Sunny Li, 26 graduated from Glasgow University with
an MSC in International Banking and Finance. Since her graduation Scottish Networks International has helped her find a number of placements, most recently with Lloyds TSB Scotland.
What’s your background?
I’m originally from Shenzhen, a city near Hong Kong. I studied my undergraduate course in China and then started working in relationship banking for China Merchant Bank. I was promoted quickly, but in 2004 decided to come to Scotland to study a postgraduate course. I felt it was good way to improve my language skills and to increase my knowledge base.
How did you handle your job hunt?
International students can meet a lot of difficulties and I think I was quite lucky because I became an associate of Scottish Networks International, which recruits a small number of international students in Scotland who have a postgraduate degrees and work experience.
They helped introduce me to companies who could use my experience and were planning to penetrate new markets, or strengthen their presence in existing ones. They helped me understand the wider job market and through them I was able to find work placements once I had graduated, initially for six months with Abbey National, then with SNI themselves and, at present, with Lloyds TSB Scotland. Under the Scottish Fresh Talent scheme, which is open for those who study in Scotland, I get a visa until the beginning of 2008 which offers me the opportunity to possibly find more long-term work.
Did you face any barriers?
For me, the career development has gone well because of the help of SNI. It also really helped that I’d worked before my postgraduate course and I do think it is important not to rush into higher education, particularly in a foreign country. I had to face the barriers that all international students do such as coping with a different language and culture. However, many of the challenges are just the same for us as they are for students who are native to the UK: it can be hard to find a job after university. You need to put in time and have patience not only because you are a foreigner but because everyone has to. You can always find an excuse not to but so much depends on your attitude, you have to be determined. No pain no gain!
Any other tips for fellow graduates?
Get your plans in place, do your research and find your roots in the UK early on in your course. Try to build up contacts and networks. You need to plan what you will do after university well in advance of your graduation. Lots of big companies offer opportunities or positions but it’s too late to start job hunting when you graduate. In Scotland, the Fresh Talent scheme means you have a visa for two years after graduation. The Council for International Education has details of any other opportunities around the UK (www.ukcosa.org.uk) although I believe they are more limited than in Scotland. And stay positive: it can be difficult to keep going when you don’t have family and friends around you.