Karen Tian

Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) – Marketing, 2017

Thesis project: Examining Online Brand Community Engagement: A Functional Approach

Currently Academic, UNSW Business School, School of Marketing

Karen is currently completing her PhD at UNSW Business School whilst also tutoring with the School of Marketing. Prior to her academic career, Karen worked in the marketing industry with a start-up company as a social media, engagement, and content coordinator.

What made you decide to take on additional Honours study?

“I was completing a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Sydney and it wasn’t until my third year that I found out about the Honours program from a lecturer that I had at the time. Hearing about in-depth research in a specific discipline or area seemed very interesting to me. I was also curious about career paths in both industry and in research as an academic, so Honours seemed like a great starting point.”

What was your favourite thing about Honours and what were some of your biggest learnings from your Honours program?

“What I loved most about Honours was that it was a really challenging program. It taught me a lot of things professionally and personally in a short amount of time.”

“Prior to the Honours program, I didn’t know how to do research properly. In your undergraduate study, you might read one or two journal articles for your assignment, but for Honours, you needed to build your knowledge quickly, analyse data and condense your research all in one year. Whilst it was challenging, it was also very rewarding to accomplish so much in a short period of time.”

What are the most important skills that you developed during Honours for your career?

“My honours research topic (online brand engagement) was directly applicable to my job at the time and helped with my marketing content planning and with analysing and improving market engagement. In my academic career now, from research, publishing, and analytical skills to soft skills in time management and resilience; everything that I learnt and developed during my Honours year is directly applicable to my career now in academia. These skills can also be transferred across industries.”

How did you choose your research area/question?

“Because Honours is a one-year program, there wasn’t a lot of time for me to browse different topics. I had a broad idea of the emerging areas in marketing at the time, which was how younger consumers engage with services and influential people, this matched what I thought was useful and what I was also interested in. My supervisor also helped provide a lot of feedback along the way.”

How does an Honours graduate differentiate against those who have not studied Honours?

“The Honours program is a rigorous year that requires a lot of resilience and time management. An Honours graduate would signal to an employer that they are organised, independent, and well-rounded.”

“There are several points of entry into academia but what differentiates an Honours graduate coming into studying a PhD compared to one that may have come via an alternative path, is that the Honours program mirrors most similarly to a PhD and thus prepares you most effectively. Honours gives you direct experience in research and publishing and provides a similar one-to-one supervisor mentorship experience.”

Any advice for students who are considering taking an Honours year?

“I would advise any student who loves a good challenge, curious about different career pathways and want to differentiate themselves, to go for it. My Honours year was the best investment that I had for myself. It was a great opportunity to gain both soft and hard skills in a short period of time and it was extremely rewarding.”


Find out more about the Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) program