If we can do it, so can you…

I first heard about CareerTrackers through the Indigenous Unit at my university. CareerTrackers provides Indigenous students with the opportunity to gain corporate experience in their chosen field of study. Some students who were participating in the program shared their own experiences with us and encouraged us to get involved with the program.

I have been disconnected from my culture, so applying for an internship with CareerTrackers is one of my first steps in trying to reconnect with my culture and with other Indigenous students and organisations. It wasn’t until the end of the university year that I decided I would give it a try, so I registered my interest in participating in the program on their website.

I was quickly assigned a student advisor, Kate, who spoke to me about my course, my plans for the future and where I wanted to intern. We also did some work to prepare my CV and develop internship ideas. The opportunity of an internship at SVA arose and I decided to go for it. I met with Kate and we worked on my pitch and interview skills and ensured that that I was all ready for the interview. When Kate rang me to let me know that I was successful, I couldn’t believe it!

CareerTrackers has provided me with great support both before and during my internship. Before starting our internships, CareerTrackers runs a workshop where we work out how to get the best experience from our internships and meet many of the other Indigenous students who are participating in the program. Run over a week in January for all students in the CareerTrackers program, The Leadership Development Institute is another great experience at which interns can work on their professional abilities. It’s packed with different workshops on developing skills such as time management, setting goals and so on.

At one workshop we had a panel of five successful Indigenous women talking about their own experiences and how they got to where they are now and basically saying ‘if we did it you can too.’ I thought these were great to hear and were really inspiring.

One of the questions asked at the end of the session really resonated with me. An intern asked about trying to reconnect with her culture and how she would go about it. One of the ladies on the panel thanked her for asking the question and having the courage to ask such a question in front of everybody. She responded that you can start just by trying to get involved with anything and everything, such as attending Indigenous events and learning about the culture from there, (even if it isn’t your original language group or if you don’t know where you are from), and trying to make connections with others and the community you live in. This really resonated with me because I’m in a similar situation. It was really great advice to hear and to put into use.

During my internship with SVA, I have been working with the Employment Team on various projects, with my main role being as a researcher, working mainly on the Employment Dialogue event. Travelling to Melbourne with the team to support the event in February was a real highlight. I have also has the opportunity to work with some of the other teams, including SVA Consulting, to gain an insight into what they do.

These opportunities have been a great experience for me to use in my university work and for my future career. I have been able to increase my knowledge about the corporate and workplace environment, work on and learn new skills such as writing reports and using different computer programs. I’ve also been able to see my field of study – social work – in action and what other opportunities appear for me with this background.

I’ve also enjoyed making friends with the other CareerTrackers interns. Making friends with some students who are in a similar situation and keeping in contact with them has been really good too as we can talk to each other about similar issues we might face and even help each other out in trying to reconnect.

I’d recommend that any Indigenous student consider speaking to CareerTrackers about how an internship could help them reconnect with their culture, support their uni work, and prepare them for their career after university.

Kiah Patterson worked at SVA as a CareerTrackers intern in 2013.