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Vinesh Balan got his Australian permanent residency and arrived in Melbourne with his wife in 2018, full of hopes of landing a job within a few weeks. While still in India, they had availed of the services of an Australian career coach, as they had no friends or family here. With resumes tidied, job search skills improved and mock interviews practised, Vinesh was upbeat about his career and excited about the big move.
In retrospect, Vinesh says, “I was naïve to think that I could send off job applications and sit back. I thought my resume would speak for itself.” It was eight months before he finally got a break but during this stressful period, this young IT professional started something which changed his life.
Initially, it was a blog about his experiences of migrating to Australia. What surprised him was that his personal journey attracted the attention of many. “That boosted me and pushed me to share more,” says Vinesh. He realised the power of putting himself out there when a recruiter he was chasing up unsuccessfully for months through LinkedIn and emails, saw his article and himself reached out for a chat.
Vinesh decided to take this further by proposing the idea for a face-to-face meetup with others like him, and the response blew him. “That’s when it got real,” says Vinesh. “Within two weeks, I had booked a room in the Docklands Library and found myself sharing stories with 25 other people.”
A recruiter joined too and shared his perspective and thus was born the monthly meetups, which has since spread to other Australian cities such as Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane. COVID-19 came around and threw a spanner in the works but the meetups moved online.
Along with the three-hour, workshop-style monthly meetups, Vinesh also started weekly networking walks. These casual lunchtime walks in the city were great for new migrants and students to catch up with experienced old-timers. COVID altered this too as people started working from homes. So he now drives to the city on Thursday evenings, just for these walks. When asked how he manages such a commitment week after week, Vinesh humbly says, “I don’t consider it as a huge effort as I have built it into my routine, and I love doing it.”
Vinesh considers human connections to be important, not just for securing a job, but also for one’s mental wellbeing. By sharing stories, you can get inspired, as well as learn from others mistakes.
“Networking is not a one-to-one transaction but a long-term goal that you have to consistently work at. It is more of a lifestyle rather than transactional. It is not about just getting a job but also about personal development,” he says.
Elaborating the concept, he explains, “Choose a few companies you want to work with. Understand what’s happening in these organisations, make contact with people through LinkedIn and show your interest. Tell them what you love about their work and understand their problems. All this gives you an advantage.” He cautions against looking people up and asking for a job. “That’s not networking. Don’t spam people. Establish trust first. Down the lane, if a role comes up, probably one that’s not even advertised, they might think about you, but that shouldn’t be your end goal.”
Recounting an instance of the power of networking, Vinesh speaks of a migrant who got his PR last March, just as COVID lockdowns began. “He started networking online with people over LinkedIn and it paid off when he secured a job before it was advertised, less than a week after he landed in Australia.”
He emphasises that networking is not something you attempt and forget about after getting a role. It is a support system for all times. “You never know when you might lose your job. I encourage people with jobs too, to meet and talk with people.”
With over 16,000 followers on LinkedIn, where he shares a lot of useful content, Vinesh’s reach has grown exponentially in just three years. Over 100 events later, he confesses that if he had connected with people, his mental state would have been much better in those stressful eight months. “Job search is a temporary state. By speaking to others and meeting with people, you can grow in confidence, and feel connected and happy,” he advises.
Vinesh says many of the people who came to the first meetup are his closest friends to this day. As he says in his LinkedIn post, “Hi, but I’m no recruiter – talk to me as a friend :)”.
Resources for job seekers, new migrants and international students: Meetup events: https://www.meetup.com/en-AU/Job-Hunt-2-0/
For Job search stories: http://youtube.com/vineshbalan
Career Australia show on M4TV channel: https://www.m4tv.com.au/shows/career-australia/5/
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