In our latest Career Spotlight, we have the pleasure of speaking with Clarice Campbell, Director of TAFE Victoria (South-East Asia) and National President of the Australia-Indonesia Youth Association (AIYA), about her exciting career in international trade and education, as well as her leadership in youth diplomacy.
Deservingly recognised as one of YAIA’s Young Women to Watch in International Affairs in 2020, Ms Campbell is a resilient leader and inspiring role model in Australia-Indonesia relations. Proficient in Indonesian, she currently resides in Jakarta and regularly represents Victorian educational objectives with key governmental and industry stakeholders. In doing so, she promotes Australia as an attractive destination for prospective international students and seeks commercial opportunities for Victorian education providers. Furthermore, as an alumna of the Victorian Government’s prestigious Hamer Scholarship Program and DFAT’s Australia-Indonesia Youth Exchange Program (AIYEP), her journey exemplifies the diverse career opportunities that can arise from extensive co-curricular engagement and a keen interest in other cultures – particularly those of our overlooked neighbours.
Her extensive service in AIYA, initially at the chapter level and now as the National President, highlights how a genuine passion for people-to-people links and intercultural understanding can result in an immersive career and coherent life. Moreover, she has been recognised for her academic excellence in Indonesian linguistics – having been awarded first-class honours, ‘Best Honours Student’ and ‘Best Honours Thesis’ recognitions for her world-class linguistic research at Monash University.
Having studied linguistics and Indonesian at university, did you ever foresee your keen interest in foreign languages getting you where you are today? Why/why not?
I continued to pursue Indonesian Studies after high school not only because I was passionate about Indonesia generally but I was hopeful there was a job market for Australians with high-level language and cultural skills. I undertook linguistics as a second major because it was a subject area I felt passionate about but it also gave me the necessary analytical skills to succeed in the workplace. Linguistics and language studies often fall into the basket of subject areas people comment ‘won’t get you a real job’ but even if they are not directly related to a specific employment outcome, very few workplaces wouldn’t value an employee who can write, proofread, is culturally sensitive and can analyse large datasets. In the year following my honours year I actually started a PhD in Indonesian linguistics, but soon after I was offered my current job. It was a tough decision to leave academia but in hindsight I feel I made the right one as it’s totally opened my eyes to what other work is out there. The great thing about academia is it will always be there but a specific job may not - so if an opportunity comes along, take it!
Language skills alone won’t make you stand out as a candidate for most jobs, there are 260 million Indonesians with better Indonesian language skills than me so approaching a company in Indonesia and saying “I studied Indonesian for x number of years to x level” is often not going to sway them to pick me over a native speaker. I needed to show I could apply myself and that I learnt other things in my degree or gained skills from my work, volunteer or extracurricular experiences as well. For me that’s where my involvement in AIYA became integral in being able to find a job after graduation because the skills I learnt at AIYA were real-life skills that can be applied in the workplace. So, the combination of my volunteer experience and my degree helped me immensely.
You have had a meaningful career working in international education. What interests you about this field and, in your opinion, what is its future in a post-pandemic world?
A lot of people are taken aback by my particular role because when they think of international education they often think of tertiary education and secondary to that they think of foundation studies such as undertaking English language training before applying for a university degree. My role focuses on Vocational Education and Training (VET) and I represent Victorian Government owned Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutions in Southeast Asia. Many people assume this means I promote the TAFE institutions to prospective international students, however, I actually seek commercial training opportunities for companies in Southeast Asia who are looking to upskill their workforce in a vocational skill. I can fairly confidently say there are not a lot of people who do this kind of work, especially in this region, so it is a fascinating area to be gaining experience in.
Due to the current situation, the sector is going in a direction where more institutions will start looking at bringing Australian education to an international market rather than seeking to bring international students to Australia. We are already seeing this with universities such as Monash University, which will be opening a campus in Indonesia, but Monash and others such as Swinburne and RMIT have been doing this for many years already in a number of countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam. Establishing an offshore presence is not a new concept but it will undoubtedly be something universities yet to take the plunge will start considering. Other than this, delivery of online education will continue on into the future. I would say it’s very unlikely education institutions will opt for all classes to return to be delivered face to face, especially if they require high-cost facilities to fit in large numbers of students. Blended learning approaches where subjects are taught using a mixture of online and offline methods will be something many institutions will look to develop further.
Immersing oneself in an entirely different culture, let alone leading an organisation devoted to enhancing intercultural understanding and people-to-people links, is by no means an easy endeavour. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced so far as a leader in the Australia-Indonesia space, and what advice do you have for those seeking to combine their passion for international relations with a fulfilling career?
No doubt there will always be misunderstandings in intercultural settings but I think the challenge many, especially young, leaders face is dealing with clashing personalities and accommodating everyone’s ideas. It happens in every organisation and there’s never a single solution but it’s a challenge and a skill you will learn how to handle as you gain more experience. It’s these tough (and sometimes awkward) experiences that will allow you to grow and develop, and will be integral lessons for life in your future workplace. Exposure to these tough experiences is why I was so keen to stay involved with a volunteer organisation because it really does teach you so much you didn’t expect which can be applied in real-work situations.
