8 Job Hunting Tips to Help Fresh Graduates Land Their First Jobs

Job hunting can be a frustrating task for many, especially for new entrants who have just graduated and are looking to enter the workforce. In line with Workforce Singapore’s (WSG) Career Catalyst Programme, here are eight tips that Mr Joash Lee —senior career coach of seven years, gives to new entrant clients.

The day that you have been waiting for has FINALLY arrived! After 4 long years of hard work and effort, you are officially conferred. University has been a fun and enriching experience. But what happens next?

For fresh graduates, the concept of “adulting” begins with finding work. After graduating from university with a degree, most fresh graduates start looking for employment in an industry which suits their interests. But where and how do they begin with their job search?

Job hunting after university can be confusing and stressful at the same time for fresh graduates who have not had sufficient experience as full-time professionals in the workforce. If you are a fresh graduate who is struggling to land a decent job, don’t be too worried – almost every graduate goes through this stage of apprehension at some point during their job search. But you can rest easy because we are here for you.

We have chatted with a leading career coach about how fresh graduates can go about hunting for their dream jobs. Mr Joash Lee, who has had more than 5 years of experience in helping young and old jobseekers land their dream jobs, shared his insightful tips about smart ways to search for suitable jobs after conferment.

If you need a little boost in your job search, start learning from a career expert now!

Discover My Career Interests

When job hunting, it is important to know yourself and your career interests first. Being adequately self-aware helps you make more informed and timely decisions in your job-hunting process. This way, you can play to your strengths and highlight key skills which you believe will be beneficial to the companies you apply to.

1. Paper qualifications are not everything

First, it is highly critical that you recognise that you can’t rely entirely on your paper qualifications to land a job.

You might have heard success stories about how non-degree holders went on to achieving success in their careers – this proves that, if anything, paper qualifications are definitely not everything. With enough hard work and dedication, you could flourish and go on to achieve many triumphs in your career.  Although hiring advertisements may emphasise on qualifications, there are other factors that have substantial influence on your suitability for the job.

(a) Personality Type

If your personality is not suited for the job, there is a high chance that you will not last long in the industry.

Some industries believe certain personality types are more suitable for their corporation than others. For instance, marketing and sales jobs may require workers with Type B personalities whereas financial services providers may need workers with Type A personalities.

WSG provides personality profiling to their clients as part of their career matching services. An example is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test which helps you look beyond the element of extroversion and explore the other elements of your personality. Determine if you are a thinker or a feeler when it comes to decision making, and if you rely on facts or intuition to interpret new information.  In understanding your personality type, you could narrow your job search to include corporations from the various industries that suit your personality type.

Advised by Mr Lee to take up a personality profiling MBTI course, *John was able to discover his MBTI personality type —ISFJ. Knowledge about his inclinations gave him a new awareness about himself, allowing him to become more focused and selective about his career options. He realised that his personality suited fields like medicine and science where he would be able to excel in working towards long-term goals in a coherent and gradual manner.  With a new-found focus, John successfully acquired a job in the healthcare industry. To this day, John excels at, and enjoys his job. He thanks Mr Lee for his valuable guidance.  He enjoys his jobs, looks forward to going to work regularly and also provides heavy contributions to his company.  If you are keen to know what type of personality you have and what types of jobs suit your personality type.  Sign up for a career coaching session by calling 6883-5885 today.

(b) Motivations

Rank the factors that motivate your performance —status, salary, passion etc. Determine what motivates you most and steer your job hunt in that direction. If you are motivated by status or other monetary forms, focus on looking for a job that offers you the salary and career progression that you desire.

Deliberating between job offers that ranged from corporate communications to teaching, *Julia was extremely frazzled and turned to Mr Lee for assistance. Upon realising that the job offers were from different industries and of differing pay grades, Mr Lee encouraged Julia to list down her motivating factors, and instructed her to rank them accordingly. Once Julia discovered that passion was her strongest motivating factor, she was able to pick teaching without hesitation. Today, Julia is extremely motivated at work, and has no intention to leave the education sector.   Some companies actually put their applicants to the test by having them rank the aforementioned factors. Their applicant’s input gives them a rough idea of whether their candidate would be suitable for a position in their company. In this sense, it is critical for you to be aware of your priorities so that you can assess the suitability of the job. Always be honest with yourself when asked to rank your motivators so that you can assess your suitability for the role. Ask yourself how willing you will be to sacrifice one for the other.

2. Find out who is hiring

Next, make sure you are aware of companies that are hiring and what type of roles and expertise they would require.  One way to do so is by visiting career fairs. Before starting the job hunting process, visit career fairs to gain exposure and knowledge about the hiring market. At the career fair, seize the opportunity to speak to individuals manning the booths, and request for their name cards. Chat with them about the company culture and learn about what they do in their industry. Also, make sure you ask about career progression and ask about the types of paper qualifications and experience they require.  Drop them an email displaying your keen interest in joining them, this displays proactivity and interest in the job role.

Alternatively, visit social media pages and job portals to scout for hiring advertisements to gauge the demand. By applying to industries that have a higher demand for labour, you will increase your chances of getting employed.  This might be a more effective means of hunting for work because you would be able to get a comprehensive idea about the roles and responsibilities, salary, required years of experience and employee benefits. In addition, you would be able to learn more about the company with just the click of a button!

Unsure of which industry she should apply to, *Sarah was inspired to visit the Adapt and Grow Career Fair that her career coach, Mr Lee, actively promoted. There, she was able to network with employers and gain insight about the various WSG initiatives for jobseekers. In addition, Mr Lee introduced numerous job portals to Sarah and supported her by directing her to various suitable listings. As a result of her exposure to the hiring industry, Sarah acquired multiple job offers and is now a Marketing Director at an international company.

