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Putting your best foot forward in a COVID-19 world

  • Rishna

For Rishna Bogati, graduating at the end of 2020 meant finding work in a job market impacted by the pressures of a global pandemic. We caught up with her on the challenges and opportunities of seeking work during COVID-19.

Originally from Kathmandu in Nepal, Rishna moved to Auckland in 2018 to study a Bachelor of Engineering Technology (Civil) at Unitec. She started looking for work in October 2020, and says she certainly noticed the overall job market had been impacted by COVID.

“Not only were there fewer Graduate roles available, but it took longer to secure a role in some fields. It was particularly tough as an international student, as many roles asked that only New Zealand citizens apply. But, after two months, I was successful in getting a job as a Roading Design Engineer with Timaru District Council - working on construction, design and concept plans for the Council’s roading projects. I moved to Timaru in December and I’m loving it so far - everyone is so welcoming and it’s a beautiful part of the country to explore.”

Finding work in a new job landscape

If you’re about to start job hunting, Rishna’s first piece of advice is to get some work experience under your belt. 

“During my degree I worked one day a week as a junior drafting technician at a small company called Drafting Space. It not only gave me practical experience, but an understanding of working in a real organisation, being part of a team. If you can get work that’s related to your studies, great! But any work experience is better than none at all. It means you’ll have more confidence and context when applying for full time roles.”

Rishna also suggests being open to roles right across New Zealand. 

“I quickly realised I couldn’t be too fussy about where I applied, I had to widen my search outside of Auckland. This is particularly important for your first role - you need to get a foot in the door, and you can do that far more easily if you apply nationwide.”

One of the biggest frustrations Rishna faced when applying for jobs online was not hearing back. 

“When you’ve put a lot of work into your application, it can really knock your confidence. But, use it as an opportunity to contact the company and follow up on your application. Being proactive will make an impression and, even if you don’t get the job, you’ll hopefully be top of mind when other roles come up. 

Another approach is to contact companies directly when looking for a role. Being proactive will make an impression and, even if you don’t get a job from it immediately, you’ll hopefully be top of mind when roles come up down the track.

Tips for communicating online

In today’s world, where travel can be restricted or discouraged due to COVID, Rishna says online communication is more important than ever.

“Getting comfortable communicating online is key. First, make sure you nail your writing skills - try using tools such as Grammarly, or pay a visit to Unitec’s Learning Advisors to get some assistance. Coming across well in an email can make all the difference in getting to the next stage of a job application.

“Then, when it comes to video calls, presentation is so important. I was interviewed online by Timaru District Council and, even though I was sitting in my TV room at home, I approached it as if I was going into their office. I made an effort to look well-dressed and professional to show I was serious about the role. If you feel uncomfortable on a video call, practice a few times with a friend. If you’re relaxed, the interview is bound to go better.”

Rishna’s final piece of advice is to try and bring your personality through in an interview. 

“It can be harder to show your personality over video, so take every opportunity to introduce your own stories and experiences, don’t just go with the standard answers. Bring in some relevant, real-life examples, something that shows the real you - that’s what they’ll remember. The Unitec website offers helpful Interview Tips and techniques you can use to tell stories during interviews. 

“At the end of the day, I think what companies want are candidates who are willing to learn and open to change. Employees don’t expect you to know everything straight away, especially as a graduate - it’s just the start of your journey. But, particularly, in a COVID world, you need to show you’re nimble and willing to put in the effort. That’s what’s important.”