My advice then for combining your passion with a fulfilling career is finding the right balance. It sounds simple but is very hard in practice, I would encourage anyone with an interest in this space to firstly think about what in your life needs to be prioritised; if working part time to cover your expenses means you can’t volunteer then that realistically means it has to come first, however, if you do have a couple of spare hours in your week where you can do some volunteering choose an organisation or cause you’re passionate about. Put your hand up for an opportunity and commit to it. Saying yes to one small thing can lead onto other opportunities you didn’t even imagine existed and in time if international relations is a space you want to deep dive into things will just come up. The great thing about international relations is that anyone can get involved in it!
What has been your greatest professional achievement so far? What do you attribute to your success?
My biggest professional achievement has been being able to move to and find meaningful employment in Indonesia. It was a dream of mine for many years before I took the plunge and I was fortunate enough that an organisation was able and willing to take me on. Within my job I have the opportunity to work on a number of exciting initiatives including official visits and trade missions as well as seek out and arrange large-scale commercial opportunities for companies looking to enter the Indonesian market. The opportunities I’ve had in my workplace are often the sort of opportunities people don’t get to experience until they’re much older than me; I got my job when I was 22 years old so I was pretty young in comparison to most of the other people doing the kind of work I do. It’s safe to say it hasn’t always been easy, being the person with the least professional experience in a room and being a woman in a sometimes male dominated industry can lead people to assume that you don’t know what you’re talking about or that they would rather deal with someone else because you haven’t been around for a long time.
I feel that I’ve been able to succeed in my role because I had a great support system around me, my colleagues were always willing to lift me up and teach me if I didn’t know something. On top of that I went out of my way to learn what I needed to in order to feel confident I had the content knowledge to do my job, you need to be willing to sit down and do the research if you feel you have gaps in your knowledge and understanding of topics you’re supposed to be across. I made it an aim of mine to network as much as possible, I would attend meetings that weren’t always related to my specific role in order to build more connections and just generally be across what else was going on within the workplace so I didn’t feel exposed if I was asked about something the office was working on. All of these things have meant that now I am often one of the first people external stakeholders come to when they’re looking for an introduction or general information about things going on, this has given me more confidence I can succeed in any role I put my mind to.
What skills and attributes can organisations like AIYA foster in university students, recent graduates and other youth to enhance their employability and professional development?
It’s funny how many tasks within AIYA (or any volunteer organisation for that matter) are relevant to real work experiences. I feel much of my professional life has been heavily influenced by my time with AIYA and AIYA was a big reason why I was selected for my job over the other candidates who applied. These kinds of volunteer organisations are great in order to develop all kinds of useful skills applicable to a professional setting - organisational management, working in teams, event planning, budgeting, networking, graphic design, general communications skills...the list goes on. I often hear from people seeking employment that they’re struggling to highlight the skills they learnt in their casual or part-time retail, hospitality or labouring job, which many of us did on the side of our studies, but if you volunteer in an area somewhat related to your dream job it can be the thing that sets you apart from the countless other applicants who are also seeking to break into these grad roles.
Finally, as a young Australian working overseas when COVID-19 first hit, you have demonstrated great resilience by remaining there despite the challenges. What other attributes do you think make a great leader? How can young professionals hone these attributes for their career?
I certainly did decide to stay in Indonesia and have been here throughout COVID, it was a personal choice and I don’t blame anyone for making the decision to leave - it was a really uncertain situation and Indonesia is yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel, so I think there will be a few hurdles to overcome. But some attributes I associate with great leaders, other than resilience, are being able to manage time effectively and being able to take on constructive criticism.
Relating to time management, I see a lot of people bite off more than they can chew and they end up feeling overwhelmed or just outright ignore requests because they have too much on their plates. If you pick something you’re passionate about, stick to it and don’t take on too many external commitments you won’t be that person who’s missing meetings, not replying to messages in a timely manner, not getting on top of key tasks and just generally letting the team down. If it’s clear in your mind what your priorities are, maintain a calendar and communicate clearly (especially if you realise you’re short on time) you won’t stretch yourself across too many things and people will know they can rely on you.
The second and probably most important thing leaders need to be able to do is take on constructive criticism. You are the only person who can define your own success, but in saying that it doesn’t mean everything you do is perfect and learning is a life-long process. It is really necessary that you hear from peers and those with more experience than you if you can do things better and more effectively. Sometimes I didn’t realise I was doing something wrong until someone else pointed it out for me, you don’t need to be offended when these situations happen, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on the impact you’re having on others and refine the skills you need to be an impactful leader.
How you can hone these skills for your future career is practise, practise, practise! Get involved in organisations and projects that challenge and inspire you, in time you will find your own style and how to improve your leadership and management skills.