Are you one of those fresh graduates who are clueless about what to do or where to go next? Having taught college students for more than two years, I frequently encounter graduates who go through a hard time figuring what career path to take. There were also those who got rejected from job applications countless times, and they are already afraid to try again. Some of my previous students asked me for inspirational advice on how to qualify for jobs or find out what they really want to pursue.
And here are the usual tips I give them:
1. Attend training and seminars.
Job applicants who got numerous certificates from seminars, workshops, short courses, or other kinds of training have an edge over those who do not have. If you are a fresh graduate who does not have any work background, you have fewer credentials to secure a job position especially if your co-applicants have years of work experience.
What you can do at this stage is to participate in some training that is aligned to your degree or the kind of career you want to pursue. Your certificates can convince the HR management of the companies you apply to that you have gained enough skills to contribute to the workforce of their business.
2. Get as many skills as possible.
Learning new skills is not just fun and interesting. They also come in handy later. The more functional skills you have acquired, the more chances you get to land a decent job. Some of the skills you will not regret learning are leadership strategies, using Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, operating LCD projector, and basic bookkeeping.
You can also learn skills that are related to your target profession. For example, if you want to be a hotelier, you can take short courses on housekeeping and front desk office.
Honing new skills can also help you discover your passion. For instance, you may learn how to play musical instruments, and as a result, you realize you want to be a professional musician.
3. Improve communication skills.
Good communication skills, oral and written, are a basic requirement in white-collar jobs. Many job applicants fail during interviews because they cannot express their thoughts well. There are also those who do not pass written exams for the reason that they cannot construct answers in an organized and comprehensible way.
It is not enough that you master the grammar of a language. What is more important is your ability to understand questions and convey your ideas in a clear and sensible manner.
Constant reading of books and journals, and practicing with someone to answer possible interview questions can help. In case a second language is required for the job you want to get—English, for example, and it is not your native tongue—expose yourself to it by watching shows in that language and talking to native speakers.
4. Groom yourself for a pleasing personality.
It may seem discriminating, but let us face the harsh reality: Good-looking persons have a higher chance of getting hired. If there are two applicants possessing the same educational background, skills, and years of work experience, the charm would have the final say—the more attractive one will get it.
You do not have to look like Jennifer Lawrence or Lee Min Ho to get a job though. Work on your own kind of beauty. Accentuate your assets and cover your flaws. For instance, if you are a woman with big beautiful eyes, use eyeliner and eyeshadows that can emphasize their largeness and depth (but make it as natural-looking as possible). Or if you think you are fat and you are not comfortable with your body curves, wear the black outfit to create an illusion of a slim figure.
Make sure that you look clean, presentable, and professional. Wear perfume or cologne as well. Hopefully, you do not only apply this tip during interviews, but you turn it into a daily habit especially when you are working already.
5. Build connections.
Influence can also help you step up in the competition. Including prominent people in your character references can give you a good impression. If they are high-ranking officials, big-time entrepreneurs, or reputable professionals who have a wide range of influence, then the company you are applying at would consider hiring you as an opportunity to meet possible investors or create new connections.
Any organization, may it be in a public or private sector, values social and political associations for strong support. Yes, building a connection with high profile individuals is not easy, but you can start with small steps.
Be friendly with everybody you meet, because you do not know who they are connected with or who they will be in the future. Actively involve yourself in socio-civic activities and other advocacy programs. Be part of several organizations too. Soon, you will get a wide pool of friends and acquaintances who could help you in some ways.
6. Be careful with what you post on social media.
Your social network accounts may be personal, but still, they can have an impact on your credibility. Some companies check the social media accounts of job applicants or on-probation employees as part of their background checking process. For this reason, make your accounts appear as professional as possible.
It is better if you use your real name rather than a code name because the latter can give a less mature impression. Also, avoid posting too many selfies, because it shows vanity, which could be a sign of self-importance.
Be careful when posting your thoughts. Do not be too radical when expressing your opinions or beliefs to the point of offending and degrading other people. It could be interpreted as closed-mindedness, which is a non-acceptable trait in the corporate world. Avoid cursing or using vulgar words, and posting indecent photos as well.
7. Study further.
Proceeding to post-graduate studies can also increase your demand as a professional. That is why do not settle with just a bachelor’s degree. Just a piece of practical advice though, do this when you already have a job or work experience.
Further degrees can help you a lot in promotions, but if you have never worked yet, you might have a hard time looking for your first employment, because you will be over-qualified for a beginner’s job. Yet, companies will be reluctant to hire you for a managerial or higher position, because of your lack of experience.
8. Explore different fields.
In case you are not sure of what career to take yet, you can explore different kinds of jobs. This can help you realize what you are comfortable and good at. Do not settle with an occupation all for the sake of practicality. If you would stay in employment in which you are not enjoying at all, you would be eventually burnt-out and would be less productive. So, do not be afraid to take risks and try new ventures until you find what you really want.
9. Choose jobs that are aligned with your dream career.
If you already know what career is best for you, then you should build yourself for that. You cannot jump to the top, so you will definitely have to start at the bottom. Be wise in every step you take. Invest your time and effort in job opportunities that can help you be closer to your dream.
Let us say your ultimate dream is to be a lawyer. If it is not possible yet because of some circumstances, you can get into a job that is related to your desired field in the meantime. You could work as a secretary in a law firm. Aside from its points for work experience, it can be an opportunity for you to be exposed to a lawyer’s environment, and learn lessons that you can use once you achieve your dream already.
10. Love your job.
The first step to being productive in what you do is loving your work. If all you see are the pressure, mismanagement, lack of compensation, and other flaws of your company, then you would only end up stressed and complaining. You would not exert enough effort to perform your tasks well. You would end up being one of the mediocre employees who only go to work to receive a salary.
If you want to be an excellent professional someday, then love whatever job you have. This way, you will be happy with what you do, and you will be motivated to give your best. Avoid grumbling against your employer or about anything you do not like about your job. If possible, you can just formally report to your supervisor the concerns you notice and suggest ideas that can help your company become better.
Someday you could be a boss too—and you would not want to be stabbed at the back by the people you work with—but you would appreciate receiving helpful ideas from them.
11. Have a clean exit.
You should not only worry about getting into a job. Going out of it is also a crucial step that must be taken carefully. Make sure you do not get into any trouble in your workplace so that you will not be terminated. This will give you a bad record.
In case you want to resign from your job and look for another one, see to it that you have a graceful exit. Go through the proper process of resignation and comply with all the requirements. This way, you can go back to that company if you would want to. You can also get your certificate of employment, and your supervisor can be your character reference for your next job application.
12. Aim higher and never settle for less.
The height of your success will depend on how high you want it to be. Do not settle with earning monthly just enough to pay your house rent and bills. As long as you have the time and opportunities, strive to grow in your profession and step up to a higher level.
Why stay being a regular staff for ten years when you could have worked hard to be a manager within that period? Why settle being a chef in a popular bistro when you can save to build your own restaurant? Dream big dreams and do not be afraid to take risks in order to pursue them.
Life is not only about having a good-paying job and securing your retirement. No matter how big your salary is if you are not happy with your work—and you stay in it for thirty years for the sake of stability—then you will miss half of your life. Discover your calling, find what you are passionate about, and you will be living a fulfilling life.
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