Archive for the ‘Student Futures’ Category

An example STAR reflection for each of the nine Monash/Student Futures employability skills

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

1. Communication

Scenario: Describe a situation in which you had to vary your communication approach according to the audience that you were addressing.

Situation

I volunteered at Caulfield campus on Open Day in 2017. My role involved helping people navigate their way, including providing directions to the various buildings on Caulfield campus. Many of the people I interacted with that day has never been to Caulfield campus, and had arrived via public transport. They also had varying levels of English.

Task

I need to provide clear, helpful instructions to every visitor I interacted with that day, including parents and guardians of future students who may attend Monash one day. It was important to be friendly and culturally sensitive when providing directions, and to be patient and calm when repeating instructions.

Action

I flexed my communication style and the way I interacted with people depending on their level of English and their understanding of the campus. For people with limited English skills, I used shorter sentences and more hand gestures to explain, and checked their understanding more often. For example, I asked them directly if they understood, or repeated the directions in short instructions so it was clear what they needed to do next. For people who had a solid command of English, but were new to campus, I explained how they could navigate to their destination using landmarks for points of reference. For example, I would tell them to have their back facing to the café, and to walk past the basketball court, to enter the building.

Result

The manager of volunteer students gave me positive feedback about my communication skills, stating that many people had remarked to her on my polite, friendly and helpful approach to our visitors.

2. Creativity and Innovation

Scenario: Describe a project or situation where you felt the conventional approach was not suitable or ideal – where you had to challenge perceptions of how things are – and convey new ideas to stakeholders

Situation

In one of the units for my civil engineering degree, I had to complete a group project. The project was for 30% of our mark for the unit, and we were assigned teammates by the lecturer for the project (usually we have the option to select project members ourselves). The project required each team to design a 12-month construction project with $50 million, including the concept, design and delivery of a new railway in a metro precinct. We had to present our end-to-end project brief to the class, with each person required to speak for at least 5 minutes.

Task

We had 4 members in our project team, and we decided as a group we didn’t want to stand in front of the class during the presentation and use a PowerPoint, with each person talking in turn. We wanted our project to make an impression on the class, and be memorable. We decided to create a viral-like campaign, using social media (Facebook and Instagram), created digital collateral (brochures, flyers) and created several replicas out of playdoh of the railway infrastructure that we designed in our project.

Action

I suggested dividing our team so that each person had distinct roles, and was clear on what they needed to deliver. This was accepted by the rest of the team. I created a google spreadsheet to allocate the agreed tasks to everyone and manage the project from a central location, which meant everyone in our team could see the tasks and who was responsible for which item. We used Google hangouts to check each others’ progress and share resources. We used Photoshop and Illustrator to design the look of the railway precinct, and added these images to brochures and flyers. We created trains, trees, bridges and buildings out of playdoh, so our classmates could pass these around during the presentation. On Facebook and Instagram (in our class group chat and on our private accounts) we shared “insider” videos interviewing our team about the project in the fortnight before our presentation, which generated buzz from our classmates about our presentation. On the day of the presentation, I handed out invitations to the “grand opening” of our railway, with the class details and a computer-generated image of what our railway precinct looked like.

Result

When we started our presentation, I handed out the flyers and brochures showing our design concept. I also handed out Playdoh models at key points in our presentation, creating a lot of excitement and interest. After our presentation, the lecturer commented that this was one of the best group presentations he had seen, as it was creative and interesting. He said he was impressed with our creativity and initiative to engage the class as “project stakeholders” in the topic. Our final mark for this assignment was the best in the class.

3. Teamwork

Scenario: Describe a time you had to deal with conflict within a team and what you did to help resolve the issue

Situation

In one of my elective classes, we were assigned team members for a group assignment. One of our team members did not attend the tutorial when this assignment was introduced, and missed key information about the project aims. Due to a misunderstanding on their behalf, our group had some conflicting ideas about how we would complete the project. Of the five students in our team, two students wanted to approach the project in one way, and the other three students wanted to approach it a different way. At our first team meeting (over skype), our team split into two halves arguing about why the other idea was not effective.

