Transitioning into the workplace

Over the last 3 months we have had an intern working with us who is an international student. We were contacted by her as she is studying at one of Melbourne’s top universities doing a Masters in International Business. She was keen to broaden her knowledge and gain experience in the cross-cultural field having completed a unit on cross cultural management. She will soon complete her studies and that led us to discuss her next steps and how she would approach attaining employment in the Australian workforce which is what she plans to do. We asked her if she had been given any type of education as part of her studies that would assist her in transitioning into the workplace. I wondered what efforts were being made by universities, who greatly rely on foreign students for their revenue, to enable a smooth transition into work. From what we could find there is a limited amount on offer. Following that conversation with our intern, I shared with her some points that I felt would help guide her transition to the workforce in Australia.

These were:

1) National Cultural differences – Identify the cultural differences between the country of work and country of nationality to appreciate similarities and differences and to avoid uncomfortable situations and misunderstandings.

2) Understand the culture of the organisation and its practices. Be proactive in networking within the organisation and identify people whose work is inspiring and interesting to you.

3) Workplace etiquette – Be mindful of the business etiquette such as being on time, dress sense, meetings, phone manner and email.

4) Mindset – Demonstrate that the attitude you bring to your work is one of purpose, contribution and learning.

5) Step up and into your role- new staff bring fresh eyes and new perspective that can assist the organisation in growth, change and innovation. Be willing to share your observations.

Sharing these points reminded me of my own experience transitioning from being a student into the workforce in Australia and how fortunate I was to work with some inspiring and capable managers. Being proactive and prepared for transitions such as these is critical given the level of competition and the nature of the global business scene. This was our first experience having an intern work with us. On the whole, it has been a positive experience to be part of the journey of this motivated young lady and we are grateful to her for helping us with research and administration. We wish her well going forward and every success in navigating the transition into a workplace within a culture that is not her own.

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