“Working for a company whose values challenge me to do my best was a priority”
Henry Macphillamy graduated from Melbourne Law School with a Juris Doctor (JD) in 2016. He’s now on the Suncorp graduate program.
Today, he explains how he picked which jobs to apply for and shares his tips for making the leap between full-time study and full-time work.
What made you decide to apply to be a Suncorp graduate?
First, I formed friendships with several people working out of Suncorp’s Melbourne office over the last three years. I was (and still am) impressed with them as people, and gained an understanding of Suncorp’s financial products and services, its values and vision. Working for a company whose values challenge me to do my best work was my top priority.
Second, as a company which delivers both banking and insurance products and services, it was evident to me that there are a lot of opportunities to learn and develop across diverse areas of the business. This was also a priority.
Third, I was really impressed with the proposed graduate program, and the people delivering it. The four rotations are enabling me to gain knowledge and insights into all areas in which Suncorp is involved. It is also facilitating connections with other graduates with a wide range of backgrounds in different streams.
As anticipated, the environment encourages me to think proactively and hold high standards of myself, and to learn and develop in a supportive environment. Feedback from my team leader and colleagues is balanced, honest and constructive, and this feedback is at the heart of the program’s focus on developing graduates’ skills and attributes.
How did you find their application process?
The interviews were tough and required preparation.
I think it is incredibly important to emphasise what skills and attributes you can bring to the table. Use concrete examples and avoid bluster. Demonstrated examples of taking constructive feedback on board and actively incorporating this into your work.
How did you find the transition from full-time study to full-time work?
I enjoyed uni, but I am enjoying full time work even more. There is a sense of pride that comes with holding yourself accountable for the work you produce for colleagues, and engaging in the learning process in the practical workings of the business.
The thing which I have probably struggled with the most is developing the confidence to speak up in meetings, and to step up and ask questions. This is a vital skill, and one that I am constantly working on.
Finally, when you are starting in an organisation with little to know industry experience, I believe it is very important to have realistic expectations of yourself, and to be kind to yourself in the initial stages of the journey.
The focus is not on what you didn’t do properly, or what you could have done better. The focus is squarely on how you are going to incorporate feedback into your future work. It is a process that is ongoing, constant yet slow.
How well did your JD prepare you for work?
My law degree has provided me with a solid foundation of knowledge on which to build. I have also been taught to be precise in my thinking about a particular practical problem. It has also assisted me to write clearly and effectively, or so I hope.
I don’t think anything can prepare an individual for work, other than practical experience however.
Good marks mean nothing if you don’t have the ability to convey relevant knowledge to colleagues in a concise way. Any practical work experience is beneficial to adapting successfully to full time work in a big organisation.
Finally, I would say that uni tends to focus on the process of getting to an answer, rather than arriving at an answer. The process is still very important, however, I have found the mind set at work to be very different than in a university setting.
An in-house legal team must provide advice which clearly points the business towards a particular course of action, and providing reasons. It is crucial to strip out irrelevant information, and provide advice that is structured, easy to read, and concise.
What kinds of things do you wish you knew before beginning in the workplace?
I would simply say that spoken communication is very important.
In a workplace setting, you’ll be asked to explain what work you’re doing, or summarise information gleaned through research. I appreciate that this skill cannot be taught but is developed over time with experience and familiarity with the subjects that you’re dealing with.
Soft skills are also invaluable. I’m also learning to find a balance between producing good quality work and meeting time frames. Organisation and time management are crucial skills.
In your opinion, whose responsibility is it to fill in those gaps, and why?
In my view it is the student who has the biggest role to play. They know better than anyone what their strengths and weaknesses are, and they should actively be looking to build on their strengths and develop the areas in which they are not so strong.
Having said this, I have been very lucky so far in having a team leader who provides constructive feedback to focus my energies into making this happen.
What would be your advice for current postgrads at UniMelb, who are considering careers like yours?
Talk to as many people as possible, and come to the table with an open mind. Don’t be afraid of asking questions, or too proud to admit that you don’t have the answer.
Actively listen, and be proactive in finding ways to contribute to your team and the wider business.
Colleagues will respect you much more and expect more from you if you view your job as a privilege rather than approaching it with a sense of entitlement.
Suncorp graduates complete a two-year professional development program supported by on-the-job and formal learning activities (such as rotations and workshops). Applications for the graduate program open in March each year for positions starting the following August or February. More information is available at www.suncorpgroupgraduates.com.au
This post is part of our Mind the Gap series, helping graduate students transition between study and work.