Recent UQ Business School MBA graduate Abhishek Sodhani has some advice for foreign students looking to bag that "first job" in Australia: Get involved and get busy.
Mr Sodhani, 25, of East Brisbane, left his job in India as finance manager at a renowned crane-manufacturing company and came to study in Australia in 2006.
Now a financial analyst for Gold Coast-based globally-successful IT company CVSDude, Mr Sodhani admits he struggled to get the professional experience he needed to break into the workforce.
"Once you get that first job, it just flows, but for overseas students it is really hard to know where to start," Mr Sodhani said.
"People here don't care about what you have done back home, they only look at Australian work experience and most students who have just arrived from overseas have no contacts and don't know the culture or the companies," he said.
But Mr Sodhani didn't let these difficulties defeat him, instead seeking out hands-on experience through UQBS-affiliated business consulting firm Tuscon and UQBS's Enterprize Competition.
"I have been telling each and every person I know that there are so many opportunities at UQ Business School. Instead of wasting time looking outside they should take advantage of what is on offer and if they don't know what is available, they should ask," Mr Sodhani said.
Mr Sodhani worked 20 hours a week as a financial analyst for Brisbane Housing Company through Tuscon's "iexchange" - a post-graduate placement program offering project-based work in Australian businesses - and was part of the winning team in last year's Enterprize Competition, which was awarded a no-strings-attached $100,000 prize.
"I always wanted to work as a business analyst so getting a starting role through Tuscon was a good step for me," Mr Sodhani said. "Tuscon not only made use of the skills I already had but allowed me to put into practice what I was learning through my MBA and, just as importantly for me, it gave me valuable credit towards gaining my permanent residency in Australia."
Tuscon CEO Justin Robinson said iexchange was a two-way street with skills-starved businesses able to source screened UQBS post-graduate students that are matched to projects.
"We help businesses reap the benefits offered by these highly-skilled individuals without the hassle of red tape usually associated with employing both local and international staff," Mr Robinson said.
Through Tuscon, Mr Sodhani found out about the UQ Business School Enterprize Competition and was accepted as part of the CVSDude team, which won the $100 000 prize.
The competition - open to all entrepreneurs who have business ideas that are ready, or almost ready, to be launched - is now in its eighth year and is designed to support start-up companies and provide education opportunities for UQ students.
Mr Sodhani went on to secure a full-time position with CVSDude but says the experience alone would have been worth the effort.
"Taking part in and winning the Enterprize competition has helped me develop. It widened my network of contacts and because people know about Enterprize it brings you to the notice of employers - it gives you an edge."
CVSDude Vice-President of Sales and Marketing Guy Marion is happy as well, with the IT company now the largest worldwide provider of hosted open-source version-control systems to commercial software developer teams around the world.
"Abhishek was no doubt a valuable member of our Enterprize team and everyone recognized his contribution to our win which was why, in the end, we offered him a permanent position with us," Mr Marion said.
"For us, Enterprize not only provided welcome capital and exposure, but a valued employee," he said.
The finalists for Enterprize 2008 were announced earlier this month with each of the seven business ideas to vie for the prize at Pitch Day on Thursday 16 October.
Just two years after arriving in Australia Mr Sodhani has a great job in an exciting new industry and is well on his way to being granted permanent residency. For him it was all due to getting involved and taking advantage of the opportunities available.
"I really encourage students to get involved," Mr Sodhani said. "People say it's very difficult to manage all these activities with the time commitment to postgraduate studies but it's all about time management: 'Manage it like you manage your money'."