When business student Gala Gordon-Burns graduates from Griffith University on Friday afternoon, she will leave with a well-earned degree plus a lot more.

“A degree doesn’t get you a job, you need a lot more behind you,” the 23-year-old Gold Coast student said.

Behind her, Gala has a wealth of work experience in the hotel and catering industry which more than complements her study major in International Tourism and Hotel Management.

She has been a full-time employee of the Mantra Group on the Gold Coast for three months, a position she took up shortly after attending a university networking event.

Senior leaders from the Star Entertainment Group ran the industry engagement session at Griffith’s Gold Coast campus earlier this yearwhen they discussed internship and employment opportunities with students.

Gala.MarkGala Gordon-Burns seized the opportunity on the day to sit one-on-one with the Chief Operating Officer of the Star Entertainment Group, Mark Mackay.

This conversation proved influential almost immediately as Gala successfully negotiated an initial group interview involving 50 other candidates, plus three follow-up individual interviews, to secure a role as a guest service agent with Mantra.

“I followed the advice from Mark during the interview process and began to showcase my strengths, skills and abilities instead of focusing on previous employment positions I had held,” she explains.

Her discussion with Mark Mackay had touched on the question of skills transfer when she described her seven years of work experience in food and beverage, and her ambitions to extend her experience into other areas of the industry.

Skills and knowledge

“He suggested that instead of looking at my experience, that I look at my skills and knowledge. He used an example from when he used to work in a night club collecting glasses. In a later interview for a managerial role at a brewery, it was suggested he didn’t have the experience and his reply was that he knew everything there was to know about beer and serving beer.

“That was a great example because it made me think about my skills and knowledge. I have worked cafes and restaurants, night clubs and banquet events and the skills I have gained could be applied in different jobs and I could make this my selling point.”

Mark Mackay, who studied commerce at Griffith Business School, also strongly encouraged networking, as well as volunteering to Gala, and highlighted the value of getting a foot in the door of companies where she would like to build her career.

“It was really useful having these things clarified by people in the industry. Everyone knows you should volunteer and network, but it’s very different me knowing it to having someone in such a senior position directly explain the enormous benefits of networking and volunteering and how they help set you aside from others. He said opportunities will arise (as a result of networking). When you know people you’ll be able to branch out and find your niche within the company.”

GalaWideStar Entertainment Group is one of the groups behind Brisbane’s Queen’s Wharf project and Jupiters Gold Coast. Leith Wiblen, Qld General Manager Human Resources, and Amanda Spencer, SEQ Recruitment Manager, both Griffith graduates, also took part in the networking session at Griffith.

“They came in and wanted to know about us. It was great to feel we were on the same page as them,” Gala said.

The knowledge gained while studying international tourism, hotel management and business management at Griffith is now playing its part for Gala. “I am constantly finding I’m applying areas learnt within my degree to everyday situations and challenges.

“Anything is possible and achievable with a business degree, it sets you up with not only a wealth of knowledge but also helps hone specific skills, which I have utilised in getting me where I am today.”

Gala grew up in Tasmania and initially started her tertiary education locally before looking further afield and finding Griffith’s Gold Coast campus.

“I made the decision to live on campus because I wanted to make friends. It was the best decision I ever made. I picked Griffith because I heard the business school is really renowned and the campus looked amazing. It has been the best experience of my life.”