The leap between student and professional is a bit like walking through your own home in the dark of the night. Through the years, units, knowledgeable academic staff and “real-world” application of QUT study, you emerge with a sound and practical understanding of your road ahead – in theory. Like stumbling through a familiar home in the dark – knowing the layout well enough to navigate the hallway but not certain of what’s looming ahead – getting started in the workforce can feel much the same.
But what if you could turn on the light?
That’s what QUT’s Corporate Partners in Excellence (CPIE) program has done for me. Earlier this year I was fortunate to be awarded a CPIE Scholarship in my final year of study. The program is an invaluable initiative of the Business School, which sees corporate partners sponsor 15-week, full-time work experience placements for students with strong academic records. As a Public Relations and Integrated Marketing Communications major, I was placed within Energex’s Strategic Communications department.
While working in the position of Communications Officer, I was able to take my theoretical knowledge of corporate communications and apply it every day in professional practice. A diverse role, it has involved liaising with government and community stakeholders, third-party partners, internal business units and of course, the media. I have learned how to identify and create media opportunities and more importantly how to actively leverage them. Preparing media releases, speech notes, corporate briefs and campaign material has been an enjoyable challenge, improving my efficiency, capability and confidence with each passing day. These hard skills were tested almost immediately, with the arrival of Cyclone Debbie.
Issues Management is an area of communications – which organisations would argue is lucky – that communications personnel are not often faced with. As a student however, having the opportunity to be immersed internally in a crisis situation, was an unforeseen and rare, yet exciting and instrumental time for my development. I have always been of the mindset that there is no better way to learn than by being thrown in the deep end – and this was it. My colleagues, with incomparable industry experience, were a beacon of guidance as we embarked on delivering an around-the-clock crisis management plan. Digital monitoring and reporting, government liaison, external media enquiry and internal media preparation – every communication skill I had learned in my studies was tested. More than this however, was a test of my nature, as long days competed with short-time frames and an ability to efficiently deliver precise community messages critical in a high-pressure environment. As the event came to a close and the department returned to business as usual, I felt my ability to tackle a role in industry proven, with the praise of senior leaders a welcome endorsement of this.
And so, as I commence the final weeks of my placement, I feel more equipped than ever to embark on the first chapter of my professional life. I have refined my university-learned skill set and enhanced soft skills which will assist me to continue building my professional future with confidence. Most importantly, I no longer feel like I am stumbling blindly down the hallway at night, instead the light burns brightly and I see clearly how to take the next step forward. I would likely never have been able to engage in an experience this rich without the CPIE program, and genuinely urge students to take it upon themselves to look out for opportunities such as this one, to light the way into their chosen industry too.