Bianca de Loryn
College of Business, Law and Governance
14 February 2022
Related Study Areas
It runs in the family
JCU alumnus Ben Schierhuber tells us more about the challenges of studying Business and Law, why working in insolvencies isn’t as depressing as it sounds and why graduates will enjoy living and working in regional Australia.
For Ben it was always clear that he wanted to study business. “My father has been in business my whole life and that inspired my interest,” Ben says, “so, I was always going to head in that direction.”
When it came time to enrol, Ben chose to add a Bachelor of Laws, too. “I hadn't really had any pressing, burning desire to study law, but getting the grades was a bonus. I gave it a go thinking that if I hated it, I could always stop.”
Business and Law – surviving the first semester
Ben started with a double degree in Law and Business at JCU, even though, he admits, “It was hard. The first semester was really hard. I came within, probably, a fortnight of just going, 'right, the law is not for me, I'm going to give it up'.”
A scheduled visit with his law class at the Cairns Courthouse changed his mind. “During the visit, the Justice admitted that the study of law could be challenging, but rewarding,” Ben says, “and I thought, 'okay, I can get there myself’. Hearing that bought me the extra weeks until the subject started clicking for me.” This determination paid off for Ben who finished his study with first class honours in Law.
Looking for work when the world was in crisis
When Ben graduated with a Bachelor of Law and Business from JCU in 2011, the global financial crisis had left its mark on the legal job market and Ben found it hard to find a job. “At that time, because I'd applied for so many jobs, I was kind of burnt out with the job hunt.”
Then his (now) wife found a promising job ad in the related field of insolvency, which is working with people and businesses that are in financial distress and unable to pay their debts. “She said, 'put one more in',” Ben says, “and it was again, 'if I hate it, I stop, right?’” Ben got the job and started his career in insolvency, where he has yet to want to stop.
Why working in insolvencies helps people take their future in their hands
Starting one’s career by working in insolvencies sounds like a depressing task, but Ben also sees the positive sides. “If you look around, every business carries risk, our whole society is based on the idea of people going out giving it a go,” Ben says.
“Sometimes it works, and we end up with great ideas and amazing leaps forward, like bionic ears and artificial hearts. But for every one of those there's ideas that don’t succeed and people who need help to find a resolution.”
Ben thinks that the pandemic is a good example for this. “Some businesses may fail because of COVID,” he says, “especially smaller businesses. Owners often put blood, sweat and tears into their business for years and years and they love it dearly, but it can be hard to absorb the impacts of something like a global pandemic.”
Ben helps to provide an avenue out for people and their businesses. “We try to help people work through the difficulties. Whether it's the business owner, their employees who are now out of a job, or the supplier that's now not going to get paid,” Ben says.
“I work to help people understand what that next step is so that they can take an active role instead of being a passenger.”
Why regional Australia is a great place to work
After graduating from JCU, Ben has made a conscious decision not to move to the big city. Instead, he has never regretted staying in North Queensland, and even turned into an advocate for working in regional Australia. “The regions have so much to offer,” Ben says. “My career would not have been the same if I didn’t stay in regional Australia. I've been exposed to a range of opportunities, ways of thinking, and experiences.”
Working in a regional area has also helped Ben gain experience in a variety of fields. “I'm not just an insolvency guy,” he says. “I’ve been able to expand into advisory work and valuations work , which is fantastic. Outside of the regions, careers are more often narrowly focused so there is a risk that you end up in a small niche.”
Share your plans - let people help make it happen
The biggest lesson that Ben has learned throughout his career is that it is extremely important to share what matters to you. “If you've got particular interests, if you've got a direction that you want to go in, if you want to achieve something, communicate that to the people that can make it happen,” Ben says.
“Some of the big opportunities during my career have just been making myself available,” Ben says. “If you make it known that 'hey, this is something I want to do', you will find the people who will help you to succeed."