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International student graduates small talking their way to jobs

25 Jun 2018

Here’s something to chat about over the water cooler. Wellington’s International student graduates are boosting their chances of getting a job through the art of small talk in the workplace.

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Several times a year, WREDA offers its Work Ready in Wellington programme to international students and graduates to prepare them to work in New Zealand and help them develop a range of skills.

Handpicked tutors from the local business and academic community teach a range of topics to the students such as the importance of communicating in the New Zealand workplace – including small talk.

Nicky Riddiford, course coordinator and teacher of the Workplace Communication Programme for Skilled Migrants at Victoria University of Wellington, says engaging in small talk in a new workplace is an important element of fitting in.

“The small talk can be very brief, for example, saying ‘have a nice weekend’ or ‘did you have a nice weekend?’ and responding to similar questions. This kind of interaction shows a willingness to engage with and get to know other people in the team.

“It’s important for everyone to engage in small talk but it is often more challenging for newcomers because they are not sure which topics are suitable, and who they should do small talk with,” Ms Riddiford says.

Chinese International student Allen (Feng) Zhu graduated from Massey University before he completed a Work Ready course in 2017. He then worked as an intern at WREDA’s Head Office for a month where, among other things, he provided insights into the China market.

Mr Zhu says he was encouraged to engage in small talk while at WREDA.

“I would come in every morning and ask what people had got up to the previous night, or ask them what they were going to do that night. It helped me make friends and I quickly felt like I was part of a team.

“Being able to quickly fit in to a new workplace is something employers look for and having the confidence to chat with colleagues about everyday things is important. Small talk was a good thing to learn about as part of the Work Ready programme.”

Mr Zhu’s comments are backed by Victoria University’s report It Takes A City To Raise A Graduate which says general work experience is seen as essential to employability.

WREDA’s Talent, Skills and Education Manager Brook Pannell says the Wellington International Student Growth Programme is not just about increasing student numbers, it’s also about creating well-rounded people.

“International students are attracted to Wellington because of its reputation as a friendly, welcoming region packed with learning institutions that provide quality education.

“WREDA takes that further through the Work Ready programme so that recent graduates get a clear picture of what to expect, and what is appropriate, in the Kiwi business world.

“That sounds intuitive to New Zealanders but there are a wide range of norms in business behaviour and expectations around the world and we strive to show them the Kiwi way to kick start their respective careers in Wellington,” says Mr Pannell.