Higher education phase
Higher education phase
Testimony of a graduate:
Last year, I was destined to join the labour force as one of these ill-favoured youths, and with full knowledge of the mass of disillusioned young people that I was competing with – this appeared a daunting prospect. Nonetheless, I was armed with an Honours Degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics and was confident that my academic qualifications would see me surge to the top of the pool of prospective employees. Several lukewarm responses from employers later, and my hopes were brought back down-to-earth.
The explanation for this poor reception rested in one line that marred my chances with most employers: ‘no work experience’. The Catch-22 of ‘you cannot get work experience without work experience’ became a dismal reality for me. I eventually emerged from the job-searching doldrums when I received some positive feedback from a small but growing Enterprise Development firm. In January of this year, I was employed there as a business intern.
After a few weeks of working at the firm it became apparent that there was just cause for most firms’ reluctance to hire graduates; namely that we lack workplace skills. As a business graduate, I was fortunate enough to be proficient in various computer programmes and could add value in this area; however, this is not the case with many other graduates, who do not learn these skills during their studying period. These skills deficiencies, as well as poor communication and presentation skills, make it difficult for many graduates to provide real and productive value to their employers. Consequently, this fuels the growing stigma towards graduates as being under-prepared for the realities of working life.
For a graduate, the first weeks of work are a baptism of fire. One is confronted with responsibilities that can make a tangible change in the real world; failure to manage these responsibilities can have ripple effects that extend far beyond the confines of a report card. This is far removed from the world of malleable essay deadlines that graduates are used to. In short, work experience is where real-world learning takes place. Working at the firm has taught me the value of effective communication and administrative skills, as well as a work ethic that formal education could seldom instil. This kind of experience is essential for graduates to succeed in the business world.
Top skills and attitudes employers look for
These are the skills & attitudes top graduate recruiters look for:
• Teamwork, communication, customer care, emotional intelligence
• Problem solving, creativity, enterprise, commercial awareness
• Leadership, time management, IT and digital literacy skills.
• Passion, energy, can-do approach, flexibility, resilience
• Self-reliance, respect for others, focus on personal development.
Make sure you can demonstrate them in applications and interviews.
How to make yourself more employable as a graduate.
1. Work on your CV
Keep it short and simple. This has two aspects. First you need to improve the actual CV document, so focus on the way you are presenting the information to an employer. Is the layout correct? Does the most important information stand out? Are your qualifications and experience obvious to those who don’t know you? Think about improving the appearance of the document to make it more eye-catching, but don’t let it become gimmicky. Try to show your CV to people in your workplace or on your course to get feedback on the impression it produces.
You should also think about developing your CV by improving the contents. You could focus on your teaching, or research/publication or administration record for a year. Where do you fall short, and how could you boost that area? Is there anything you can offer to do in your current job that would get you more experience?
2. Cover Letter:
A cover letter is where you get your chance to stand out from everyone else. HR might have seen your resume and you might have the same experience as another candidate, but lucky for you, you’ve added a cover letter. Here are some further tips:
• Keep it short and simple; try to keep it under a page.
• In the first paragraph, introduce yourself and show how you heard of the company and how they might know you.
• In the second paragraph, write about your personal and professional qualities that you could bring to the job. Entice the reader and show them why they should consider you for this position. Avoid re-writing your resume in this paragraph – be creative but also be professional.
• In the closing paragraph, be sure to add your contact information and say something along the lines of “I’d like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to apply for this position”. Show them that you appreciate their time in considering you.
3. Social media:
Do you use social media? The age of social media is upon us and hiring managers realize that. Many will look at their pile of applicants and fill in a Google search to see what comes up. Job seekers can use social media to follow their prospective employers on sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube or Google+. They can use this extra knowledge to gain more information about their company, see which qualities they desire and put together a more effective application. Who knows, following a company on Twitter might score you an interview!
4. Personal website
Designing a website is probably one of the best things you can do in developing your application. In a study done by Forbes Magazine, they found that the majority of hiring managers:
They were more impressed by a candidate’s personal website than any other type of personal branding tool.
The fact that very few people have a personal website can really boost you up in the candidate pool.
Use your website to showcase your skills and knowledge related to the career field you desire. Take your time with the site. Do not rush to add half-baked content. For starters, attempt to add one quality piece of work (i.e., art piece, article, blog post, lines of code and etc.), once a week to slowly build up your site.
5. Develop new skills
This is closely linked to point one. Once you have worked out how to enhance your CV, you might find that you need to develop new skills or areas of expertise in order to achieve your goals. This could mean going on training or professional development courses. There are many different courses on offer. Choose something that you will enjoy and that will be useful in the future.
6. Change your job application pattern
Perhaps you have got into a rut with your job applications. You may send out so many applications that they start to blur after a while. While you might change your application slightly for each job to tailor it to the job specification, you might still rely on a cover letter and personal statement that was written months ago. Try starting again from scratch. How would you sell your experience and skills now?
7. Broaden your horizons!
Although it is easy to become single minded when looking for a job, it is important to constantly reassess the situation. Are you sure that you really want to work in the field for which you are applying? If you have any doubts, perhaps it’s time to come up with an alternative plan. There are many other ways of finding fulfilling work apart from doing a permanent job. Many scholars have portfolio careers where they work for a number of different universities, perhaps doing freelance tutoring or exam marking as well.
If you need more help or advice, you may chat to an online facilitator on the Live Chat. The service is free and you may stay anonymous.
Are you a graduate looking for an internship or work? Please go to www.gradx.net.