Work Integrated Learning with Ross Monaghan
28
JUN, 2019
Work Integrated Learning
Teaching & Learning
Industry Connections
By Ross Monaghan, Lecturer for the School of Communications & Creative Arts, in the Faculty of Arts & Education.
“OMG Ross, I’m just calling to say I got that amazing job!”

It’s that type of phone call that drives me to be the best lecturer I can be. For students to be able to make that call, it requires them to understand the workplace, and find a potential career that they’re passionate about. From my experience many students don’t engage with education because they’re unsure where it will lead, or the career potential. I work hard to help students decide upon an early career goal – or at very least a career direction. Facilitating industry engagement through authentic assessment, internships and other networking opportunities allows students to better understand potential career options and focus on what they’re passionate about. Once students find their “calling”, they engage with course content and work hard to achieve their career goals. Having a career plan, and implementing it is really important, but you can’t develop a plan if you don’t have a clear goal. Once a student realises that there are amazing career options available to them, and they find their “calling”, it’s hard to hold them back.

Students at a WIL opportunity at the Sydney Opera House
 
I don’t see my approach as particularly unique – many of my colleagues do similar work. Where I might be a little different is in my approach to industry engagement. I network extensively online (because that’s my research/teaching focus) and I reach out to practitioners regularly to invite them to interact with students. It might be through a short interview recorded via Skype, or through an online webinar. I often run face-to-face networking events and of course invite guest lecturers. I also encourage students to attend industry networking events too. A key part of my strategy is to regularly reach out to a few students and personally encouraging them to attend an event or engage in some other WIL activity. Word quickly spreads, and soon students are coming to you wanting suggestions about how to engage with practitioners.
“The benefit of being proactive is that invariably other opportunities arise. If you ask a practitioner to attend an event, they many also ask you about taking on an intern. If you work with an organisation on a WIL project, they may be recruiting and you know of a recent graduate that is perfect for the role. ”
I try to be as proactive as I can, and to be enthusiastic about career options. My view is that if I’m not, why would students be enthusiastic? The benefit of being proactive is that invariably other opportunities arise. If you ask a practitioner to attend an event, they many also ask you about taking on an intern. If you work with an organisation on a WIL project, they may be recruiting and you know of a recent graduate that is perfect for the role. It’s just basic networking 101. I also find that students who interact through these types of activities become close, and quickly start encouraging each other. Importantly they also start sharing job search advice.   

It’s sometimes hard to justify organising WIL events that seemingly benefit a minority of students. The benefits to students that participate are obvious, but there are benefits for all students. In this initial run for the White House, Barak Obama famously used social media to tell American’s it was time for change. Retirees in Florida were key to his success, but at that time hadn’t embraced social media. The answer? Through social media Obama’s team asked younger Americans to visit or call their parents/grandparents in Florida and tell them it was time for change. In a similar way, students who participate in WIL events pass on key messages to other students. Opportunities for other events often come about, and through recording these sessions, or even just through the added industry understanding gained by staff, other students will undoubtedly benefit.

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