work well in the long term, but in the short term they can use a lot of energy for minimal return.

In Australia, networking is extremely important, but many networking opportunities exist, and it is important to focus on the correct ones. As well as attending events with fellow job seekers and providing support for each other, it is important to create networks with people who can help you achieve your aims, in this case getting a job.

When building a network, it’s important to find people who can get you in contact with hiring managers, are aware of roles before they are advertised and even with the people who make hiring decisions. To do this, connect with people in the industry and in organisations that are expanding their workforce.

This brings me on to my next item.

# All take and no give

A number of people who have connected with me on LinkedIn use the network for one sided transactions. When networking, it is important to ensure you give as well as take. The people who are actively helping others to find roles invest a significant amount of time in this task; the only return they get is the satisfaction that they may have played a part in you finding a job.

If you connect with a person and immediately state that you’re looking for work and need some help most people will not be responsive and will be unlikely to help. To increase the value of your network you need to ensure you have productive interactions on posts and articles, you should post content and when you private message someone make sure it’s a useful private message.

Delving deeper into this, productive interactions are more than just saying “I agree” or tapping the “like” button; instead of this, try asking a question, letting the poster know what your key takeaway was from the post or telling them your opinion. Actions like this can help to start a conversation, demonstrate your knowledge or show that you’re actively learning.

Posting on LinkedIn brings a large number of benefits when networking. One of the most obvious ones is that it keeps your name in front of your network; they’re reminded that you exist and also about your interests and knowledge. Sharing links can be a simple way to keep popping up in your network’s feed; but like with commenting on articles and posts, make sure you add a meaningful comment with the shared item. When writing posts and articles, try to make the content beneficial to others, post about things that interest you, that you’ve learnt, or that you find challenging; use your posts and articles to try to generate a conversation.

When messaging someone you need to give them a reason to respond. If you send them a “hello”, it is unlikely to generate a response, a message such as “hi, how are you?” may generate a response, but doesn’t start a conversation. Personally, I’m not adept at starting conversations, so I won’t offer much advice here, but look at the people who have messaged you and take not of what they’ve done to get a conversation started.

# Not adapting to local norms

It’s important to remember that you’re looking for work in a new country, the culture here is different. Depending where you come from you may find the culture is significantly different to where you’ve come from.

Australian’s are quite informal; if you refer to me as “Mr Lambert”, “Mr Michael”, “Sir” or similar titles it will seem different to what I am used to, as much as I try to ignore it, it can trigger an unconscious bias in me that will make it harder to connect to me. In Australia we use people’s first names, just call me “Michael”.

The lack of formality extends beyond just greetings. For those who have met me, you’ll have noticed I swear from time to time (and yes, I’m like this in an office environment as well). It isn’t that I’m trying to be rude, or that I’m trying to shock or offend you, it’s just that the stigma associated with some words has dissipated in Australia. There’s no need for you to take up swearing, but don’t be shocked when you hear it.

It’s also important to note that the informality extends beyond the spoken word and into writing. If communications are written too formally it can be seen in a negative light. In Australia we tend to write like we speak, although we are slightly more formal.

The final item I’ll raise in this section is subservience. Culturally it is expected that people will question decisions if they believe the decision is wrong or a mistake has been made. Although tact must be used, and a subordinate must be willing to accept a decision, in many (if not most) situations it is encouraged to question a decision if there is a reason to do so.

# Liking and commenting on LinkedIn job posts

Something I find confusing about the use of LinkedIn by people from some cultures is that they will “like” a post, or simply comment “interested”. Having talked to recruiters, this is rarely followed up by any other communication. It appears that these actions are performed with the idea that a recruiter or hiring manager will see the notification and then review your profile or reach out to ask for further information. Apart from recruiters not doing this, many times the person interacting with the post has a minimal profile and a recruiter or hiring manager would not be able to make any sort of decision based on the profile.

There are several factors to be aware of when interacting publicly with LinkedIn posts. The first is that the interaction will cause the post to be shared with your network; in many cases (due to the tendency for job seekers to network with each other as outlined before) this can be a negative as you’re advertising the role to many other people who are competing with you. To increase your chances of getting a role you want to limit your competition; interact publicly with the post only if you aren’t seriously applying for the role.

The other factor to consider is that recruiters are busy and will get many applications for a job that conform to their expectations. If you’re serious about a role then liking the post or commenting “interested” tells them nothing about why they should consider you for the role. If you really want to get their attention, then you will need to reach out to them in a private message or even call them; once you do this then follow the advice I provided above in the “resume machine gun” section.

# Not attending relevant events

Through my interactions with a large number of job seekers I’m surprised by the number of people who are not aware of Meetup or the value provided by many of the events advertised on there. As well as Meetup there are other event portals such as EventBrite and the newly created LinkedIn Events.

I’ve attended hundreds of events that are organised through these sites, many of the meetups that are specific to a technology will have a period during the meetup for people to announce any vacancies. If a role that interests you is announced, then approach the person during one of the breaks and enquire about the role; you don’t need to tell them you’re looking for work, that’s obvious, but find out more about the role, assess if you’re capable of it, and if you’re wanting to apply for the role ask how to do that or who to talk to for more information about the role.

The sites I mentioned for finding events are:

# The wrong skillset

Recently I’ve noticed a lot of people who are looking for roles that barely exist in Australia. Many of these people have come from countries where Australia will outsource these tasks to.

As an example, take the “manual tester”. The cost of labour within Australia means that this role is not viable, where manual testing is required it is usually outsourced to a country with cheaper labour. It doesn’t matter how good an individual is at this role, there are very few opportunities within Australia, if you wanted to continue this career path then coming to Australia was not a good choice.

Now that you’re here, and assuming you don’t want to leave, you’ll have to upskill. Continuing with the tester example, it would make sense to learn some test automation (this skill is in much more demand), or possibly even learn some coding, business analysis or customer experience skills. Learning these skills AND having the experience as a manual tester will make your skillset more desirable than someone who doesn’t have the manual testing experience.

# Other things that will help

As well as all the above points it is important not to lose hope. Many people who have lived in Australia for their entire life struggle to find work. If you keep trying, listen to advice from those in your field and network with the right people you will eventually start getting some interviews and ultimately a job. While you’re waiting for the right role, be prepared to take on an unskilled role to keep the income flowing.

It’s also worth looking at a number of paid services that can help with your job search. As someone who works in IT, I am aware of people who offer specialist services. Maybe consider a personal branding expert like Johnathan Maltby if you need help customising your resume, LinkedIn profile or aligning your job search; if you struggle with speaking to people then talk to Emily Edgely who specialises in public speaking for people in the tech industry.

It is also important to understand how recruiters in Australia are paid; most of them are on a commission that is based on the salary you receive in your first year on the job. You can be open with them about the minimum amount you will work for; they will always try to get you the highest possible salary. You can also talk to them to ask for advice about applying for a specific role they are offering; don’t ask them for general advice, remember they’re paid by the job you get through them.

# Letting the conversation die

My final point is about what to do after you get a job. Don’t forget about your network; it won’t be long before you need them again. Stay active on LinkedIn, keep attending events, help those that are still looking for work.