Task

We had four weeks to complete the assignment, and come up with a solution to complete the project. Due to the conflict that occurred during our first team meeting, our team was avoiding each other and working individually on the project, which was not efficient. Our team had not made any progress on the project, two weeks from its due date.

Action

To obtain group agreement about working together on the same solution for the project, I rang each of the group members individually (four other people in total). I discussed the benefits and challenges of the two different approaches to completing this project, and after these phone calls, four out of five group members agreed on using the same approach. I adopted the project manager role, and assigned specific tasks to each group member. For the group member that did not agree, I worked with them separately to complete items for the project and made sure their input was recognised by the other team members. This allowed the team to quickly progress the project in the final days before the deadline. I also regularly checked in with each group member, listening to their concerns and helping them troubleshoot their tasks.

Result

Although there was a lot of conflict within our team during this process, we were able to submit it on time and complete all elements of the assignment. When I spoke with the team members after submitting the assignment, we all reflected on how we could have changed our communication style, earlier on in the project, to produce a better outcome. I was happy with how I managed this situation as it was uncomfortable and awkward, but if conflict occurred again I would start with a face-to-face meeting to get everyone’s agreement and create more opportunities for people to check their understanding of the project aims before progressing with tasks.

4. Problem Identification & Solution

SCENARIO Describe a time when you came up with a new approach to a problem.

Situation

As a committee member on the Monash Arts’ Students Society, part of our commitment is to host at least two student-facing events each semester. The first event of semester one 2018 was a barbecue during week one. We wanted to attract additional Arts students to sign up as members, fundraise money for the society via the sales of soft drink and a sausage sizzle, and create a fun an engaging environment. Unfortunately, in the days leading up to the event, the weather forecast was for rain and hail, which would significantly impact the number of students attending that day, and negatively affect our ability to deliver a successful event.

Task

The President decided this barbeque would go ahead, despite the weather forecast. We had already spent some of our marketing budget on advertising this barbeque and we wanted to at least try and deliver what we promised. This decision is also in line with our 2018 strategic plan; we would host at least two student-facing events per semester.

Action

On the morning of the event, it had already rained a lot overnight and it was windy. It was not a warm, sunny day as it should have been (given it was early March). That morning, I sent two committee members to the Reject Shop to purchase a number of disposable rain jackets for the entire committee to wear throughout the event.
Once the marquee was erected, I sourced a number of cement blocks and sand bags to hold down the pegs and straps. This ensured it would not collapse in the rain and complied with the safety of our committee members and any students attending the event.
Prior to the event starting, we created as much atmosphere on campus as possible, with loud upbeat music to attract the students (speakers covered in plastic bags). I also sent a couple of committee members out in teams to go roving around the campus to attract students to our barbeque. Towards the end of the event, I went on coffee and hot chocolate run for the committee, to keep their morale up and to give them a pick-me-up in the cold weather.

Result

Our target for the day was $1,000 in sales, and at least 50 new members. Unfortunately, we only sold $220 worth of goods, and signed up 38 members. Although the membership signups and our sales figures were lower than we wanted, we were proud of ourselves for committing to the event and getting through it despite a number of setbacks. We worked well as a team to overcome these setbacks, and this improved our teamwork skills and our creativity to resolve each problem as it arose. I was also able to donate the bread and the uncooked sausages to the Monash Students Association, which provided this food as a free meal for students in need that evening. I am also looking into getting rain jackets with our logo donated to us by a local business.

5. Intercultural Competence

Scenario: Describe a situation in which you demonstrated cross-cultural competence by understanding, navigating and effectively interacting with a culture different to your own.

Situation

I was selected by my faculty to go to Germany for a study trip. I was learning German although not very good at it, and had struggled with speaking the language as I was not confident.

