Looking for your next job? Think career. Think long-term.

Having worked at the intersection of education and corporate for the last few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in many initiatives that help students successfully transition from education to meaningful employment. However, there remains plenty of work to be done in this space.

Research shows it’s significantly harder for young people to bridge the gap between learning and earning. For example, The Foundation for Young Australians found young people are taking 2.6 years to find full-time work after completing their full-time studies. And, almost a third of young people are underemployed or unemployed. But it’s not all bad news. I’m convinced that, while the modern job market is highly competitive, there are still more opportunities for young people than there ever has been. It’s just that, for many, they are opportunities they’ll need to create or build for themselves.

My advice to students is think long-term. Start career planning in your first year. No longer in your first year? Start now – it is never too late to get started, but getting in earlier will put you ahead of the curve. Take advantage of the many events that are out there for students (many of them available within your institution), to build relationships and learn about the industry in which you want to work, and someday soon you’ll be well placed to secure that coveted internship or graduate role.

The importance of networking for students simply can’t be overstated. How will you build your network within your chosen field? What should that network look like? Who are some of the key people that it should include? If you’re unsure or still trying to find your industry/passion, then try a few different things that interest you to inform your thinking. And, while you’re at it, don’t get caught in the trap of only networking for your current ambitions and goals. Your network should serve you for life. Meaningful connections will turn into meaningful relationships, and although this process takes time, it’s all the more valuable as a result. You never know when a connection you make today will help you in five months, five years, or perhaps even five decades.

I first connected with the recruitment consultant that assisted me in securing my current role at MYOB before I’d left my previous job. We’d hundreds of mutual connections on LinkedIn, so I sent her an invitation to connect with the simple thought that the relationship could prove useful in future. We exchanged messages at that time and agreed to stay in touch. Five months later, I was looking for a new challenge and thankfully she had the right opportunity for me then and there. If I’d not connected with this person all those months ago and fostered a relationship, I might not be working for MYOB now.

The same thinking should apply for employment events. While some students may be in the habit of taking their CV along to careers fairs and the like, I’d counsel against it. In my experience, it’s highly unlikely a job offer would ever be made on the spot. Most employers aren’t looking for a stack of paperwork to process, they’re looking to gauge the talent coming down the line and to make note of any individuals that show a real interest in what they do. For this reason, I recommend meeting with the companies you want to work for or to know more about. Work at building connections within those organisations in such a way that will allow you to build on the relationship after the event. Find out as much as you can about them to make certain there’s a fit for you. And, of course, expect this process to take time and potentially many interactions before bearing fruit.

During my time at MYOB I’ve developed long-term relationships with several students, through many interactions. I know students who’ve competed in the MYOB IT Challenge more than once (in some cases, in every year they have studied!). In particular, two students competed four years in a row and they demonstrated their hunger and aptitude so well that I was more than happy to be a referee for the jobs they later secured upon completion of their studies. Although neither had worked for me, they dedicated themselves to building our relationship and I’d seen them compete enough times to give me full confidence in staking my reputation on their success. Another example is a student who came to our office for three years in a row as part of a workshop MYOB runs in partnership with the Women in Computer Science club from the University of Auckland. She became familiar to us and with us long before she even applied for a graduate role. She invested hours of time over a few years in getting to know our business, meeting new and different people each time she visited us. She became part of the MYOB family throughout her university career, and so her career has led her to work with us today.

It’s a noisy, competitive world. But there are also plenty of opportunities out there, so start working on making your own voice heard today. It may not result in landing your dream job immediately, but it will put you in fine stead to secure it in the future.


Shailan Patel
Education Manager NZ, MYOB