Career Q&A: Internships – Australia’s Future of Work?

I bought a new car the other day. I reflected on the fact that when I was a child my parents had never bought a new car, because we often got my Uncle’s ‘trade ins’ when he upgraded his cars.  As I thought about my childhood and shared this story with my son, I realised that my children’s future will look so different to what my future looked like when I was 11.

I’m sure I am not alone in feeling that the future of work is going to be very difficult to predict. While many truths endure, more than any other facet of our lives, the way we work is changing significantly. My advice to my son was to start a business (now) and learn the skills it takes to be an entrepreneur.

Do I wish my parents had given me this advice? Yes and no. While I also believe in education, and will encourage my children to go to university, I will also encourage them to think on their feet and adapt to the rapid change that lies ahead.

[Tweet “While many truths endure, more than any other facet of our lives, the way we work is changing significantly.”]

I Never Planned To Run My Own Business

When I share my personal career journey with clients who are considering making a transition from corporate life to running their own business they are often surprised to hear that it was never a goal of mine to run my own business. What has driven me to create and grow my business is a desire to make a positive difference in the lives of others and to play an active part in my children’s lives. While the busyness of running Think Bespoke has been a very steep learning curve, all in all, I love what I do and feel privileged to be able to partner individuals and organisations as they navigate their career journey and LinkedIn. What’s been most interesting about this entrepreneurial journey is the impact on my boys. I am beginning to realise that by running our own businesses, my husband and I (who run our own businesses independently of each other), are perhaps giving our son’s the greatest education they could receive. And neither my husband or I planned it that way. In life, sometimes this is just how things play out.

[Tweet “By running our own businesses we are perhaps giving our son’s the greatest education.”]

Collaborating with Local Business Owners

You will hopefully not be surprised to read that when my path crosses the path of other self employed parents, I may look for opportunities to work with them. And so was the case when I came across Matthew Strange in a local co-working Facebook group. What I first noticed about Matt was that he was working hard to establish his new business in the recruitment industry, while also working full time for another organisation and trying to enjoy his young children. Seeing some potential in each other’s businesses, we agreed to meet up for a coffee to learn more about how we could help each other’s clients.

Matt is one of those ‘old school’ relationship builders who does what he says he will do, follows up with phone calls and emails and understands the importance of manners and being considerate to others. In our short time exploring how we can help each other’s businesses, I have referred potential clients to him and he has referred clients to me. We have also had a number of robust conversations about my views on an area that he has a lot of knowledge about, which is internships. When I went to University, RMIT offered a 3rd year which was a sandwich year. This provided paid employment and made the RMIT Business marketing graduates very employable. What I am now observing is how tough it is for graduates to get jobs and the emergence of internships. In some cases interns (both local and overseas graduates) are expected to work for little or no money, in return for invaluable work experience. And, without wanting to be a cynic, I feel this is exploitative and unfair.

Internships as a Way to Get Work Experience

Matt is trying hard to educate me about the internship programs and has also opened my eyes to the issues many of his clients (who are both locals and from overseas) face in securing paid employment. In the case where they are overseas graduates, there are many difficulties related to cultural bias and their lack of soft skills, which may be second nature to locals who speak English as their first language. There is no denying getting permanent full time jobs these days is hard, and will become harder as we see jobs disappear thanks to automation and the disruption of industries that have traditionally employed many people.

But it’s not all bad news, and so I have invited Matt to share a little about himself in the following Career Q&A. It is my hope that in sharing his story, it will encourage you to share with Think Bespoke’s community your own views about internships and where you see the future of work for Australia and our children. It is Matt’s hope that those of you who are in a position to employ staff may consider what role an intern could play in your business.



Please tell us a little about a day in the working life of Matthew

Life for me is hectic. But I wouldn’t change a thing. A little over 8 months ago my beautiful wife and I were blessed with twin girls, Ava and Ellie, to join our little family. I have a 4 year old called Aiden who is the light of my life and is not only my son, but my best friend. Juggling the children and keeping the family going is similar to spinning plates, and I have been rather proficient stopping them from falling.

I have a passion for working with students and international graduates, and I have been fortunate enough to be engrained into this space for the last 10 years, managing the career outcomes for talented individuals from all over the globe.

