Industry myths busted

6 Dec 2019
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences student Renee Arringer dispels some common myths for students looking to shift into industry. 

As science students, the thought of transferring our learned skills into industry practice is often daunting. The tertiary education environment can feel a world away from the seemingly harsh reality of the professional industry. But are these perceptions accurate?

We spoke to Bachelor of Environmental Management (Hons) student Claire de Wit and industry professional Tibo Torche (National Recruitment Lead at Esri Australia) to discuss some of the common myths associated with the science industry.

Student myths:

1. Students completing work experience or industry placement are glorified ‘coffee runners’.

Industry nightClaire has recently been employed as a Project Coordinator at Esri Australia and is quick to inform me that she has “never been asked to fetch coffee”. Her opinion is that it’s important for students and early career professionals to work from the ground up because everyone “has to start somewhere”. Graduates should be aware of their worth and show that they are much more capable than ‘coffee runners’— they have a qualification to prove it. She also advised that your willingness to complete all tasks (no matter how big or small) will have a positive impression on an employer.

2. Students must have concrete knowledge before entering the industry – there is no time for learning on the job.

This myth is “completely untrue”, Claire says. “We will always be learning our whole life”, and this applies directly to careers in any and every industry. Whilst some principles from university may be necessary to know, it is important to keep an open mind and allow new knowledge to empower us and guide us in our careers.

3. It is vital for students to make themselves stand out from the crowd and be vocal/outspoken accordingly.

Claire says that it is “important for everyone to have a voice”, however, “student/graduate opinion is not weighted as heavily as experienced professionals”. As a student or early career professional, the main objective going into industry is to learn. This means that absorbing information from professionals should be prioritised, rather than being outspoken with your limited university knowledge. She adds, “speak when you have something meaningful/valuable to say because professionals are willing to hear your perspective” and “industry professionals can appreciate and utilise fresh ideas from students/graduates”.


Professional myths:

1. The industry is a dog-eat-dog world/every man for himself.

Industry nightTibo suggests that this myth doesn’t really apply to the growing industry of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology and services. In fact, he regards collaboration as an important tool for scientists, especially in the field of geography. “Geography is unique” in its scientific approach and industry pathways; collaboration is required to discuss and design your desired pathway. By collaborating with and listening to professionals, students can equip themselves with a “robust approach” to their scientific careers.

2. It’s who you know not what you know.

“You define who you know”, Tibo states. Getting your foot in the industry door often requires networking. Your knowledge is vital, because it allows you to engage in relevant conversations with industry professionals, who in turn can provide you with complementary knowledge. Industry nights are a great opportunity to expand your understanding of what is required of graduates, which could be the deciding factor in getting hired.

3. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

The contemporary science industry is one that involves frequent upskilling and workforce mobility, especially with increasing rates of technological advances and discoveries. Tibo agrees with this perspective, and during his time at Esri he has seen the company empower employees “to move around and experience new things, gain exposure in different cities, and be supported in relocation and upskilling”. With these opportunities to gain new experiences and meet new like-minded people, it is impossible not to learn ‘new tricks’.

To help students navigate the shift from education to industry, the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, alongside a host of student societies, held the second annual SEES Industry Night on 21 August 2019.