University graduate reveals struggle to find work

By Jennifer King

Posted 9 hours 49 minutes ago

An eloquent and self-assured young woman, she graduated from Macquarie University in December last year with a double degree in environmental studies and law.

During her university course, she did numerous internships, both paid and unpaid with her longest internship being two years part-time. Some of these were paid but the majority were not. One internship was with the International Energy Conservation Environmental Protection Association (IEEPA). Ms O’Brien spent a month working with the group in their Beijing offices and paid her own way.

Despite her dedication, she was not able to secure a position with the organisation and explains it is due to limited budgets of non-government organisations (NGOs).”Quite often the organisations don’t have much funding,” she said. “There is a lot of work available, but it has to be done by volunteers.”

The primary reason she is given for not being successful in her job applications is her lack of experience. “They usually tell me I don’t have enough paid experience, but I can’t get experience if no-one will give me a job,” she said. “In fact, quite often what they say just doesn’t make sense and sounds like an excuse.” She has also been told she is “too specialised in environmental law” making her unsuccessful for other law positions. 

A lot of the time, if she receives an acknowledgement at all, it is an automated response thanking her for her application and explaining she has been unsuccessful. “In my experience of applying for jobs, a lot of factors stack up against you,” she said. A friend working in human resources told her that a lot of email applications are thrown out without being read.

“If you send in a cover letter by email, they do a word check and if you haven’t used the words they want to see, they automatically throw your letter away,” Ms O’Brien said. Another factor is the source of the job advertisement with popular employment websites less desirable among employers.

“The Centrelink job workshop told us to look at job websites with less traffic,” she said. In her experience, the best organisations for providing feedback are government bodies. “The Murray Darling Basin Authority was great,” Ms O’Brien said.”A lady called me and went through each of my answers with me and provided really good feedback.” None however have called to offer her a position and until then, Ms O’Brien will continue to apply for graduate positions for 2015.

She has also done further study and is planning to return to China to teach English while building her own Chinese language skills.

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