Task

I really wanted to connect with Germans through the four-week study tour, and learn as much as I could about the culture. I aimed to be as fluent as possible in my four weeks, and made a commitment to reducing my English use as much as possible throughout the whole time in Germany.

Action

I took a dictionary with me everywhere, and I wrote down words I didn’t understand. I practised speaking with every person I interacted with, for example the attendants in shops, the people I sat next to on the train, the hotel concierge. Every time someone tried to speak to me in English I would reply to them in German. I tried to always decipher the German words on a sign or placard at a museum, before I would check my understanding in English. I also made an agreement with a classmate to speak German to each other for the trip, and although this was very challenging, we were able to do this.

Result

My language increased and my confidence in trying new words and expressions increased. I was able to communicate in much more detail and have richer conversations with German people as my time in-country progressed. At the end of the study tour, I met up with a family member after the study trip, and he commented to me on how fluent I sounded and how I seemed confident navigating Germany. I still felt like I had a long way to go with my fluency, but hearing someone else state to me how much I had improved gave me perspective on my progress. I was pleased with what I achieved in only four weeks.

6. Use of tools & technologies

Scenario: Describe a situation in which you were able to apply technology as a management tool in the workplace

Situation

I work part-time in a swim centre. I was recently asked by the manager to review the roster and achieve two distinct but inter-related goals. The first was to find a more efficient way to allocate casual teaching shifts, the second was to reduce complaints about how shifts were allocated (either in or out of the water). I had two weeks to summarise my plan to achieve these goals and report my suggestions to my manager.

Task

I needed to review the current roster process, and the current system and its documentation, to discover any gaps and opportunities to improve.

Action

I quickly discovered that the rostering process was ad-hoc and none of the decision-making was documented. Utilising my knowledge of the online booking system, I pulled roster allocation reports over the last 12 months. I used Excel to identify trends in the shift allocation, and my own working knowledge of how shift-swaps occur, to formulate a new roster. In Excel, I created pivot tables to summarise each casual swim teacher’s average monthly hours and shift types. I cross-checked the original roster report against the Outlook calendar to confirm when staff had cancelled shifts. As I created my new roster process, I templated it in Excel sheet and wrote out my decision making as a new process in Word.
When I next met with my manager, I suggested that all staff fill out a Google form of their preferred days and times and shift types. We could do this each term, and then finalise the roster four weeks prior to the term starting. I suggested the term roster (with shift counts per person) can be displayed prominently in the office – all staff can see it, which will help cut down arguments about early morning or late evening shifts (a frequent point of contention), and reduce misinformation about which teachers were allocated an in-water shift or an out-of-water shift.
To improve staff engagement and build team culture, I suggested that management host a whole-staff meeting for the casual swim teachers, every term. This provides at least four opportunities every year for staff to get together and celebrate their successes, as well as to collaborate on any areas of challenge or difficulty. Management can also share stories, update staff on any key trends or new initiatives, and encourage the team culture. To guarantee attendance, I suggested we pay all casual swim teachers to attend, and provide pizza and soft drink.

Result

The manager was happy with my suggestions and implemented all of them over the course of the next few months. I was also promoted to a new role where my main focus was to implement my suggestions, including managing the new roster system and hosting staff meetings.

7. Professionalism

Scenario: Describe a situation that demonstrates your ability to take responsibility for your own professional learning and development

Situation

As part of my Business Administration degree, I was awarded an industry based placement with a consulting firm. In my second week, I was given a task by a senior manager of the department. I was to complete desktop research, and gather the key points from my research in a document, to send him by the end of the day. When I completed this task, the senior manager called me into his office and informed me I had incorrectly interpreted the task and not followed his instructions.

Task

I had to re-do the task and re-submit it to the senior manager. The deadline was the next day before 12pm.

