Hi there, I am Agnes Goh, a recent graduate of NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information and University Scholars Programme. Through my 6-part sequel, I will like to share my personal stories during my university education and post-graduation. Following my first article where I shared about my experiences as an undergraduate, I will be sharing some of the personal struggles I faced as a fresh graduate in my fourth article. Trust that you are not alone in your journey, enjoy the article.
Fresh Out of School - What’s Next?
You are exhilarated by the moment of glory, wearing the graduation gown on stage.
The next moment you find yourself overwhelmed by feelings of insecurity.
You start experiencing the realities of job search.
There’s so much to start preparing yourself for - applications to send, series of interviews to attend, questions to ask..
There are many questions which, at the moment, you don’t have an answer to.
What exactly do you want as a career?
Where should you apply to?
Can you get your desired pay?
Job search is hardly smooth-sailing. It takes effort, patience and perseverance.
Even if you are desperately looking for a job, give yourself some time to identify suitable opportunities instead of rushing into one (really, don’t rush into it).
Think Broad, Research More
If you are really lost at the start, think broader and widen your options. Based on the list of job postings you have encountered, start eliminating those industries and jobs which you definitely do not want.
Come up with a list of job options that you are willing to take up.
If you are not sure of what specific skills you can highlight in your resume, start identifying the available job positions with prerequisites that you satisfy (based on your degree, past internship experiences, softwares learnt during your coursework etc).
As you view more job postings and send in more applications, you will soon get a better sense of important skill sets that are highly sought after by your prospective employers. To improve your chances of securing an interview, personalise your cover letter and highlight key experiences that the specific employer has listed in the job posting.
Practice Makes Perfect, Even For Interviews
Being shortlisted to attend an interview is a good start.
Other than making good use of online resources about interview tips, experiencing them first-hand is also an effective way. Meaning to say, as you attend more interviews, you perform better. From there, you familiarise yourself with the common interview questions, interview flow and structure. You find yourself getting comfortable in a seemingly stressful setting. You will gradually feel less uptight about having to over-prepare for the interview. Just know, what they want to find out is actually just YOU. Yes, you.
Be ready to share more about yourself - Your past education, internship experiences, personal interests and aspirations etc. That’s most likely the very first question they’ll ask.
Unless the role requires demonstration of technical or specialised skill sets which involves tests and assessments, most interviews will have a personal touch to it.
The best speaker is your true self. The best knowledge is self-awareness.
This includes being able to articulate your strengths without over-promising your skill sets, and mentioning your weaknesses (if asked) while expressing genuine interest to overcome them.
So, start finding out how much you know about yourself.
TWO Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Job
Eventually, some offers will start coming in. The first one will take a while but trust yourself, more are coming.
If you find yourself hesitating whether to accept an offer, consider based on factors that are important to you. It is too idealistic to expect your first job to meet every single requirement that you have laid out, so exercise your judgment realistically.
1. What Matters MOST To You?
You can’t have everything (most of the time). So prioritise.
Good starting pay, benefits, work-life balance, future career prospects, skills, company culture - what is the deciding factor for you..
A good-paying job at a bank can satisfy your financial needs but comes with long working hours. An entry level job at a creative agency may meet your personal interests but starting pay is lower compared to other corporate roles.
Landing a job at a startup provides great opportunities to learn but lacks financial stability.
So be clear about what’s important to you.
2. Are You The Main Pillar of Support For Your Family?
You may have your personal interests to pursue but it is important to stay grounded and understand your circumstances. If opting for a startup role may affect your ability to support your family, you should lay out possible risks involved and consider a better-paying job of similar nature or industry. Considering that you are independent of financial stress, then it’s worthwhile to consider a job that will lead to good skill sets and prospects even if the starting pay may be less than your ideal.
3 WAYS to Speed Up Your Job Search
If you are struggling to compete for the roles you desire, seek to understand and analyse your situation better.
1. Find Out What’s Lacking in Your Resume and Overcome Them.
It might be that you lack certain technical skills that employers are looking for in a specific role, be it computer software skills or industry knowledge. Or you lack actual experiences to prove your skill sets.
In the event that you have those skills but didn’t mention in your resume, be sure to highlight them upfront and capture the employer's’ attention. If you don’t, adopt an action plan by taking online courses to enhance your competitiveness or conduct your own desk research. That way, you can at least demonstrate some basic understanding even though you have no experience (show your willingness to learn!).
2. Give Examples to Validate Your Points
On the other hand, if you are confident of performing certain tasks but lack specific work examples, try coming up with personal scenarios such as final year project, coursework that can help prove your point and illustrate them in your cover letter. Be creative and resourceful!
Or if you are still struggling to identify a job option that suits your personal interests, then consider alternatives. For all you know, there are other options that offer you a platform to apply similar skills, or further your expertise in similar areas. So explore, explore and explore.
Along the way, there would be rejections you need to deal with. And also, many possibilities that you can unlock. So, learn to manage disappointment but stay hopeful of opportunities!