Australia’s a Great Training Ground for Workplace Readiness
Employers all over the world are complaining that recent graduates just aren’t ready for the workplace. According to a 2013 survey by textbook company Chegg, conducted by Harris International, employers say graduates don’t know how to prioritize, don’t know how to talk to clients or superiors and don’t know how to make decisions. Employers are frustrated and graduates are finding themselves in over their heads and drowning. One solution they might want to investigate: Send these students to Australia. No, not because Australia used to be a penal colony, but because Australia’s work culture is a great training ground for students and new grads to learn to quickly make themselves valuable team members.
Australia is well known for having a flat hierarchy in the workplace. As one United States citizen who lived a long-time in Australia said: “In Australia, it’s not about bosses and underlings. It’s just people.” Aussies generally don’t believe in unpaid internships and they’d never hire an intern to make coffee or run copies when the intern is expecting to learn a career – that’s creating an environment of workplace readiness. Graduates don’t enter a company as “the kid,” showing deference and working up to having a say. They’re expected to jump in from the get-go. Joking around with superiors and speaking to them as equals is normal. Going out with the gang—all levels of workers including your boss—for a Friday game of football or a drink is traditional. Talking with everyone from your manager to the cleaning crew with respect is expected. Whether you’re the CEO or the newest employee, you’re supposed to be treated like an adult.
The flip side of that is that employees, even ones who are pretty new to the adult gig, are expected to act like adults. They’re expected to show up on time, learn their jobs and work hard at them, and communicate like professionals—which means no text language in emails, avoiding excessive use of words like “sweet” and “awesome” and looking people in the eye. When employees are put on a team, they don’t get to slack off while other people carry the weight—as sometimes happens in academia. They’re hired to bring their best brains and skills and energies to the job. They’re not probationary workers, they’re all treated like valued team members. You can be the greenest newbie on the block but you’ll still be treated like a pro…as long as you act like one.
Of course, since Australian employers expect these kinds of skills and behaviors, they pretty much trust that any grad who lacks them will work independently to cultivate them. And that may be something all employers could learn from. Not everyone gets a chance to work in Australia. But the ones who work there successfully may find themselves even readier than their peers to step into a great career path in the U.S. and elsewhere.