A Grad Perspective: Leveraging Experiences To Progress Your Career (Part 2)

If I had to choose three questions that really resonated with me throughout University, they would be:

  1. How do you go about landing your dream role after graduation?
  2. What would it be like if you could complete a degree from your bedroom?
  3. Why would QUT ever let a Business Graduate write a ‘Two-Part’ Blog?

All three are seemingly complex questions and unfortunately, I only have the answer for the first two…

(Though… If you haven’t already, please feel free to click-through and read Part One, now!)

You Can Read Part One Here

On that note, let’s start with online learning.

Learning Amidst a Global Pandemic

Unlike networking or other traditional experiences like internships, learning online was something that nobody planned for. See, while it meant learning flexibility for some, it grew fears of disengagement for others.

I fell somewhere in between.

New forms of digital communication such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams became part of the ‘norm’ and virtual catch-ups were made essential. It introduced a new way to learn, interact, and celebrate… All from a bedroom!

While admittedly I wasn’t a fan of this new way of life, the only productive question on my mind was simply: “How can I grow from this?” So, what started as a new educational tool, turned into a few valuable insights into how the future of business could be conducted. Insights into the ability for greater workplace flexibility, the removal of geographical barriers, and the possibility for international engagement. If nothing else, this experience forced people around the world to grow more comfortable with the idea of digitisation which, turns out, led to an array for opportunities in my life as both a student and a professional.

  1. The increased ability to balance full-time work and study as commuting times were reduced and working flexibility increased.
  2. A new vehicle to engage with clients at work as our company VIGYR, introduced growth webinars for struggling businesses in the fitness industry (As a gym software provider, this led to higher client retention rates and an 82% increase in positive customer responses).
  3. The opportunity to follow on from Brandstorm by applying for a role at L’Oréal Australia – completing the entire process seamlessly online (more on this later).

Though the transition online was challenging for many, it proved the need to keep an open mind. In fact, many solutions are often found in the face of adversity. Will business operations and educational platforms be changed forever as a result? Who knows? But, it’s an experience we can all use to learn and leverage in the future.

“The real heroes are those who rebuild their lives using adversity as a stepping stone to greatness in the midst of the chaos life has thrown at them.”
~ Nikki Rowe

Virtually Applying For A Leading Company

Looking back, it’s quite surreal how one of the biggest blessings in my life came into fruition within the blink of an eye (and during one of the toughest times for many).

No planning. No preparation. Not even the slightest little hint that something was coming my way.

It’s both comforting and scary at the same time.

What was this blessing? Well, the opportunity to relocate to Melbourne and start a new position as a Marketing Management Trainee for L’Oréal in 2021.

Let me walk you through the process.

Discovering The Opportunity:
The first time L’Oréal really came into my life was following the L’Oréal Brandstorm Competition (2018 Edition). An intense (but immensely fun) battle of innovation, entrepreneurship, and real-world problem solving.

How did I find out about Brandstorm? Well, by reading one of the QUT Business emails…

While this journey started from the hopes of visiting Paris, it quickly turned into something much more. See, after visiting the Melbourne Office during the Australian National Finals of Brandstorm, I had a light bulb moment. It’s one of those moments that you can’t really describe, but you know something feels right. The culture was like a close family. Caring for those who are a part of the company and welcoming to those who were just visiting. The expectation for growth was inspiring. A constant sense of support to help you learn more, think more, and be more. It was the intangible things that can’t be seen or heard, only felt.

The Application Process:
So, after flying home to Queensland post Brandstorm (unfortunately without the win), I had a conversation with everyone’s favourite friend, Dr. Google.

“Hey Google, how can I work for L’Oréal?,”

“What Jobs do they offer?”

The answer was a Management Trainee Program, tailored for a diverse range of disciplines. Fortunately, marketing was one. I waited a year until I was eligible to apply. Spent way too long obsessing over whether a “hobbies” tab really belonged on my CV, studied the company religiously, and then applied.

After making it through the screening round, this is what followed:

  • Psychometric Testing
  • Marketing Testing
  • A Video Interview
  • A Digital Assessment Centre (Two Group Activities + Presentation)
  • An Individual Interview (Questions + Personal Presentation)

All hosted online through a range of testing websites and with the help of a few handy Microsoft Teams links.

At the start I had a few concerns about completing the entire process online though these were quickly met with an array of positive experiences that reinforced what the company was all about. While the whole process was digital, it felt just as connected. In fact, for a moment it felt like I wasn’t locked up in my bedroom using an ironing board as a desk and blue tack as a means to stick my webcam to the wall (ensuring the perfect angle).

Except I was… But, I wouldn’t change a thing!

Key Takeaways:
Perhaps the hardest part about living in this new digital-dominant world is a sense of isolation. You lose the morning greetings that take away many of your concerns, even if it’s only for a moment. You miss out on the affirmations that instil the confidence needed to take a step outside of your comfort zone. And, you might occasionally have to use household items or appliances as office equipment…

The point here is that it can be easy to get lost in such a vast and fast-paced world.

What got me through?

A few tips from some people dear to me (plus one or two I slipped in there myself).

  • Never underestimate your character. Skills can be learned and experiences gained. The largest variable is always you.
  • Sometimes the biggest moments will be those you never expected to happen at all. You can’t plan for everything.
  • Everybody’s journey is different. You are not late or early. You are on time. Don’t get lost in comparing your behind the scenes to somebody else’s highlight reel.
  • Build a network you can lean on when you need it most. You’ll be surprised just how far it will take you.

“If you so choose, even the unexpected setbacks can bring new and positive possibilities. If you so choose, you can find value and fulfilment in every circumstance.”
~ Ralph Marston

Closing Remarks

At the beginning of University, nobody is expected to know exactly what we want to do for the rest of our lives. In fact, many who are in the middle of their careers are still unsure. What is expected, however, is that we make a conscious decision as to what the best way to move forward is. To find a boat sailing in just the right direction, so when we get off, our dream destination isn’t all that far away. My boat came in the form of a case competition, an internship, and more networking events than I can count. It just so happens that my dream destination turned out to be a place more familiar than I had thought! Right back at L’Oréal’s Melbourne Office. An opportunity I would have never known about had I not taken a few steps in the dark and an opportunity that would have never presented itself to me had I not sought out new experiences to leverage moving forward.

Put yourself out there, but remember to smell the roses along the way!

“When we live for our goals, we forget to live now.
“When you listen to a piece of music, you don’t just skip to the end because that’s when it all comes together. You don’t read the last chapter of a book because it’s the climax.
“In life, we’re obsessed with endings…
“And so we forget that maybe life is more like a piece of music – and we’re supposed to be dancing.”

~Derren Brown

Congratulations and Good Luck

To all fellow graduates. Congratulations! Your hard work has paid off and I wish everyone the best of luck during these unprecedented times.

To those just starting their journey at University. You got this! Remember that other people are your strongest asset.

To anyone looking for a place to start their network or in need of any advice moving forward. Don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Congratulations and Good Luck,

Jacob Pratt

Bachelor of Business (Marketing, Public Relations)

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