Interview With Dr Michael Baron (CEO, Baron Consulting)

As an international student studying in Australia (I am Master of Accounting student at Monash University), I am well and truly worried whether on completion of my degree, I will be able to secure a professional job related to my field of study. This is why when one of my friends ”boasted” that his Management Lecturer also happens to be a recruitment consultant and is always happy to provide his students with friendly advice and assistance with getting professional jobs in Australia, I tried to ”lure” my dear friend to help me arrange an informal meeting with that lecturer to have a chat about my future employment prospects. This is how I met Dr Michael Baron, (CEO of Baron Consulting – Melbourne-based recruitment and training agency). Michael appears to be some kind of ”cult figure” for his students who regard him more like a mentor rather than a lecturer. I truly enjoyed our conversation and I feel that Michael’s advice is of relevance not only to me but also to many other students and recent graduates. This is why I asked Michael whether he minded if I recorded his answers to my questions so I could share them with others. Luckily, he did not ï��! So here comes our impromptu interview:

Michael, as an overseas student who has no Australian work experience at all and only 3-months of professional work experience back in China I am naturally a bit worried. I am one year away from completion of my Master of Professional Accounting degree at Monash and to be frank, I am not entirely sure what to do next? How to apply for jobs?

Good question, Violet. Turning over a new leaf and starting a new stage in life is never easy. However, it gives you no excuse to give up even before you start trying ï��! The very first step is to make good resume. As far as I know, all Universities including yours provide students with a resume-making service free of cost (well, kind of free of cost – since they are obviously funded through yours and others’ fees) so I would suggest contacting Monash student support services and they will advise you whom to approach to get your resume done nicely. In your resume, given your very limited work experience – try to emphasize your skills and abilities. Focus on the skills that are particularly relevant to the job you are applying for. Read job descriptions carefully and keep making small adjustments to your resume accordingly so that it is always tailored to the needs of the company you are applying to. I know it is hard work… but it has to be done!

Okie, I am feeling a little bit better already. Good to know there is still some hope against hope for me. So you mentioned making a resume and applying everywhere I possibly can. But do you think someone will give a chance to an applicant who has no local work experience at all?

Of course, many of the companies will not be willing to ”take a risk” and employ a fresh graduate but some will! Do not take rejections close to your heart and keep-on apply for as many relevant jobs vacancies as you can possibly identify. Eventually your persistence will pay off and you will finally be able to secure some interviews and once you get to the interview stage, there is always a chance!

And Michael, many of my friends suggest I get some local experience by enrolling in an Internship Training Program or Professional Year Program. Do you think it is a good idea?

Your friends are on the right track. By any means, if you can secure an internship – go for it! Once you join a company as an Intern – not only it will be a perfect opportunities to gain skills and experience required but also, if you manage to impress your internship supervisors – there is a high chance they will offer you paid employment on completion of the internship. Just make sure that you select an internship that is right for you. Never mind if you are not getting paid for your efforts as long as there is plenty of free training and opportunities to gain new on-the-job skills involved.

Right, and what about getting good grades? If I study day and night (not that I intend to) and get all HDs in reward for my lovely efforts. Will it help me get a job?

I do not want to discourage you from studying hard but the truth is, while good grades do help in some instances (for example when you are filling in application forms to apply for graduate jobs and you are requested to state the grades) but it is just one of many factors that can provide you with a competitive advantage when applying for jobs and arguably not the greatest advantage of all. While employers do expect fresh graduates that they are about to hire to be diligent scholars, they are much more concerned about your ability to learn, enthusiasm, people’s skills and actual knowledge rather than the grades. For example, if it is evident from your resume that you can produce real-life tax returns, it is far more impressive than having HD grade for a taxation subject.

And what about Baron Consulting jobs? Would you offer someone with limited or no relevant experience a job in your company if you feel that person is enthusiastic and eager to learn would you always prefer someone with proven professional experience? Please, be frank!

Well, since you insist I should answer the question honestly (not that I would be inclined to answer it dishonestly otherwise). We certainly value work experience just like other employers do. Securing a senior job with us without sufficient work experience in similar role is highly unrealistic. However, for junior jobs (internships in particular), we are sometimes happy to consider applicants with limited or no professional experience as long as they are able to demonstrate that they are committed to working hard, quick leaners and happy to work as part of our small and friendly team. Experience is not everything! Everyone has to get started at some point, and we do understand it… and so do many other organisations. However, we do need to believe that the interns are able to contribute to our projects and their ability to learn quickly and to become valuable members of our team… and this is up to them to demonstrate during the interviewing process!

Haha. Or well, thank you for your honesty. Now the very last question – how do you and other recruitment agencies advertise the job vacancies available? I visit SEEK every now and then. I also check-out vacancies available via Monash online Forums and Communities (sadly most of these jobs are hardly professional and related to my field of study). So where else can I find job vacancies to apply for?

Once again, you are on the right track! The lion share of all of the employment opportunities is available via the Seek website. However, University forums and communities may not be so helpful when it comes to entering professional fields of employment though. As far as I know, almost all of the jobs that are posted on University forums are casual jobs. These jobs (e.g. cleaning, babysitting etc.) are good for current students and for recent graduates while they are still job hunting for study-related jobs but have little linkage to professional jobs. One other way of expanding employment opportunities is ”door-nocking”. Chat to your friends to find out if they know ”someone” who may be working with a company that could accommodate recent graduates like you and try to arrange a meeting with them so they can advise you whether there are any openings available in their companies, and if yes, what is the best way to apply for those. Furthermore, you can also try ”cold-calling”. Identify organisations that are known to recruit fresh graduates in your field of employment and contact them via phone or email to request a meeting. This could lead to more potential employment opportunities.

Thank you, Michael.

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