Breadcrumbs

Olivia Kerbers

Communications graduate - Victoria's Department of Transport - Melbourne, Australia

Key Info

Qualification(s):
  • Bachelor of Communication
Subject(s):
  • Public Relations
  • Digital Business

Passionate about dance since she was a young girl, Olivia Kerbers had her heart set on becoming a professional dancer one day. But after moving to Australia and doing months of intense training at a Melbourne dance school, she realised it wasn’t the right career fit for her after all.

As luck would have it, Olivia was asked to look after the dance school’s social media pages while she was there – and she accidentally fell in love with marketing and communications.

“At high school I had no idea that communications was even a real career, so the social media stuff was all very self-taught,” she says. “I just loved the creativity of it, because without that it doesn’t work.”

On returning home to New Zealand, Olivia thought about her options and decided to enrol in a Bachelor of Communication at the University of Waikato, majoring in Public Relations and Digital Business.

“I looked at Auckland, but I actually thought the Waikato degree was better because it has a really good reputation, and it’s the only one in New Zealand that’s certified by the Public Relations Society of America.”

“Plus it’s based in the management school, which I think is really beneficial to the degree because you need that broad understanding of business so you can relate better to your clients.”

Making waves in the PR world

Olivia believes her degree has provided an excellent training ground to prepare her for the real world of communications, public relations and marketing.

“It gives you a well-rounded balance of theory and how that’s applied in practice. You get so many opportunities to test your knowledge and put your creativity to the test through real-life scenarios, instead of just sitting there reading about it. You’re well supported by your lecturers and tutors, who help you to continually develop your skills.”

Olivia’s dedication to her craft has really paid off – in 2021 she was awarded the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand Paul Dryden Tertiary Award, which recognises “talented tertiary students who are not afraid to share their work with the industry and stand out from the crowd”.

She says the Bachelor of Communication degree would appeal to people who are creative, love writing, and enjoy working with other people.

“Public Relations is very creative. It’s focused on building good relationships with everyone who’s involved with your organisation, using every single channel you have available to reach and engage with those people."

"You also get really good at public speaking and presenting. I like the fact that I can use my communication skills to help any business thrive."

“I chose Digital Business as my second major because I love new technology, and it’s such an important part of the business world. It’s about learning how to incorporate current and new technologies into a business, which I found really helpful.”

Practical approach to learning

One of Olivia’s favourite papers was PUBRL201 Media Relations and Publicity, where students take part in a mock press conference with ‘journalists’ and answer questions about a sensitive issue facing their organisation.

She also enjoyed designing a communication campaign for Waikato Badminton to help them recruit new players, as part of the paper LCOMM300 Communication Strategies.

Olivia says her papers also included plenty of guest speakers from industry talking about their careers, which allows students to gain insights into what they really do.

Getting hands-on with her craft in the real world

As part of her communication degree, Olivia did a work internship at a Hamilton PR agency called Brainchild, which has led to an ongoing role as a junior account executive.

“We’re focused on helping our clients tell their stories and picking the right channels to do so. So that could involve producing videos, running a social media campaign, writing media releases, and so much more.”

In her first year at university, Olivia was elected as Vice-President of the Management Communication Students Association, known as MCSA. She highly recommends the club to other students as a great way to bridge the gap between university and the real world of public relations and marketing.

"As vice-president, I worked closely with the president to lead our board to create opportunities for communications students. The best thing about MCSA is building relationships with like-minded people, both students and industry professionals."

“You make some really good friends and get some great professional networks out of it. We organised some cool events for students, such as an amazing industry trip to Auckland where we visited Porter Novelli, ASB, the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand, and the Breast Cancer Foundation.”

Overseas adventure is calling

Next year, Olivia is excited to be moving back to Melbourne to start the next chapter in her career journey.

She has accepted a graduate communications role at the Victorian state government’s Department of Transport, working on a major transport project as part of ‘Victoria’s Big Build’.

“About 1200 people applied for the programme across all streams, and they ended up only taking just over 100 graduates. I’m the only Kiwi out of the 24 of us working on the Level Crossings Removal Project.”


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