Distinguished alumni mentor Commerce students
Twenty-one prominent alumni from the University of Wollongong’s Faculty of Commerce recently returned to the university for a day to mentor this year’s graduating students.
The alumni had forged successful careers in a variety of fields and included senior public servants, human resources managers, bankers, marketing managers, logistics experts, a State Parliamentarian, Lylea McMahon, and UOW’s Deputy Chancellor Sue Chapman.
They all took a day out from their busy schedules to impart their experience to the graduating students by conducting mock job interviews in the inaugural Career Ahead mentoring day on 28 September, organised by UOW’s Alumni Office and the Faculty of Commerce Alumni Chapter.
UOW Alumni Officer Jocelin Kelly paid tribute to the participants for their contribution to the graduates’ preparations for life after university.
“We had a wonderful response from alumni who have been very successful in their chosen fields,” Ms Kelly said. “Their generosity meant the students have had a real-life experience of undertaking job interviews with very experienced people, but in a comfortable environment where their career prospects didn’t depend on the outcome. The students have received very valuable feedback on how they can be better prepared when they go for actual job interviews.”
Westpac Bank’s Head of Environment and Capabilities Lindall West, who graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Commerce degree majoring in accountancy and industrial relations, said the day had been “incredibly professionally run”.
A key part of Ms West’s role at Westpac is graduate recruitment, and her message to the students was to spend more time preparing for their interviews, to make themselves more employable.
“Having a degree will only get you to the front door (of an organisation), it won’t get you a job,” she said. “So it is important that students learn to sell themselves properly.”
Frank Di Giorgio, who is the general manager of Commonwealth Treasury’s Strategic Communications Division, graduated with Economics and Psychology degrees in 1982.
Mr Di Giorgio said the depth of experience and spectrum of abilities of the interviewing panel provided excellent opportunities for students to hone their interviewing skills.
He agreed with Ms West’s assessment of the importance of preparation for job interviews, and urged the students to take a thorough approach, to think carefully about why they wanted to join an organisation, and to look for examples in their own lives that would demonstrate certain skills and abilities.
Member for Shellharbour Lylea McMahon, who has Bachelor of Commerce (1997) and Masters (2005) degrees, was a human resources manager at BlueScope Steel managing the company’s graduate recruitment program, before her election to the NSW Parliament in March.
She felt the Career Ahead day was a great initiative, because it gave students the opportunity to learn interviewing skills in a “safe” environment, without the pressure of missing out on a job if they fared badly.
“There’s a lot to learn about getting a job,” she said. “There’s a lot more involved than just writing a good resume. First impressions count a lot, so you have to sell yourself. Thorough preparation is important to identify your strengths and line them up with what the job requires.”
Brian Ward, who is general manager of corporate services at the Port Kembla Port Corporation, has a Master of Business Administration (2000) from UOW and is a member of the Faculty of Commerce Alumni Chapter committee.
Mr Ward, who has 25 years experience in staff recruitment, said he jumped at the chance to participate in Career Ahead. “This is a great way for alumni and the University to add value to the graduating students’ degrees, by giving them valuable life skills,” he said. “There has been valuable and constructive feedback for students interested in developing skills and techniques for job interviews.”
Mr Ward would like to see the University build a life skills component into the final year of degrees.