Jobsbank news

Finding a Place: Looking beyond what’s on paper – Amal’s story

Jan 31, 2023

amal (1)

The oldest of nine siblings, Amal came to Australia from Sudan in 2005. In the early years of her working life, Amal had no problem securing a variety of positions, from Hungry Jacks in Sydney, to Myer and The Body Shop in Melbourne once her family made the move south.

“As I got older, it got more challenging,” she says. “I would interview for positions in retail that I really wanted but I didn’t get them. I always asked for feedback and kept getting the same response – that I was the perfect candidate, but they couldn’t offer me the job. It made me wonder what the problem was.”

While many of the jobs she did get had great teams, she often found herself struggling with managers and supervisors assigning tasks that were outside the scope of what she had been trained to do, setting her up to fail.

“After school, I went shopping at Myer in my uniform with a few friends who were also African; as soon as we went in, they put the code out over the loudspeaker that I knew meant we were suspicious. A whole load of managers – who knew me! – arrived at the entrance and searched our bags. I couldn’t go back to work after that, I was so uncomfortable around everyone.”

Amal wants to work with an NGO, with a particular interest in helping women and children but she’s willing to start wherever she needs to, to gain knowledge and learn on the ground. “Not having networks has been hard.

A lot of people get jobs through other people – I don’t know people in the professional world, so I can’t call and ask if there are opportunities. I have to start at the bottom all the time.”

“Not getting work is discouraging – applying and not hearing back. I went to work straight out of university, at AMES, but it’s now harder than it was before.”

“All the jobs I’m looking for are looking for experience but I can’t get that without getting the jobs, which is so hard.”

Having always been involved in community work, Amal jumped at the chance to be involved with Jobsbank’s partner, Youth Activating Youth (YAY). Invited onto a project dealing with knife crime, Amal was keen to be involved in something that dealt with an issue impacting her own community. Through this role, she worked with police, built research pieces and was part of a team that did community outreach through consultation sessions that were then presented back to stakeholders.

The role has helped her to make more connections in the space she’d like to build her career, and it has helped her to realise some of the skills she has already been honing for years, as well as building new ones – she’s come to understand that she has more experience than it might seem on paper.

 “Employers should be more careful about how much experience they are looking for. The job I’m currently interviewing for wrote in the ad that they wanted five years’ experience, when they were actually happy with study or experience.”

“It’s hard for people to know whether they do have the skills … most people will think they haven’t got the qualifications and not apply”.


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Jobsbank acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Owners of the land on which we work. We pay our respects to their culture, their connections to Country and community, and to Elders past, present and emerging.