Explore My Career Options

The next step involves enhancing your knowledge of the various industries in the job market. It is prudent to ensure that your skills and personality suits the industry that you are keen on. This would help you market yourself better.

3. Check your skill set

Once you have found a suitable position to apply for, ensure that your skill set matches that required by the job. Identify any gaps that are present and take up training courses to bridge the gap. Employers are more likely to hire candidates with skills that are relevant and up-to-date. There are many avenues that provide professional courses at a subsidised rate. Utilise these platforms to upskill and present yourself as a valuable asset to the workforce.

Accountancy graduate *Andy was looking for his first job when he realised that he wanted to serve the community. Without the relevant Social Work qualifications, Andy knew that developing his career in the Social Work industry would be difficult. Under Mr Lee’s mentorship, Andy was introduced to the various upskilling courses provided by SkillsFuture Singapore and completed his Graduate Diploma in Social Work. . Andy participated actively in courses that enhanced his awareness of social issues. During the course, Andy also learned the importance of communicative and social skills in managing at-risk individuals. These courses equipped him with the necessary hard and soft skills.  Now a social worker at a non-governmental organisation, Andy attributes his success to Mr Lee’s insight.

Plan My Career to Fulfil my Aspirations

The next step involves further thinking about how you ought to market yourself in a professional and effective manner.

4. Building a career development action plan

Come up with a list of tasks to accomplish, with the fulfilment of each task bringing you closer to securing your job of choice. These tasks include résumé writing and the acquisition of good interview skills. Consider the effort involved and set a timeline for the completion of each task. When unsure or lost, seek guidance through WSG’s career coaching.

Keep your résumé to one page. As the employer’s main priority is to ascertain if you are qualified for the position, edit out qualifications and details that are irrelevant. One tip is to split your résumé layout into two sections by creating a narrow column on the left. This allows you to display twice the amount of information without compromising on length. Although it is tricky to edit your text down to a page, by executing it successfully, it ensures that the employer’s attention is only focused on information that is salient. The employer will also see you as someone who is succinct and organised, and your résumé is now easy-to-digest.  Make sure that you include keywords that employers look out for based on the industry you are applying for. Do your research on the relevant keywords that will help you better market yourself as an applicant. Also, make sure that you include information about your skills, quantifiable achievements, and abilities.

When jobseeker *Kevin first met Mr Lee, his résumé spanned six pages. Without a concise résumé, Kevin was unable to effectively portray his suitability for the job. With Mr Lee’s help, Kevin was able to sieve out information that was irrelevant to the position and customised an impactful résumé that secured him numerous interviews. Currently deciding between four job offers, Kevin is thankful for Mr Lee’s guidance.

5. Ignore missing work experiences

It is understandable that new entrants do not have the work experience that the employer desires.  That explains the “fresh” term in “fresh graduates.” Your employers do not expect you to have numerous years of experience. So don’t worry about being ‘inadequate’ to another applicant who may have had the internship experience in the industry.

Channel your attention towards your unique selling points. Mention something interesting about yourself —leadership roles or participation in overseas exchange programmes. These experiences speak volumes about you. Employers look for candidates with certain characteristics that emulate their company’s culture. Overseas stints may indicate the presence of cross-cultural skills, a trait that is essential for working in an international company. Furthermore, some companies prioritise Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Individuals who have experience serving the community may be favoured in these companies – make sure you mention how you are involved in charity and humanitarian programmes and describe how these experiences have enhanced your social awareness. Also, use your experiences to highlight key learning points and describe how you would be able to use the lessons learned from these encounters about the importance of CSR.

Attributing her lack of employment to her missing work experience, *Cynthia came to WSG in search of a solution. Easing her worries, Mr Lee assured Cynthia of her suitability for the job and redirected her attention towards her experiences. Guiding Cynthia to focus on her unique selling points such as her leadership skills, Mr Lee taught Cynthia how to highlight her strengths during the interview. With increased confidence, Cynthia began navigating the job hunting journey skilfully and was offered a job at her company of choice.

6. Know where you are applying to

Prior to the interview, conduct research on the industry that you are applying to. Read up on milestone events such as the Global Financial Crisis, and the impact it had on the industry. Find out what the industry was like before, and where it is heading towards.

Your goal is to impress employers with your knowledge. Equipping yourself with thorough knowledge about the industry, and being well-versed in the industry’s jargon, will let employers see you as someone of high calibre and experience beyond your years. Although you might not have the work experience, you can be seen as someone who can be groomed and trained, securing you the job.

Recently graduated with a Bachelors in Banking and Finance, *Derrick was eager to enter the workforce. In preparation for an upcoming interview with a renowned company, Mr Lee instructed Derrick to read up on the banking industry, and to study milestone events such as the Financial Crisis. During the interview, Derrick impressed the interviewers with his wisdom and maturity. He was seen as a favourable candidate. Derrick has since been with the company for the past year, and has recently been promoted, ahead of the rest of his peers.

Concluding Remarks

“The will to succeed is important, but what’s more important is the will to prepare.” – Bobby Knight

Whether you are a fresh graduate or experienced veteran looking for a career change, it is highly imperative to be prepared by doing your own research and getting the necessary paperwork ready before embarking on your job search and reaching out to employers. Keep an open mind, do your homework, and be receptive to new ideas when you start your job hunt. Consult a friend to vet through your paperwork or get in touch with a reliable career coach if you need an extra boost. Good luck!

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