How to build your employability

By UQ student Ocean Cheung

Students entering BEL Student Employability Team office
"Employability is more than a buzzword: it is the capabilities, skills and personal attributes that make you attractive to an employer, so that you can successfully navigate the recruitment process and be effective in your job.” — Unlocking Your Employability, UQx

I had no idea what I wanted to do when I first started uni two years ago. But with inspiration and assistance from The University of Queensland’s (UQ) Faculty of Business, Economics and Law (BEL), I have been provided with many opportunities to identify my career goals, understand employers’ expectations, build industry knowledge and gain experience throughout my university journey. 

In this article, I want to share with you some of the employability initiatives that you can take part in. 

Ocean Cheung with Australian investor and entrepreneur Steve Baxter

Ocean Cheung with Australian investor and entrepreneur Steve Baxter at a BEL Student Employability Team event.

Ocean Cheung with Australian investor and entrepreneur Steve Baxter at a BEL Student Employability Team event.

First year, Semester 1 — start exploring

Take part in Career Pathways sessions
Career Pathways is a series of workshops designed to give early-year business, economics and law students the chance to hear from recent graduates and learn about their current role and their transition from university to full-time employment.

Have a chat with an Employability Specialist
The BEL Student Employability Team is dedicated to helping business, economics and law students develop the skills, experience and knowledge to become sought-after employees. Book a consultation with them today to get personalised career advice!

Participate in employability programs and events
From writing a CV to finding casual jobs, BEL Employability Specialists run a range of workshops to equip you with the skills and attributes to be work-ready. Check out the programs and events available.

Join a professional student association
This is a great way to build industry knowledge, connect with professionals and expand your social and professional network. UQ Union associations are run by current students and supported by the industry. I was personally involved in the Marketing and Advertising Society in my first year of uni – you may like to consider joining one of the following:

Meet international friends
For international students, Business Global Mates provides you with the opportunity to experience Australian culture and meet new friends through peer-based mentoring, social activities and regular catch-ups.

An Employability Specialist speaking with students

First year, Semester 2 — get your hands dirty

Participate in the Student Work Experience Program
The Student Work Experience Program (SWEP) allows early to mid-degree students to participate in a competitive recruitment and selection process, similar to those used by large organisations. The valuable knowledge, experience and feedback you gain will give you a real advantage when entering the job market as an intern or graduate candidate. SWEP is ideally aimed at students who have little or no relevant industry work experience, to provide you with a helping hand to get on the first rung of your career ladder.

Volunteer at UQ or a non-profit organisation
Volunteering is an ideal way to build your skills and extend your professional and personal network while contributing to a worthy cause. UQ offers amazing volunteer programs such as SEC Student Leaders, UQ Mates Leaders and Jump Start Academic Preparation Program. Check out available volunteer opportunities or come along to the next UQ Volunteer Expo. You can also read my blog about how volunteering experience helped me to land my first professional job in Australia. 

Join an executive committee of a club or society
Taking on a leadership role in a club or society will allow you to share ideas and information with like-minded students and enhance your leadership and management skills. UQ has more than 220 affiliated clubs and societies that you can get involved in.

Be a Business School Student Program Committee member
The UQ Business School Student Program Committee aims to enhance collaboration with students by appointing one committee per Business School degree.

Join an industry association
Most industry associations offer discounted student membership (around A$40). Please check out Australian Human Resources Institute, Australian Marketing Institute, Australian Property Institute, Economic Society of Australia and Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. I would also encourage you to go to their networking events and connect with industry professionals. Here are some lessons that I have learnt from attending networking events.

Participate in an entrepreneurship program
If you want to build a startup or develop your entrepreneurial skill set, check out UQ Ventures. They offer a range of pre-incubator programs, startup adventures and accelerator programs to support your entrepreneurial journey. Their programs are open to UQ students from all faculties and levels of study; you can definitely start engaging with them from your first year of uni.  

UQ Business Association

Semester break — use your time wisely

Consider research opportunities
Summer and Winter Research Programs enable you to gain research experience and work with some of the University’s leading academics and researchers. 

Participate in a short-term experience
Short-term experiences let you study a course during summer or winter breaks so you can travel and gain credit for a course at the same time. 

Become an intern
Interning is a great way to gain work experience and build your resume. You can view internship opportunities here or consider applying for the Student Work Experience Program, where students who successfully pass the program will be considered for an unpaid work experience placement. 

A person holding a globe in their hand

Second year — build your competitive advantages

Gain consulting experience while giving back to the community
The Community Engagement Program provides you with the opportunity to work in a team of students as consultants on a real business project for a leading non-profit organisation.

Participate in the Management Consultancy Bootcamp
The Management Consultancy Bootcamp gives you insight into what it’s like to work as a management consultant and provides you with an exclusive opportunity to network with recruiters from top-tier firms. If you are interested in asset management, you can join the Student Managed Investment Fund. You can also check out management consultancy competitions run by EY, KPMG, Deloitte and PwC

Become a peer mentor
UQ offers a number of mentoring programs that provide valuable leadership opportunities throughout every stage of your degree. 

Apply for a UQ Employability Grant
The UQ Employability Grant offers financial support of up to $1000 to subsidise your involvement in activities that will enrich your academic and career development.

Engage with UQ as a student partner
UQ Student-Staff Partnerships offer paid opportunities for students to collaborate with staff to design, deliver and enhance the UQ student experience. 

Learn while travelling
With over 180 exchange partners in 38 countries, student exchange allows you to spend a semester overseas and is a great way to enhance your employability while you enjoy the experience of a lifetime.

Peers and colleagues collaborating
Peers and colleagues collaborating
Plane travelling through the sky

Third year — accelerate your success

Learn from a mentor
The BEL Career Mentoring Program connects you with your own personal industry mentor so you can broaden your career opportunities and personal networks for advancement.

Undertake a business industry placement
A Business Industry Placement can allow you to gain course credit while you participate in a Work Integrated Learning placement – essentially, you get credit for completing work experience.

Showcase your achievements
The Employability Award program encourages you to participate in extra-curricular activities and recognises the personal and professional development you gain from participating in activities that go above and beyond your academic studies.

People sitting around a laptop and a business plan

As you can see, there are plenty of employability initiatives available to you. But what should you do next? Book a consultation with a BEL Employability Specialist to discuss which options are best for you — the sooner the better! 

About the author

Ocean Cheung is a learner, marketer, startup enthusiast and international education supporter. He is also the recipient of the Multicultural Queensland Outstanding Young Achiever Award 2019.

Aside from pursuing a Bachelor of Business Management at UQ, he is the co-founder of Startup Interns, where he connects international students to Queensland’s tech startups to accelerate students’ employability and entrepreneurial mindset.

He believes in the idea of “learning by doing” and that in startups, “execution is everything”.

Ocean Cheung

Ocean Cheung

Ocean Cheung