Networking and preparation are key when looking for your first role after graduating. Cybersecurity student Jason Sam tells us a few things he’s learnt in his journey to find a job.
Jason completed a Bachelor of IT at Massey University before signing up for Unitec’s Diploma in Cybersecurity. Due to finish up in November, he’s currently completing an internship with Datacom while hunting for a full-time position.
“My internship has been fantastic. Datacom has said there will be two full-time positions available at the end of it but, with six of us interning, nothing is guaranteed.
“The Cybersecurity community in New Zealand is relatively small compared to other professions - everybody knows everybody! That’s why networking is so important. You need to draw on all your contacts and approach companies you’re interested in, not just rely on advertised jobs. I believe that if you want something, you can’t wait for other people to bring it to you, you have to be proactive. It’s always worth putting yourself out there and asking the question - the worst they can say is no!”
Jason recently reached out to Air New Zealand through a contact of one of his Unitec instructors, and ended up securing an interview for a role in their Information Security team.
“The initial contact ended up being hard to pin down, so I decided to look up Air New Zealand’s whole cybersecurity department and send an email to all of them! One came back with a job interview opportunity. I didn’t get that role as it was quite a senior position, but I’ve been shortlisted for a more junior role they’re currently creating. So, while a job is never guaranteed, you’ll up your odds 100% if you’re proactive and put yourself out there.”
A journey of discovery
Jason says the process of job hunting isn’t all about getting a job first time, it’s about discovering what you need to do to be successful the next time around.
“Back when I was studying my IT degree, I approached a few businesses to look for work experience. I told them what was studying and what I was hoping to do career wise, and they were really helpful in identifying the additional skills I needed to make myself more employable. That’s why I signed up to the Diploma at Unitec - to broaden my skillset.
“It’s a similar story when I approach companies today. I go in with the mindset of ‘no matter what the outcome, I’ll leave knowing more about what I need to do to make myself more successful next time’.”
The importance of preparation
Before contacting a company, making sure you’re prepared is key. This starts with deciding who it is you’d like to work for.
“Everyone has something that’s important to them in an employer,” says Jason. “For me, it would be hard to accept a job at a place that wasn’t inclusive. Diversity is really important to me. I expect employers to treat people equally, regardless of background, culture or ethnicity, and I wouldn’t apply for a role or contact a company that didn’t fit with those values.”
Once you have your list, learn more about each company, put your CV together, and get ready to put your best foot forward.
“If you’re going to contact a company, be ready for an on-the-spot interview! Rehearse mock interview questions beforehand, have some notes ready - just the same as you would for a formal job interview.
“Before my Air New Zealand interview, I spoke to my lecturer and she gave me a list of people I should speak to, so that I knew what to expect. I also posted a message on the Slack channel for our Cybersecurity Diploma, telling my classmates I was going for an interview and needed tips on how to prepare. Some of them already have jobs at places like Datacom, so were very helpful - one even sent me a document that contained almost all of the questions I was asked at the interview!”
During an interview, Jason says it’s OK if you don’t have the answer to everything.
“Don’t be afraid to say, ‘I don’t know that yet, but I can find out’. And don’t be scared to clarify exactly what it is they’re asking. If you’re unsure, rephrase the question and repeat it back to them in your own words. That way you can give a clear, relevant answer.
“Overall, my advice is that when you’re looking for a job, be prepared and make sure you utilise your whole network: classmates, instructors and industry contacts. If you don’t cast your net widely, you’ll never catch a fish. If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no.”