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Otago graduate career stories

Charles Blair

Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting and Finance)

"The Career Development Centre helped me narrow down career paths and identify possible job opportunities that suited me and my aspirations."

Charles Blair

Charles works as an auditor at Crowe Horwath. He joined the firm less than a year ago, and has already learned a lot. The role offers him many great opportunities and experiences with established and successful business management teams. “It’s a responsible job, with lots of client contact and interaction from day one,” he explains, “I really enjoy this aspect of my work.”

He first approached the Career Development Centre for assistance, in his second year of study. They helped him to consider his options, and develop a CV that was personalised, to the point, and relevant to potential employers. Charles learned that a well-crafted CV “helps the reader to understand and connect with the applicant.”

His ‘big chance’ came when he attended a careers expo in ‘The Link’. There he met the Human Resources Manager for Crowe Horwath New Zealand. “She encouraged me to apply for the 2014 graduate programme. Later, I was offered a job at Crowe Horwath in the Dunedin office.”

What advice would Charles offer to other students planning their future careers?

Charles encourages students to think about where they want to be in three and five years’ time. “Once you know where you want to be in the future, work backwards to establish where to start – and make sure you have a great CV!”

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Mina Atayee

Student – Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting and Finance)

"Everyone in the Career Development Centre is amazingly helpful and someone is always there to assist."

Mina Atayee image

Mina was attracted to her Major through a passion for numbers and working with people. She hopes eventually to work at a professional accounting or finance firm.

Mina approached the Career Development Centre to get her CV and cover letter checked – and also for general career advice.

“I learned that it’s important to be yourself and get as many people to look over your CV as you can,” she says.

“I also learned that if you’ve got an interview, they’ve already decided you are qualified for the job!”

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Amy Heinrich

Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Computer Science

“CDC staff taught me to create my own opportunities. Sometimes a company doesn’t know they need you, until you present yourself to them! ”

Amy Heinrich imageAmy’s only been in her new role of software engineer with ADInstruments for a few weeks, and is currently ‘finding her feet’ – undertaking code reviews and software testing, to get a feel for the code base the company works on. In the future, she will work on building product extensions and modules for hardware products.

Amy’s already loving the stimulating work environment, where everyone is passionate about their work, and ready to help out with any problems that arise. She also relishes the opportunity to work on products that are helping others. “It’s nice to be part of a chain effect,” she says. “I help build products that are helping scientists complete research that will help others.”

As a student, Amy had the good fortune to work as a graduate recruitment event assistant for the Career Development Centre, which gave her the chance to discuss the job market with many employer representatives. She also sought volunteer positions, and attended the Sexy Summer Jobs event, where she was offered a summer internship with a video analysis company in Dunedin.

When asked what career planning advice she would give to current Otago students, Amy doesn’t hold back.

“I would advise students to take every opportunity they can get their hands on!” she says. “Attend recruitment events, participate in networking opportunities, check CareerHub regularly and take advantage of the Career Development Centre’s services for CV checks and practice interviews – it all helps increase your chances of success.”

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Susanne Schueller

PhD (Marine Science)

"The Career Development Centre taught me not to sell myself short in cover letters. Don’t be too humble!"

SusanneSchuellerimage

Susanne has just started work as Managing Editor for a peer-reviewed scientific journal, organising and liaising with researchers around the world. Her role is to assign editors to manuscripts and coordinate with them throughout the peer-review process, as well as undertaking copy-editing and production work.

Susanne arrived at Otago from Germany on an MSc scholarship, before later enrolling for a PhD. While she loves doing research, she also enjoys organising people and tasks, and making efficiency gains where possible. As a result, she was open to any kind of work that utilised her degree in some way.

The Career Development Centre were able to help, not just with her CV, but with the whole application process. “I found it an immense help to have people working at the CDC that are reasonably familiar with the German application processes,” she explains. “This enabled me to have great support in applying for a wider range of jobs in a number of regions.”

Susanne discovered that, as a PhD candidate, it can be difficult finding employment advice online. “The CDC also provides advice for people with higher degrees. The higher the degree, the more specific applications need to be – and the harder they are to write.”

Susanne is thrilled with her new job. She had wanted to study marine science since she was ten years old. She advises others considering their dream careers to plan ahead, and inform themselves early about possible career paths and employment opportunities. “Don’t restrict yourself to one location,” she says, “moving elsewhere can open up many exciting new opportunities you might never have thought of before.”

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Ala Qaranivalu

Bachelor of Commerce (Marketing Management)

"The Career Development Centre helped me tremendously through the entire application and interview process – via Skype!"

Ala Qaranivalu

Ala Qaranivalu is employed as a Customer Banking Consultant – as part of the Westpac LeaD programme. This is a retail cadet programme that develops future leaders and promotes diversity within theorganisation. Her role involves helping customers find the right solution for their banking needs and assisting them to achieve their goals.

Ala began applying for work two months before completing her studies. She applied for a wide range of jobs, but, like most graduates, was especially keen for a position that would allow her to apply the knowledge and skills learned through her studies. The LeaD programme was the perfect opportunity to build a career and meet her personal goals. Ala has a keen interest in helping others to achieve financial wellbeing.

