Law and Arts student Aria Toilolo-Ite tells us about her journey towards her dream career.
My name is Aria Toilolo-Ite. I come from the villages of Lalomālava and Iva in Savai’i Samoa. I am currently studying a Bachelor of Law and Arts (majoring in History and Politics).
I had my eye on law ever since I was in college. My interest was piqued after I was fortunate to have come in contact with a family lawyer and was able to witness first-hand the positive impact her work had on people’s lives.
During college and my early years of uni, I started off in a number of customer-facing roles as a library assistant at a public library and a team member at a retail store. I also volunteer at the Citizens Advice Bureau helping clients with their problems and informing them of their rights. Last year, I was lucky to land a part-time role at Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children as a Client Support Specialist, where I gained insight into how government agencies work and operate. I also tutor Māori and Pacific students studying History as part of the Tuākana Arts programme. These experiences overall have helped prepare me for a service-focused career that will enable me to help others.
I had made it my goal at the start of the year to secure an internship. So, when I saw CDES advertising their Get Recruitment Ready series, I knew I needed to attend them if I wanted to reach my goal.
This was honestly the best thing I could have done. I not only got to know more about the different industries and sectors I was interested in and their recruitment processes, I also learnt more about the CDES team and their services.
They [the CDES team] were incredibly helpful and they genuinely want students to succeed - I am sure I would not have been able to land the roles I got without them.
Not gonna lie, the internship application process was brutal especially when trying to stay on top of school and work. Researching the companies and crafting your CV and cover letter accordingly takes a lot of time, and this is before having to go through the lengthy application process for each internship.
I attended CV workshops held in the law school, got CV and cover letter advice from the amazing CDES team, and jumped online to CDES’s Māori and Pacific careers talks to get an insight into the relevant industries.
I worked with Pepe Afeaki who helped me prepare for my final interviews at the law firms and provided me with useful resources. Pepe was incredibly warm and welcoming, I was immediately put at ease and wasn’t afraid to share with her my anxieties about the interview process and ask questions.
The most eye-opening advice Pepe gave me is the importance of speaking to all your experiences, including the personal ones - not just the experiences on your CV. For example, being the eldest of your siblings can demonstrate leadership and responsibility, being active in church demonstrates your values, teaching your cousins that cultural dance for your aunt’s wedding can show communication skills and management. All of these experiences accumulate into shaping the person you are, your values, and ultimately, your ‘why’, which is really important to highlight. These little nuggets of wisdom gave me the confidence to smash out my interviews, and it's thanks to Pepe’s help and guidance.
Overall, there was a ton of help and support at my disposal during the process. As a result, I gained a lot of communication practise and confidence in myself so that by the time I made it to the final interview stages I was prepared.
I applied to ten companies and agencies in both the public and private sector, went onto the next stages for five of them, ultimately landing final interviews for three places out of the ten I applied to. I’m so glad I did this because it kept my options open and increased the chances of me landing at least one role. So, my biggest advice is don’t let the fear of rejection or self-doubt stop you - go for every single opportunity that presents itself. Back yourself and know you’ve got what it takes to be successful in whatever path you choose. Clearly, the process for me was absolutely worth it.
I was fortunate to have received clerkship offers from two major law firms, Bell Gully and Dentons Kensington Swan. I’m looking forward to starting my summer clerkship at Bell Gully.
Show up for yourself.
By this I mean being proactive about your future including seeking out careers advice whether it be from a careers advisor, lecturer, or the amazing CDES team, attending networking events, career/industry talks, CV workshops etc. Go for all the roles and opportunities that interest you no matter how unqualified or inexperienced you may feel. Be okay with letting others reject you because rejection in life is inevitable, but absolutely do not self-reject and hold yourself back from opportunities that otherwise may be the perfect fit for you.
Also, pursue extracurricular activities that you enjoy and enhance your quality of life - not just for the sake of bulking up your CV. Volunteer, learn a new language, play a social sport - the options are endless. This will enable you to meet new people (and network) whilst learning new skills that will be valuable and help you stand out when applying for work.
If you're interested in career opportunities and activities we have available to support our Pacific students, please get in touch with our Careers and Employability consultant for Pacific students, Sela Pole-Fehoko.