Recently I have been working with candidates seeking unpaid work experience internships coming from Colombia to Australia to gain practical skills and University credit for their studies. This has been amazing, but trying to tee up video-chat meetings over varying time zones has been a challenge.

Typically a day for me is meeting with upwards of 10-20 candidates that have been referred through to me from various institutions or have simply come to us after viewing my LinkedIn profile or reviewing the website of my various partner relationships. I work directly with these people in assisting them with their career profiles and personal branding so I can direct them onwards to host organizations that may have the ability to train and guide them in their chosen career pathway.

Day by day I meet clients, training partners and candidates trying to connect the dots and link them all together so I can assist with their career pathway.

How does this differ to your career ambitions as a young adolescent?

As a teen I always had dreams of working in the Army or as a Police officer. Neither eventuated as I was always changing my mind and flighty with my actions and career direction.

I eventually settled on becoming a Graphic Designer and was extremely successful in this space. During this time I assisted with the marketing campaign for the VE Commodore, the Hummer and various other automotive brands, but the process of design seemed to become stagnant and I wanted more.

Graphic Design quickly became boring and I decided to try my hand at Recruitment utilizing some of the networks and contacts I had made whilst working as a designer. This again evolved and I moved into the student placement space in which I continue to work within to this day.

What was the defining moment that set you on the career path you are on today?

Back in 2014 I was working within the Registered Training Organisation (RTO) sector as a Project Manager assisting major clients with educational pathways for large volumes of students. I quickly recognized that my skills as a placement management professional were better served assisting the candidates with ‘real-life’ interview and career skills as opposed to pushing them through Certificate and Diploma courses that didn’t necessarily provide them with career outcomes.

This year, with the need for more family time and working flexibility, I opted to take the plunge and kick off my own business. I have been Director of 5T Consulting for the last 12 months, however the work I had completed over this time was adhoc and I didn’t have the time I needed to dedicate myself to the role due to my full-time position.

Recently I merged my business with another established career development and industry placement partner called Industry Placements Australia. Jack, my business partner, has managed the business for the last year, building up relationships with some very large national clients. It made sense to add my skills and placement knowledge to the mix to further develop the brand.

While I miss the stability of a full-time working arrangement, the freedom of managing my partnerships and client relationships my way is amazing. Reaching out to networks like this and building new relationships to assist as a contractor is inspiring and challenging.

What is one of the best decisions you’ve had to make in your journey to success and career happiness?

So far the best decision I have made is removing myself from the RTO sector. I found the sector difficult to continue in given the tenuous contracts, losses of funding and continual auditing. However, I made many of my best contacts and relationships within this sector, so I am grateful for that!

The second best decision in my career only happened about 2 months ago when I was fortunate enough to merge my business with another more established and well regarded business, Industry Placements Australia.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career/business in your industry?

Be prepared for the unexpected. Working with various cultures and people over the last 10 years has opened my eyes to some weird and wonderful situations that have required some serious working flexibility, artistic license, abstract thinking and creativity.

My advice would be to always encourage people starting in the business to be professional and courteous in all encounters – one never knows if that junior staff member you meet one week may become your manager the next.

[Tweet “Be prepared for the unexpected.”]


Please tell us more about Internships.

How do this work and how can the members of Think Bespoke’s community who are business owners benefit from them?

Internships can be of massive benefit to all businesses. The opportunities for business to have unpaid skilled workers is a wonderful opportunity for all involved – for future workforce development, safe testing out of potential new employees and an incredibly cost effective recruitment method.

Many of our candidates come from diverse non-English backgrounds and this adds a wonderful opportunity for business to remain present with diversity.

For a company to host an intern, they must have:

  • A suitable role for the required area of study (ie: Accounts role for Accounting student)
  • Valid Position Description
  • Safe worksite
  • Supervision/Mentoring available
  • The ability to pay a small daily allowance/stipend to the candidate for their time. This can be anywhere between $25 – $50 per day to cover meals and travel.

Industry Placements Australia like to meet and validate all client roles to ensure the candidates are cared for and looked after during their placement, so please reach out to me if you believe you have capability to work with students and graduates.

You can connected with Matt on Linkedin here or email

Industry Placements Australia

5T Consulting