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Earlier this year, two students from Swinburne University of Technology began a 12-month industry placement within the Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust’s (SMCT) Communications team to gain practical workplace skills as part of their degree. As we approach the halfway mark of their placement, we caught up with Bachelor of Arts student, Madison Bryce, and Bachelor of Media and Communications student, Saredo Miguil, to hear about their experience working at SMCT.
‘I’ve had a diverse range of tasks that are constantly changing, from managing SMCT’s employee app, Connecteam, to working on newsletters and writing blog pieces.’ Madison says. ‘Working on the PRIDE awards, SMCT’s all-employee awards night, was a valuable experience and unique chance to step outside my comfort zone. Working cross-collaboratively with new teams has been exciting.'
As for working from home for a large portion of her placement, ‘It’s definitely been a new challenge. You miss out on the social side of work and the focus you get from being in the office, not to mention the great coffee from the café.’
However, working from home does have its upsides.
‘I’ve learnt how to be more productive and have a certain amount of self-discipline,' says Madison. 'For the most part, I’m the only one holding myself accountable for how I manage my time.’
For Saredo, her placement has involved many different roles and tasks.
‘I feel like I've had to wear many hats,’ she says, listing off all the tasks she has undertaken, from interviewing a team at SMCT that went on a 3-day mountain climb to raise funds for disadvantaged youth, to more recently assisting with event planning for Father's Day.
‘I’ve done a lot of challenging tasks that I didn’t imagine a student would get to do. It’s great to experience the full potential of my role and feel like I’m not just here to shadow others.’
While working at home has its challenges, Saredo feels it has improved her communication skills because the need to reach out to everyone is more critical.
‘Whenever I tell anyone about my role, I get the same confused expression. Nobody imagines that there is a communications team at a cemetery. Before this experience, I wouldn’t have either,’ says Madison. ‘It’s been eye opening - it’s easy to assume that working at a cemetery might be sad or dull, but SMCT definitely isn’t. We sometimes come across difficult topics, like death or grief, but it’s really more a beautiful space for supporting the community.'
'Coming into this role, I wasn’t sure what to expect,’ Saredo adds. ‘The common association with this industry is that it's gloomy, but it hasn’t been like that at all. SMCT is a community-focused organisation, and that's reflected in our work. All the content I have created has had the purpose of providing warmth and comfort to people. It’s very fulfilling to work on projects that I know are in service of supporting our community.’
‘On our first day, we went on a tour of Springvale Botanical Cemetery and walked through Song He Yuan,’ Madison says, sharing her first impressions of the grounds. ‘I just didn’t expect it to be so peaceful and beautiful. The magnificent archway and the Di Zang Wang temple blew me away, and every area had a lovely story behind it.’.
When it comes to memorable moments for Saredo, it was a tree tour with Arborist, Chris Hewitt. ‘It made me realise how big our grounds are and how much detail and care goes into everything, like the detailed maintenance of the festive tree used for the Children’s Christmas Remembrance Service each year. It shows all the little things that go into looking after our community and it highlights the amazing stories happening around us every day.’
For Madison, her placement has confirmed that communications is the right field for her.
‘I’ve learnt so much about how to write engaging and valuable content,' she says. 'It gives me more confidence going into future roles because I can have trust in my writing and creative ability. I also have a better understanding of the ins-and-outs of a full-time job, like staying focused throughout the day and knowing the right email etiquette.'
Gaining experience in the industry has allowed Saredo to realise that she is equipped to work professionally.
‘When you’re a student you feel so young and inexperienced - you wonder if working in an office is for you,’ Saredo shares. ‘This placement has allowed me to realise that everything is different each day. I have new conversations, I try new things, I work on interesting new projects. I don’t get the chance to feel bored. Communications is a dynamic and changing industry and I can see myself doing it for a long time.’
‘I’ve learnt so much from everyone I’ve come across,' says Madison. 'SMCT is filled with so many talented people, all incredibly passionate about their work. From this, I have learnt that you will do better in your role if you love what you do and care about the outcome.’
‘Sometimes you need to share the work,’ Saredo says, reflecting on past advice. ‘This is one of the lessons my team has taught me. They always emphasise the importance of sharing the workload across the team and this support helps me approach my tasks with a better mindset. This collaboration also helps improve the quality of our content.’
For Madison her goal is to have a solid portfolio of content that she is proud of. She wants to end her placement feeling like a professional employee and "not just a student".
‘I’d like to know that I’ve put in the hard work and made a valuable contribution to the organisation.’
‘I want to make sure I have made my best effort to meet people from across the organisation,’ Saredo adds. ‘COVID has made it challenging to meet people from outside of my team and I am determined to fix that.’
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