The Career Development Centre provided on-going support to Ala – even in Auckland. Ala had left Dunedin at the time she applied for her current position, so she organised weekly skype appointments with the Centre. Staff checked her application documents and then conducted practice interviews with her. Together, they tried out various interview techniques and exercises for the group interview. “The whole process was a real confidence boost,” she says.

The best advice Ala received was to focus on her strengths. “Harness your strengths – and own the interview – because knowing your capabilities will give you the confidence to land your dream job.”

So, what advice would she offer to others currently looking for a position?

Ala stresses the importance of self-motivation, and passion. “As long as you have the right attitude, you can accomplish anything.”

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Pink Cheok

Bachelor of Pharmacy

"The Career Development Centre’s Careers after Five* programme enabled me to step outside my comfort zone and search for work opportunities myself."

Pink Cheok is on her way to becoming a registered pharmacist. She is currently enrolled through the Evolve programme in an internship, which is due to commence shortly. As a pharmacist, she will be responsible for dispensing and compounding medications, as well as assisting patients to manage these medications in their daily lives.

Pink chose pharmacy as it combines her passions for chemistry and medical health. “I also love working alongside other health professionals to improve public health,” she explains, “and the direct contact that I have with the patients themselves.”

The Career Development Centre’s Careers after Five sessions and individual appointments were a source of inspiration for Pink. “I received a lot of help with CV and cover letter writing and learnt some great interview skills. I also got really good advice from attending guest speaker presentations.”

The best piece of wisdom she received from the Centre was never to become disheartened. “If you are declined a position, try to view it in a positive light – think of yourself as being one step closer to your ideal job,” she says.

In addition to the importance of a good attitude, Pink advises other job seekers to be humble and honest throughout the job hunting process, and to make the extra effort when necessary. “Take the direct approach – a face to face meeting often achieves better results than sending in your CV and cover letter in the mail.”

*Careers after Five is a year-round series of practical career sessions, held fortnightly.

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Jennifer Kwan

Bachelor of Science (Food Science)

"After studying information sheets regarding potential job positions and employers, and attending workshops at the Career Development Centre, I felt fearless about stepping into the working world!"

Jennifer Kwan

Jennifer Kwan has moved quickly through the ranks with her current employer – Silver Fern Farms – after receiving her first job contract just days after graduation.

Jennifer was initially appointed to the role of Technical Officer at the Finegand plant, in Southland. She enrolled for a Master’s degree, as part of the company’s Primary Growth Partnership programme, two years later, and moved into a new role – Research and Development Officer. Two years after that, her now advanced technical skills gained her a secondment as Technical Officer at the Islington plant, and today she is employed as Technical Innovation Officer.

In her current role, Jennifer is responsible for all meat science related, research and development type projects, across all 19 Silver Fern Farms processing plants. “I have the opportunity to cook and taste the best meat in the world,” she says, “so I am very fussy about my steaks!”

The Career Development Centre provided Jennifer with invaluable assistance in preparing for work. She made good use of the various resources available during break times, and attended a number of practical workshops. “I remember Yvonne telling me, ‘You are ready. Just do it!’” she says.

Jennifer advises others jobseekers to first understand the kind of person they are. “Then, find the chance to talk to people working in your chosen job and determine whether it suits you. Finally, work hard towards obtaining your dream job.”

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Julian Thom

Current Bachelor of Surveying student

“The Career Development Centre helped to rejuvenate my CV. The result was an innovative and succinct but ‘snappy’ resume – one I’m proud to send out.”

Julian Thom has recently completed his first year examinations, and is looking forward to embarking on his second year towards a Bachelor of Surveying. He is already a qualified Survey Technician, but requires a BSurv to become recognised as a Licensed Cadastral Surveyor.

The Career Development Centre has helped Julian find part-time, casual employment over the summer holidays. “I’ve been really impressed with the assistance I have received from the Centre,” he says. “I would strongly recommend that anyone pay them a visit before applying for work – whether it’s a casual summer position, or your first full-time job after graduation.”

Julian emphasises the importance of getting work experience before you graduate. He advises current students to “get your boots dirty and get some hands on experience!”

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Danny Cvetanovski

Bachelor of Applied Science

“All the interviewers complimented me on my CV – created with the help of CDC staff."

Danny_C_imageDanny chose a Molecular Biotechnology major due to a personal interest in the discovery of new medicines and the desire to make a difference in the fields of human and animal health. To further enhance his employment prospects, he minored in Management. “At first glance the two don’t have much in common,” he explains, “but in fact, the combination opens up vast opportunities.”

In his final semester, he approached the Career Development Centre for assistance with the structure and overall quality of his CV. Petra and Yvonne helped him with fine-tuning, and it wasn’t long before he felt confident to apply for suitable positions – obtaining three interviews within the two months following his last exam.

“I soon landed my dream job and had to withdraw from the other interviews,” he says. “I’m incredibly grateful to the staff at the Career Development Centre for helping me achieve this.”

Currently, Danny is preparing to take up the role of Quality Control Laboratory Technician – Immunology at pharmaceutical company Merck, Sharp and Dohme based in Upper Hutt.

His advice to others seeking their dream jobs is to make sure they develop transferable skills. “These are valuable assets and the key to your success.” Danny also suggests looking at things from the employer’s perspective: “Always research the organisation and think what you can offer them – not the other way around.”

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