Fresh graduates are facing one of the biggest challenges in their life - finding a job during a global pandemic. Even as the unemployment rate lowers, many employers are still very cautious about who they hire to join their team. As the number of job seekers surpasses job vacancies, fresh graduates applying for entry-level positions will also have to compete against more experienced professionals for jobs.
Despite this, talent and skills development of our future leaders remain a strong national agenda. Young talent are encouraged to to participate in campus recruiting as well as traineeships and internships even after their graduation to gain relevant work experience, acquire new skills and expand their employment opportunities.
The pandemic has increased the challenges for job seekers, especially for those who have just graduated. Here are some career advice and job search tips for fresh graduates entering the workforce.
1. getting used to new hiring practices
The job search process has changed significantly since the start of the pandemic. To anticipate job search challenges, fresh graduates should familiarise themselves with the new hiring practices.
Some schools have mandatory curriculums to coach students on how to prepare their CVs and cover letters, apply for jobs, as well as present themselves during a job interview. Fresh graduates will now also need to prepare themselves for both physical and digital interviews - in which a set list of questions are given to the candidate and answers on a pre-recorded video or through virtual interview.
Even though the parameters of a digital job interview may be different, it is equally important to look presentable and be early for video interviews. Common interview tips, such as preparing responses for anticipated interview questions or sharing of relevant experiences all apply to the different modes of interview. As you would do so during a face-to-face interview, you should also pose questions to your interviewer to help you assess whether or not the job is a good fit for you.
It is common for the first few rounds of interviews to be conducted via phone and video. Companies will likely only invite shortlisted candidates to their office for the final interview before making the offer.
2. the impact of COVID-19 on hiring across industries
The industries that are most impacted by COVID-19 are hospitality, air transport as well as arts, entertainment and recreation. Hiring in these sectors have slowed down as companies are focusing more on their business sustainability and workforce restructuring to save jobs.
However, it is not all doom and gloom for our fresh graduates. Companies in other industries are offering new entry-level jobs and dynamic job roles, driven by digital transformation and new ways of doing business.
Companies in healthcare and information and communications technology are expanding their teams as part of their growth strategy, to deepen their capabilities and establish their commitment to the local market. Companies are also slowly resuming recruitment activities to attract good and young talent in 2021.
The Randstad 2020 1H Workmonitor Survey revealed that 74% of respondents believe that employers are more interested in hiring younger workers because they are considered to be ‘tech savvy’. Being new to the workforce, fresh graduates are also likely to demonstrate a higher level of curiosity and hunger for learning.
3. emerging job trends for fresh graduates
We have observed that there is a heightened pressure from fresh graduates to secure a job as quickly as they can, sometimes even before graduation. Many of them set themselves very tight timelines and very high goals when looking for a job. While it is good to keep an open mind when looking for a job or employer, it’s also as equally important to find a company with a strong employer brand and good company culture and most significantly a career that aligns with your passion and values.
Be clear about what you want to achieve in your career and communicate your expectations clearly with a prospective employer during the interview process. This can help you avoid any disappointment or a poor working experience, which will only further exacerbate your frustrations of the current employment situation. Sometimes, it’s better to wait for a few more days to scan the job market as opposed to saying ‘yes’ to the first thing that comes along.
There is also a notable trend that more and more fresh graduates are applying to jobs and sectors that they have not previously studied in. For example, some students in manufacturing or aerospace are looking for jobs in digital marketing, product design, digital sales, or even UX/UI development.
People tend to be drawn to these jobs because of the increasing focus on digitalisation and digitisation. There is also a myriad of training programmes available for people to upskill and obtain qualifications, some as short as one month to complete. When young workers continue to upskill themselves after graduation, they are opening more doors for themselves in a highly competitive labour market.
4. key challenges of finding a job
Fresh graduates may find it more challenging to secure a job as they are competing against experienced professionals. Regardless of experience and age, candidates are advised to tailor their CV for the job role and the employer that they are applying for. Always research on the employer and the job scope to ensure that they match your expectations. You would also need to make sure your resume includes keywords that are highly relevant to the role you are applying for to stand out to employers and recruiters.
Job seekers should also expect the job search process to be much longer in this muted economy. With more candidates looking for jobs, employers and recruiters will need more time to go through the applications and shortlist the most qualified candidates. Therefore, job seekers should learn to adjust job search expectations during a pandemic and practice more patience when waiting for a response or to follow-up after the interview.
5. how to better navigate the labour market
Learning does not stop after you graduate. In the world of work, lifelong learning will benefit your professional career development. Those who are deeply curious and eager to learn will receive more opportunities at work, such as portfolio expansion or even fast-tracked promotions.
If personal circumstances allow, take the extra time to acquire new in-demand and transferable skills. There are more and more non-technical roles that require basic coding or data analytics skills. For example, public relations professionals can acquire Google Adwords certification or simple data analytics skills to extract insights from data-heavy marketing reports or surveys. These skills are essential in driving content development and marketing results.
Another way a fresh graduate can gain work experience is to take up contracting roles, be it term-based or for a project. As companies tighten their HR budgets, there will be more contracting jobs in the labour market, with some offering the opportunity to convert to a permanent role if the individual’s performance exceeds expectations.
Contract work provides young workers with the opportunity to get a foot in the door of organisations that they otherwise might not have the chance to work for. It also allows them to quickly acquire new skills and accustom themselves to the working environment, as they work on building their stakeholder management and communication skills. Contracting professionals are also able to build their network more quickly and effectively, which can help open doors should perm opportunities arise.
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