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Written By

Bianca de Loryn


College of Business, Law and Governance

Publish Date

4 October 2023

HR is more varied than most people think

People skills are essential for career success, especially when working in Human Resources (HR). JCU Business graduate Anthony Conolly shares why making the right choices as a uni student smoothed the transition to his career in Human Resources.

Anthony knew he wanted to study Business since his first year of high school, even though no-one else in his family shared his interests. “My brother is a pilot, but I have always been interested in how businesses are run. Majoring in HR and management was my first pick, and a no-brainer for me,” Anthony says.

In their final year, JCU Bachelor of Business students have the choice to either complete a professional internship or work on a research project. Anthony chose a research project that would help a local charity make better business decisions.

“We were a group of six, and my fellow students kindly volunteered for me to be the team leader,” Anthony says and laughs. “It was a little bit daunting, because until then, I'd never been a group leader. Instead, I was always the quiet diligent worker. It was a new experience for me, which was really good.”

Anthony says he grew into the team leader role quickly. “I helped the team find a direction and come up with solutions. I enjoyed that, as I had a really good team, and we all worked well together,” Anthony said.

Anthony says the research project gave Anthony the skills to present in front of groups of people, he says, which turned out to be very helpful, as he is now regularly presenting to his colleagues at The Reef Hotel Casino.

Anthony Conolly (Photograph: Bianca de Loryn)

Transitioning from student to professional

Anthony's research project had been organised by JCU Business lecturer and researcher Suzie Pont, who also helped him land his job at The Reef Hotel Casino. “One day, I got a call from Suzie, saying, ‘Hey, I've got a contact at the casino in town. They're looking for someone in HR, someone entry level’,” Anthony says.

“That's how I found out about the Human Resources Administrator role. I applied for it and got the job, and I was even able to start before I was finished with my academic work. Ten months after my appointment, I was promoted to Human Resources Coordinator.”

Anthony says that the transition phase from being a uni student to being a HR professional was an interesting time for him. “As much as uni prepares you for it, you can never be fully prepared before you actually step into the role in real life,” Anthony says.

“But I was really excited as well. The main motivator for me was learning everything I could at JCU and then finally stepping into a proper job that I've been wanting.”

Working in a small team

Anthony now works in a small team of four in Human Resources at the Reef Hotel Casino. Working alongside another JCU graduate, the team manages human resources for almost four hundred employees at the casino. “There’s myself, one HR Advisor who looks after training and compliance, one who looks after recruitment, and the HR Manager,” Anthony says. “I take care of the workplace health and safety aspects, like the WorkCover claims, incident reports and related issues.”

But it’s not only the work that makes a difference for Anthony, but the people. “Every day is different. In a given day I can interact with anyone from senior management to frontline staff for all sorts of things,” Anthony says. “I really enjoy those interactions, and I do whatever I can to help them.”

Sunrise in Palm Cove (Cairns)

Finding a graduate job in Cairns

Anthony says there are jobs to be had for graduates who would like to stay close to their loved ones in Far North Queensland. “There are a lot of opportunities here, especially within the tourism and hospitality sector. There are all sorts of positions that come up on a regular basis,” Anthony says. “There's no need to move to the bigger cities if you're happy to stay in Cairns or Far North Queensland.”

For now, Anthony has no plans to go anywhere. “I am happy where I am,” he says, even though he knows that there are lots of opportunities in Australia and the world for qualified HR professionals.

People skills matter

Looking back at being a student at JCU, Anthony says, “The biggest tip for future Business students would be to try and get to know the lecturers as much as you can. Because you don't know if they might have some industry contacts, or even some practical, real-world experience that they can pass down to you as well.

“Just try and put yourself out there, and get used to presenting to larger crowds,” Anthony says. “This will help smooth the transition from uni to a career in Business and HR.”

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