Raghuvir Dass successfully completed a PhD but was struggling to get interviews with employers. Find out how he went from rejected applications to securing a rewarding new role.
My name is Raghuvir Dass (Raghu) and I’m a 2022 PhD graduate from the University of Auckland where I studied the news coverage of terrorism. My interest in media representations of reality began with a career in advertising, and grew while studying for a master’s degree in communications management and public relations.
My master’s thesis focused on ISIS propaganda in western news media and its impact on audiences; and while my friends celebrated their thesis submissions at the end of our studies, I wanted to keep going, there was just so much more to do. This led me to the University of Auckland, and the PhD work that kept me occupied for the past few years. I was fortunate to be fully funded by a University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship.
What did you think you wanted to do for work at the end of the degree? How did this change over the study years?
I wanted to keep my options open after my PhD research. When I started my work I quickly realised that I was acquiring a broad range of skills apart from specialist knowledge in my chosen subject area. From quantitative and qualitative research skills, database management, organising my own learning, and time management, to so much more. I sometimes thought of myself like a treasure hunter, painstakingly sifting through mountains of information to find gold, the patterns that would reveal, confirm, or deny some fascinating aspect of the world.
Success is incredibly rewarding, but the process came with horrible lows, months spent fumbling in the dark feeling completely lost where the pressure just built up and I wondered if I was going to actually find anything useful to say. A PhD is a multi-year long process, and it teaches you patience and persistence to stick through the lows and work your way to the highs. These are traits and skills that are useful to so many jobs, and I didn’t want to limit myself when I was done.
When or how did you hear about the CDES team and service? What led you to seeking help from the CDES team?
My first several job applications were rejected by employers. Then my next several job applications were rejected too. I was obviously doing something wrong. I had heard about CDES some years ago and reached out to them when I realised I couldn’t do it on my own and needed help. It was one of the best decisions I made, and something I wish I had done a lot sooner; much time and effort could have been saved in applying for jobs.
I had heard about CDES some years ago and reached out to them when I realised I couldn’t do it on my own and needed help. It was one of the best decisions I made, and something I wish I had done a lot sooner; much time and effort could have been saved in applying for jobs.
Who at CDES did you see and how did they help support you? What events did you attend and how beneficial were they?
I was very lucky to interact almost exclusively with Liudmyla (CDES careers consultant). Job searching and applying feels like a degree subject all of its own and Liudmyla was a big help in teaching me how to do it. She has a wealth of knowledge about the NZ job market, what employers are looking for, the art of writing cover letters and CVs, and tailored that knowledge to my context. She was generous with her time, and really supported me over the entire process, from the first workshop I attended to the final interview.
I attended several workshops on how to write cover letters and CVs in general, and specifically for New Zealand, as well as insights into the NZ job market, and the way NZ employers think and how they shortlist and choose candidates. She taught me how to present myself in ways that employers would see as relevant and approachable.
What was the outcome of that help from CDES?
I am now working as a scholarships adviser for the University of Auckland, evaluating student funding applications and providing information and advice on scholarship eligibility criteria to students and faculties. It feels particularly rewarding allocating vital resources to where they need to go, knowing that I was once a beneficiary of a similar allocation. I can say with absolute confidence that I would not have this job without the critical advice and guidance I received. The help I received was really above and beyond and is the standard I now try and emulate in my own work.
You don’t know what you don’t know, and sometimes you don’t know the skills and talents that can come alive in the right environment and context. So if you’re uncertain about how to make your degree work for you, or if things don’t seem to be going your way, have faith in yourself, and don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
What was the process like to apply for your current role? Was it easy or daunting? Did you feel well-prepared?
I felt well equipped with the lessons I learnt from the CDES workshops and my in person sessions with Liudmyla. I used that knowledge to shape my application for my present role. The process felt exciting because there was a feeling of progress and positive change. I did feel well prepared, and well supported. Liudmyla was giving of her time and knowledge, and provided much needed advice before my final application submission and interviews.
Any words of encouragement and advice for students unsure about what to do with their degree or unsure how to find a job?
Degrees aren’t just about subject knowledge, it’s about learning how to think, among numerous other generalisable skills. Sometimes when you’re in the middle of your degree it can be hard to see how and where you can contribute, but make no mistake, you can and will find something that brings you excitement and satisfaction.
You don’t know what you don’t know, and sometimes you don’t know the skills and talents that can come alive in the right environment and context. So if you’re uncertain about how to make your degree work for you, or if things don’t seem to be going your way, have faith in yourself, and don’t hesitate to reach out for help. A different perspective on your situation could make all the difference to how you deal with it. I would definitely count CDES among your different support networks, it’s a really useful resource at the University of Auckland.