Action

I apologised to the senior manager for completing the task incorrectly. I asked him if I could explain my thinking about how I had approached the task, to see if he could show me where I had gone wrong. The senior manager helped me re-approach the task and gave me some ideas about how to proceed. I accepted responsibility for my mistake.
On the train home I created a skeleton draft of how I would complete the task the second time around. I came in early the next day to get started, so I would have plenty of time to check my work with another colleague in my department, and make edits if necessary. I made sure to think carefully about the advice provided by the senior manager, and incorporated those instructions throughout my work. I also went back to the initial instructions he sent me (which had not changed) and read them more thoroughly.

Result

This was a wonderful learning opportunity for me. The mistakes I made in the initial summary taught me about how I can improve my attention to detail, planning and organisation skills, and to ensure I fully understand the scope of a task before starting it. It also taught me how to professionally approach a colleague for help, which I did the second time, as well as how to speak with a manager when your work is not what they wanted. I am pleased to say that the senior manager was very happy with my second summary, and praised me on how I presented as a professional throughout this experience, with humility and initiative and determination to get it right.

8. Initiative & Enterprise

Scenario: Describe a situation when you showed initiative and took the lead

Situation

The President of our club (Economics Students Society) had organised a full day development and training session on a weekend for our Executive Team. An hour before the session was due to begin I received a phone call from her to let me know she had been in a car accident and would not be able to carry out her component of the training or introduce the guest speakers.

Task

The training was necessary and needed to go ahead. The rest of the Executive Team had given up their Saturday and had already made plans to get to the venue.

Action

I spoke to the President to find out how to gain access to the off-site venue, the training materials and the contacts for the speakers. I spoke to each of the speakers to explain the situation and to let them know that we may need to adjust the schedule. I asked one of the other Executive Team members to arrive a bit earlier to assist me with set up and to help me familiarise myself with the training materials and session structure.

Result

I hosted the entire planning day and coordinated and ran several of the sessions. I also ensured that the guest presenters were provided with all of the support and assistance they required. I initiated an impromptu question and answer session with the guest speakers over lunch – something that was rated by the Team as one of the highlights of the day. Although not all of the elements of the training day ran as smoothly as had been initially planned, it was agreed the day was a success and all of the guest presenters were pleased with how their sessions were received. In fact, several of the presenters offered to maintain contact with the Club and provide mentoring to our Team. I later wrote a comprehensive report on the day, outlining the successes and development opportunities of the planning day which I shared with the President and the Executive Team. This document ultimately informed the objectives and structure of the following year’s planning day.

9. Planning and Organisation

Scenario: Describe a situation where you demonstrated your ability to manage resources and plan for contingencies.

Situation

I have played soccer since I was eight years old, and I love to play this sport because I love being on a team and working together, and I also value keeping up my fitness. In high school I was lucky enough to be selected for the state juniors team, which added a significant amount of time to my training schedule. In year 12, I had to plan and organise my time around training, travel to attend games and competitions, working part time, and studying.

Task

To successfully play on the state team, I spoke with my soccer coach, my teammates, and my family to help me plan my schedule. I employed a number of methods to manage my time and plan effectively, so I could achieve my soccer goals but also ensure I achieved a good ATAR score, and earn money from part time work. I also didn’t want to stress or burn out, so I needed to think carefully about how I would balance these priorities.

Action

I spoke with my parents about the travel commitment for soccer, work and school, as I didn’t have my drivers license. We worked together to create transport options to drive me to training or games, or get public transport. I also arranged lifts with team members for games that were far away from home. I used my email calendar to manage my time, and tracked my fitness goals with a hard-copy bullet journal. This helped me to plan sufficient time for exercise that built strength, cardio, and skill-drills, whilst also giving me time to rest and recover. I talked with my work supervisors to reduce the number of shifts and arrange permanent shifts on certain days. Through a predictable routine for work and soccer, I know when I had time to study, and when I had time to relax and hang out with my friends.

Result

I was able to keep up my fitness routine throughout year 12, whilst earning some money and getting the ATAR I wanted. My soccer team made the national finals and I was able to travel to Darwin to compete, which was a childhood dream. I am very proud that I was able to achieve this during the high-pressure year 12 year, whilst keeping my work and friendship commitments too.