Curtin Alumni: Meet Yolanda Zaw

March 7, 2014 by Curtin CEL Team

Curtin Alumni: Meet Yolanda Zaw

Yolanda completed a double degree in journalism and social sciences (double major—politics and history) at Curtin University in 2010, since graduation she worked with The West Australian Newspaper.

Here Yolanda shares her experience and advice on professionalism and preparing for the workplace.

Nothing can really prepare you for your first day at work. At a daily newspaper, quite literally every single day is different. You never know what news will break—natural disasters, political spills, celebrity scandals—or worse, when you come in and there’s no news but you need to fill the pages anyhow. It is on these days that you often fall victim to the imaginations of a bored chief of staff. It is on these days where you find yourself counting cars on the freeway from an overpass at peak hour (we were trying to determine how many people drove to work alone, for a story about the merits of carpool lanes). Another time, I sat outside motorcycle gang clubhouse until my car battery ran flat and I had to ask one of the most infamous bikies in Perth for a jump start (he had just been released from prison that day). Needless to say, there were no courses in “negotiating with hardened criminals 101” when I was at university but that’s not to say my time studying was wasted. Aside from the practical skills I learned in my degree like copy-writing, interviewing and story sourcing, I learned a great deal from my non-classroom activities at university. Getting involved in Curtin Volunteers, being a student ambassador, and studying abroad in the US and Europe not only enriched my university experience but also taught me invaluable lessons and equipped me with skills I could have never learned sitting inside a classroom.

In a competitive job market, I think it is these extra-curricular activities that really set you apart as a graduate. I think employers are looking for something more than just a degree. They want a well-rounded individual who is willing to go above and beyond just what is required of them. In my job interview for The West Australian, I was quizzed by a panel of 8 editors and section heads. Of all the questions I was bombarded with, not one was about my degree or classes. Of course it was important that I had a degree but they were more interested in my other pursuits and activities. I think that employers recognise that general skills and tasks can be taught—finding someone with the willingness to learn and really engage is the real catch.

My advice to all graduates or students is to get involved and jam-pack as many experiences as you can manage into your time at university. You never know, your future boss could be an inaugural member of the beer appreciation club!

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