1994 marked a year of momentous political change in South African history as Nelson Mandela was appointed president, the end of apartheid was celebrated and the country became democratic. Whilst many citizens cheered the dawn of a new era and believed things would get better, there was still enormous uncertainty and danger associated with the future direction of the country. Wayne Beech’s family initially decided to stay in Johannesburg after the first multi-racial election but after his brother was involved in a serious hijacking, they made the tough decision to move to Australia.
After studying marketing in South Africa for two years, Wayne left his family and friends behind to finish his degree at Griffith University. “When I came across here a lot of the subjects I studied at home covered Human Resources and actually got me a large portion of the way to majoring in it. While studying both, I decided I preferred studying Human Resources.”
Wayne admits coming to Brisbane was initially a difficult transition as he only knew a couple of cousins here and the university system was quite different. “In South Africa you would spend your entire day at the campus and there was always something going on there. At the stage I went to Griffith, I found that most people were coming to university to come to class and then they would leave. As I only knew a few people, my entire life here revolved around coming to university.”
Fast-forward to his life now and the young boy who loves the outdoors and wanted to grow up to be a farmer wouldn’t be anywhere else. It was a Griffith lecturer who gave him his first taste of the working world. “I was very lucky that one of my lecturers actually organised work experience for me, which was quite invaluable. You can have your degree but you really need other thing such as work experience to compliment your qualifications and training.”
“It was good to be out in an office environment and see how it all came together, and you got a reference from someone out there in the big, bad world.”
Wayne counts his first work experience placement as his initiation into the real-life workplace. “It was good to apply what you had learnt at university but different companies have different ways of doing things. I think being at university teaches you to be self-reliant, working in groups and researching to find out things and take those aspects and implement them.”
Every job I’ve had has been completely different although they’ve been within HR and recruitment. It’s been very, very different at each place.”
After working for a recruitment company after graduation, Wayne commenced a new job at one of the big engineering firms but after a short period the consequences of the GFC hit the film hard. As Wayne explains, “when I started at the firm the mining boom was on and people my age had only ever seen it good and were living above their means. There was a big learning curve when the GFC hit.” When his boss was retrenched, Wayne accepted a six month contract back at the university where it all began.
Five years later, Wayne continues to thrive in the Office of Human Resource Management, his career going from strength to strength. “All my jobs within Griffith have been in the HR department but I’ve worked my way up from being a HR Officer, to what I’m doing now as an HR Advisor in the Appointments team”, he says.
“I provide advice relating to recruitment and selection at the University”
As he moves through his career, Wayne credits his mentors along the way for helping him steer his own path. “When I came to Griffith, I had a fantastic mentor –who has helped me along from when I started to where I am now.”
“It’s always wonderful to tap into other people’s experiences.”
You get the sense that these days, Wayne (a lover of classic novels and loud, angry music), also provides a wealth of experience to the clients he works with.
Top Tips from Wayne
- Concentrate on the study but definitely try to get relevant work experience in the field you’re headed for as early on as possible
- Definitely seek out advice and build networks to help you find jobs