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Koyo Terakado - Financial Analyst Assistant, Amex

Koyo Terakado
'I attended a UTS Careers information session on the Working Solutions program in March 2007. I seized the unique career opportunity the program offered and signed up on the spot.'

Koyo graduated in December 2007 with a Master of Business Administration in Professional Accounting from the University of Technology, Sydney. She is now working at Amex, a position she gained through the Working Solutions internship placement program.



How did you get involved in the Working Solutions program?

I attended a UTS Careers information session on the Working Solutions program in March 2007. The program offered international Professional Accounting students a more direct path to finding work experience in the accounting industry   something I haven't heard about before in Australia. I seized the unique career opportunity the program offered and signed up on the spot.

Did you get an internship placement through the program?

Yes. The Working Solutions coordinator referred me for the Amex placement. Amex then called me for an interview and offered me a one-day-a-week unpaid placement.

What was the process you went through to get the placement?

Once I signed up for the Working Solutions program, I received emails about the different internship positions being offered. I kept an eye out for a position I was interested in while I worked on improving my resume. Part of the program is to work with the coordinator to improve my resume. The coordinator gave me good advice and tips to mould my resume to the style and standard expected in Australia.

When I saw an internship I was interested in, I sent my application through to the coordinator who did an initial screening process of the applicants. This involved the coordinator looking over all internship applications, conducting the initial face-to-face interview and selecting the most suitable candidate for the company to interview. So the coordinator passes on a list of the most eligible students for the employer to interview.

Did you find the process difficult?

Not many international accounting students knew about the program so it made the process a lot less competitive. The practice and advice the coordinator gave helped improve my resume and prepared me for the interview with the employer.

Are there any requirements to be part of the Working Solutions program?

There are no formal requirements. Having the overseas student visa is okay and the university covers your insurance. The only requirement is that you must be an international student in your final year studying an MBA in Professional Accounting. The program is not open to local students.

What type of work did you do in your placement?

There were three students who were offered placements at Amex. We were all placed in different divisions. I was placed in the regional tax division.

In regional tax, I helped two tax accountants set up monthly tax adequacy reviews, conducted sub profit analysis reports and prepared the GST Recovery Rate Report. The regional tax team used these reports to monitor the different tax areas.

What did you gain from the experience?

I was offered a full-time contract in the finance planning and forecast sector. It also gave me the chance to see what the Australian work culture is like, what skills I needed to improve and what level of expertise is required to work in the industry. It further clarified the type of career I want.

How does the Australian work culture differ from Japan's?

The biggest difference is that Australia has a very multicultural workplace, so it's important to learn about other cultures and their work ethic. My current team is made up of five people from five different cultural backgrounds. Because we are a small team working closely together, it's essential to learn and understand one another's culture and work style so we build a strong team dynamic.

In Australia, there is also a greater focus on the amount of work you have done, rather than the hours you have worked. So long as you get all your work done, employers are generally more flexible about the time you start and leave work. In Japan, employers expect you to work to fixed start and finish times, even longer hours.

Before joining Working Solutions did you find it difficult to get a job?

No, but that's because I was prepared for the difficulties. Before enrolling into the course, I had already researched employment opportunities for international students in this industry so I knew that, without any prior experience, finding work would be difficult. That's why I didn't hesitate in accepting an unpaid position at a small firm during my first year studying in Australia. It gave me an advantage when applying for the Amex internship.

What was your most difficult experience applying for work as an international student?

It's the fact that I am not yet a Permanent Resident. It doesn't matter how fabulous your work experience history is, Australian companies normally prefer and only consider candidates who are Australian citizens or permanent residents. Finding that initial work experience position and being able to communicate at the required industry level are other difficulties. The 20-hour-a-week work restriction on student visas is not really a problem because a lot of places offer casual and part-time work.

Did you find the Working Solutions program helpful?

Yes. As each country has a different resume writing style, the program coordinator was able to help me build a resume more suited to the Australian work environment. Doing initial interviews with the coordinator prepared me for the company interview so I felt more confident and performed a lot better. This was important because each country also has a different expectation of how interview questions should be answered.

In Australia, there is a stronger focus on individual merit. You need to sell yourself in the interview, to point out your strongest skills and explain what you are good at. In Japan, it's more about teamwork and the effort you are willing to put in to improve on the skills you already have.

What is the most important thing you have learned in Australia?

What it's like studying and working in a multicultural environment. I am still in the process of learning but I would like to know more about managing teams of people who have different cultural backgrounds. I think in today's global business culture, knowing how to interact, cooperate and manage a team of people from different cultures is a key to being successful in your career.

Do you have any tips for international students trying to find work in Australia?

Employers try to offer internship placements in positions that may not be in your area of study, so you need to think about what types of positions to take or turn down. You also need to be aware of the difficulties international students may face in finding work. Definitely plan ahead and research what Australian employers are looking for before you apply for jobs.

Why did you choose to study in Australia?

I did like working in Japan. However, my families, who had emmigrated to Australia, persuaded me to move here to be closer to them so I decided to make the move. In order for me to move to Australia, my choices were simple – marry or study? I chose study!

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