Are you the 'talent' companies are searching for?

19th Apr 2017

Christina Chun, 1Scope CEO

Rachel Zerr, Hiring Lead at SapientRazorfish Australia has years of experience under her belt recruiting for the likes of Google. As part of our residency at Alphabet Common in Sydney, I had some time with her to jot down a few pearls of wisdom on how to help students get off the ground and pedalling :)

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I think my life is a good example of how decisions in life can take you to places you wouldn’t have ever imagined. I applied for an exchange program and one location was in Leeds and another was in Sydney. I really wanted Leeds and had my heart set on it, but ended up taking Sydney because that option was there. And now it’s my home and I’m loving it.

I didn’t know that I wanted to be in Sydney at the time but what I knew was that I wanted to do something. I wanted to explore and to put myself out there. If you have your heart set on a particular program or employer, there’s a good chance it won’t happen right away. So don’t let that be your downfall and the end of the road for you. You’re looking at 40-40 years for a career, so it’s about exploring and taking different paths that makes life more interesting and making the most of the opportunities that you receive.

What do you look for in a graduate?

When hiring, we don’t necessarily just want to see individuals at the top of the game. We also want to see people who are progressing. We’re looking at the journey and the development in a person’s character – that is what is of particular interest to us.

From an employers’ perspective, if you are investing in a graduate, it takes 9-14 months of direct investment before you really see value. You want to invest in someone that you see will respect this time and that it’ll be a mutual trade off.

How important are soft skills?

Critical. They can often be the key determinants of long term success.

People focus on the technical skills, but in most fields this can be taught and often there is iterative training to develop these hard skills on the job. In comparison, soft skills are more intangible and nuanced and can take years to develop. How do you train someone to be a team player, diligent, a great communicator or disciplined overnight? Unfortunately, these skills are often neglected and an otherwise talented performer can be handicapped in these fields before they even commence working.

What if I can’t find work experience in my area of interest?

Yes, work experience might be hard to get, but remember it’s only one opportunity. Undertake more programs, do online courses to show that you’re building skills in areas of demand, and enhance your overall toolkit. Ultimately, what we’re looking for is that you have invested time and effort into completing something. We recognise that it’s hard to get experience but you have to show that you’re curious and made an effort.

What’s your biggest advice to students?

  • Get some experience. Do what you can to make contacts, get work experience, to network and show that you have taken initiative to gather exposure in your chosen industry.
  • Go over and above and commit. This goes beyond a job. Whether it’s sport or music – commitment is important because it shows the ability to be disciplined and stick with something to completion. A lot of people want to dabble in a lot of things and don’t see it through as they lose interest. But you don’t develop genuine expertise unless you’ve committed to the task. Also, the very act of sticking with something shows resilience – not everything in life is guaranteed to be fun but you will gather respect if you can demonstrate that you have the fortitude and commitment to finish the task.
  • Show initiative. Be proactive and don’t just wait for direction, feedback or to be given work. Put your hand up and actively ask for it. Be in the mindset of an enthusiastic participant who is able to take tasks in their own hands, spot issues and also think of solutions. We don’t want someone who will always need supervision and needs constant prompting.
  • Put yourself in uncomfortable situations. We will never learn if we keep doing what we already know and excel at. Remember, all learning depends on going out of your comfort zone, even if that means failure. And even failure is an important part of the learning experience.

Final thoughts?

  1. Learn how to invest in yourself (not just the ATAR – you’ve got a lot more to offer the world than just a score), from soft skills to understanding perspectives and journeying through new experiences. Be adventurous and willing to explore.
  2. Talk to as many people as you can to help form your view of yourself and the world. The ability to develop self-awareness and empathy of others is a powerful lesson that goes beyond your career.
  3. Don’t underestimate the kindness of people and people who have a career behind them. People are still people and are often happy to share their knowledge if you ask.

If you're a high school student with any buzzing questions, send them to questions@1scope.com :) We're keeping this line open in hope to crowdsource awesome questions whenever we engage with our partners.