One good turn deserves another

Three years ago, when Mr Ian Lee heard that fellow Curtin University Singapore undergraduate Bridget Kow was looking for a part-time job, he told her of a job opening with his former employer, an events management company.

She secured part-time work with the company. That counted as industry experience, which gave her an edge while job hunting, after she completed her Bachelor of Commerce course in December 2010.

Acting on the advice of her teachers who stressed the "importance of embracing technology", Ms Kow trawled job and networking portals and eventually found a job opening at public relations firm The Hoffman Agency.

Two interviews later, she landed herself a full-time job there as an account executive. And a few months later, explained Mr Lee, she "returned the favour" by alerting him to a possible internship at the firm.

Mr Lee, now 28, seized the opportunity, and the two of them soon became colleagues.

Said Ms Kow, 25, "We were not even very close in school. We were just course mates. But we kept in touch as friends."

"Actually, there is a group of about 10 of us from the Curtin course who meet up regularly for dinner. We trade stories and let one another know about opportunities that we might not otherwise have known about," she added.

Both she and Mr Lee were also pleasantly surprised to find out that their general manager is a Curtin graduate as well. As a matter of fact, there are 170,000 Curtin graduates around the world, including 16,000 in Singapore.

"I have told him that I want his job in about eight or 10 years' time!" said Ms Kow, who was promoted to senior account executive in April this year.

Mr Lee has been doing well too. Within two weeks of starting his internship at the agency, he was made a full-time employee and offered the position of account coordinator. And just three months later, he was promoted to account executive.

"Curtin's focus on real-world skills, as opposed to a purely academic approach, has worked well in preparing us for the job. While the technical skills like writing are necessary, it's the soft skills like how to work within groups and communications skills that are critical," he said.

He explained that the course had several modules that required group-based project work, which meant having to collaborate with "a wide range of personalities".

Added Ms Kow, "Sometimes, you don't get to choose your project mates, so you just have to learn to deal with it. You find ways to get around the quirks of different people. It hones your communications skills too."

That said, they had both initially been drawn to the course because of its academic structure, in particular, its double major.

Said Mr Lee, "After my corporate communications stint with the Singapore Armed Forces, during my full-time National Service, I knew that I wanted to do public relations. But I also wanted a solid grounding in business."

Added Ms Kow, "It was one of the few private university courses in Singapore that has a course structure that offers both marketing and public relations. After attending an Open House event in 2008, my parents and I felt that this was the best course for me."

The Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing and Public Relations course can be completed at the Curtin University Singapore campus in Balestier, either on a full-time (two years) or part-time (three to four years) basis.

Modules include Accounting, Business Law, Economics, Business Information Systems, Consumer Behaviour and Sales Management, as well as several modules covering various aspects of Public Relations and Marketing. There are three intakes a year, in March, July and November.

"Many schools have long vacations in between semesters. At Curtin, there are no long breaks, that's why you can complete a full-time course in just two years," said Ms Kow.

Mr Lee added that the course's flexible structure also gave him the opportunity to take on part-time work as an event organiser, emcee and a freelance photographer.

"And the school was also flexible enough to give me the opportunity to study at their Australia campus. I did one semester in Australia. While I was there, I was able to secure an internship with Huntington's Western Australia," he said.

Huntington's Western Australia is a non-profit organisation that seeks to improve the quality of life of those with Huntington's Disease, an inherited and incurable neurodegenerative disease, through advocacy, support and education.

"The application of what I learnt during the course, through this internship and project work, made an impact on me. I also benefited from real-life case studies and listening to (guest) speakers from the industry," he said.

Added Ms Kow, "Curtin has given me the ideal foundation I need to be an effective public relations person."

"Curtin graduates are special because we have the drive to succeed, professionalism and pride in being from Curtin. Curtin graduates are typically high-fliers who are happy with their careers and have that special inner spark," she said.

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