From PE student to employed: a student's journey

04/10/19

Cassie Zhou graduated from PE just over 2 years ago, and her professional life has grown in leaps and bounds.

Having proven her technical proficiency, and demonstrated skills that helped her to stand out from the crowd, Cassie was offered a job at PE upon completion of her internship. Her situation isn’t uncommon – more than 1 in 3 PE students are offered a role with their host company upon completion of their internship.

We sat down with Cassie to find out her tips and advice for graduates looking to break into the Australian job market, and how to maximise your chances of success with your Professional Year.

How do you think your professional year has helped you to succeed in your career?

My experience with PE’s Professional Year Program was great. The PE trainers more than embody the ‘More than 5 Points’ mantra. With the encouragement to participate in the activities within class, my learning experience was invaluable, and continued throughout my study and internship within our Finance team. The placement consultants were really helpful in finding the best internship for me. They even gave me valuable guidance on what type of accounting roles are out here in the market and their differences. This has enabled me to clarify what type of accounting jobs I would prefer to do. 

What was the most important thing you learnt during your Professional Year?

The most important thing I’ve taken from my Professional Year course is how to deal with workplace relationships. Even the small talk we’ve learnt in class could be really handy in real life situations, it helps me to break the ice and avoid awkward situations. More importantly, when I was a Professional Year student I did not have any formal work experience in Australia. The workplace culture I learnt in class gave me a better understanding of how it might be to work with people from different industries and cultural backgrounds.

If you were to talk to someone just before they start their Professional Year program, what positive advice would you give?

My biggest advice is to make the most of the program. Take every single opportunity to learn, no matter how small, and you might be amazed at how it can help you in the workplace. Especially at your internship, try to improve your skills with the tasks that are assigned to you, even it’s just processing invoices faster or enhancing data integrity. Try to keep note of the tasks you complete and at the end of your internship you’ll see how much you have improved.

What do you think helped you to succeed in the interview for your internship?

I think being confident is the most important thing in any interview, because confidence shows that you know yourself well and what you want to achieve. You need to show the interviewers that you know what type of person and skills they are looking for, and that you are the great fit. As an intern they may not expect you to know everything, so you also need to demonstrate that you are eager to learn and that you’re ready (and capable) to take on challenges. The mock interview class in my Professional Year program was a useful tool to use as practice, especially as a student who didn’t have work experience in Australia.

What are your top interview preparation tips?

My top tip is definitely practice as much as you can, not just for the sake of repeating what is on your resume, but practice interview questions with the STAR techniques. Normally on the job description you would be able to see what skills they are looking for, e.g. communication skills, attention to details, or even technical skills that’s relevant to your expertise. I’d suggest to have at least 3-5 examples of the most common interview questions ready, find these examples and relevant achievements in your past experience, and remember to try to quantify and highlight your achievements. Then practice until when you are comfortable to present it in front of others.

How did you feel when you graduated from your Professional Year program?

After I completed my Professional Year course obviously I could get another 5 PR points, but most importantly during my internship I finally found out what I wanted to pursue as my career, which is to be a commercial analyst. To me, finishing the program meant I am more confident and ready for the challenges I might come across in future job hunting and within my career. 

How did it feel to go from being a PE student to being employed at PE?

My time at PE has been amazing! As an intern, I was treated like any other employee, and everyone was friendly and supportive. Everyone works hard and towards a common goal, which is to revolutionise graduate employability. As a student, then an intern, and then a full time employee I can indeed see and benefit from what PE is striving for. I feel very lucky having the opportunity to work at PE, to learn and to contribute to the amazing vision PE has.

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