Waiana started university doing Health Science but soon realised her passion lay elsewhere.
She switched to a Bachelor of Arts with a major in History, and during her last semester got a job at a local firm doing research strategy for export markets.
“It opened my eyes to the areas I was interested in, particularly international trade, so I went into my law degree with that as the focus.”
Waiana now works as a Graduate Policy Advisor at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
“MBIE is huge! There are around 4,000 staff across New Zealand and posted overseas. I am constantly learning about different operational areas of the organisation, with people from a broad range of backgrounds.
“Policy is actually a small portion of what MBIE does, but we cover a diverse range of policy areas. We have teams working on employment relations, consumer protection, immigration, housing markets, the digital economy and international strategy. There are also specific teams focused on urban, regional, Māori and Pacific economic development.
“Working in policy has been a steep learning curve, but what I am doing is interesting and a great opportunity. I am currently in our Strategic Policy team, which has exposed me to a lot of economics. I never studied economics, but you learn a lot on the job and there are always training courses to go on.
“Policy is about identifying problems and coming up with solutions. The critical thinking skills gained in a Humanities degree allow you to think more laterally, to think outside the box. The writing and verbal communication skills you get are also very useful in a policy context.
“I believe Humanities degrees provide you with the skills that allow you to thrive no matter what kind of work you end up in - that has certainly been the case for me.
“My advice to students is to be patient. Looking for work after study is competitive, but you have the skills that employers want. Be persistent; getting your foot in the door can be the hardest part, but once you do, the opportunities will start to roll in.”