So you do well during school, graduate and get a job and at the same time get a boyfriend, apply for a build-to-order (BTO) flat and get married. Your life is done. That’s what I was told during my days in junior college. Sigh. But to many of my friends, half of that list isn’t even done yet, especially the snagging a job part.
For those who have just graduated, including myself, the instagram post of the NUS grad student from communications pretty much sums up the gloomy perspective on the graduate job market now.
Economists try to explain away the falling vacancies of jobs for grads on the relatively negative economic outlook and the cost cutting strategies employers are implementing because of that. I personally feel that it could be due to a saturation in the labour market. Or perhaps it could also be a combination of factors like these:
- You need experience to get a job, but you also need a job to get experience
This phrase was sensationalized on social media and it could not be further from the truth. I’ve seen entry level positions that require you to have a couple of years experience in that particular industry.
The first thought that comes to mind is how is it going to be possible for me to have experience in compliance, when I’ve just graduated and was in a full-time course too.
Or perhaps that’s just something that’s “nice to have” but it’s not really compulsory? Be that as it may, I have heard of someone working in compliance but majored in marketing and on the UBS application site for internships, the type of major does not heavily affect your selection process because it is your abilities and skills that matter most. Perhaps there is hope after all.
- Mismatch of job skills and what we learn in school
The Straits Times has reported that the official figures released earlier this month show that job seekers outstrip the number of job openings for the first time since June 2012, with the number of job vacancies continuing to fall.
The unemployment rate rose to 4.3% in June, which is higher than 3.5% from the same period last year which is the highest level since 2009.
This rise in unemployment has hit resident degree holders the hardest. Perhaps this could be due to the gap between what we graduates have and what we are supposed to have.
Scrolling through job applications, I’ve also noticed that for the job positions in the finance sector (I majored in economics and finance), there is a huge gap in what I have learnt from school and what I am supposed to know (e.g. SQL, Python). I’ve never dealt with any of these data systems before, so wouldn’t this put me (and I guess many others), who haven’t the slightest clue how to operate these systems since we’ve not been taught it in school, at a disadvantage?
This mismatch of jobs that we want and skills that we aren’t equipped with are also felt by employers. For example, in the Straits Times, Glints co-founder and chief executive Oswald Yeo commented that the huge demand for technology workers like software engineers or digital marketers is not met. If such demands are not met, then there could be a rising trend in underemployment, where young people land jobs that they are overqualified for.
One way we can combat this is by upgrading ourselves fast enough to keep up with changes in the economy. If we can have the time to update our status on social media, I think there should not be an excuse to not do something as simple as watching a video on how Python works on Udemy.
How I got a job just two months after graduation
In light of these factors, the best that can be done is to make yourself as employable as possible and that just cannot be done by only poring over books all day.
Before graduating, you should do your best to get an internship that would enable you to learn the skills required in your future (dream) job. This is important because certain sectors are shrinking and shedding jobs but at the same time, the jobs created in new and old sectors require different skill sets from what we’ve learned in school.
You should also be open to positions that are out of your comfort zone. Even if what you’ve studied does not match the new job position or internship opening you’re applying for, the skills you pick up will be transferable to future job positions.
As for me, I would always use my holidays as an opportunity to get an internship or part-time position that would last from the beginning of my holidays till the end to maximise the free time that I have.
From experience, the longer you stay, the more likely it is for your superiors to rope you in for more serious (and hopefully more interesting) projects.
In university, I would also strongly recommend that you attend resume and cover letter writing workshops because there is no point in mass sending your applications without it being well written enough to catch anyone’s attention.
You would also do well to enroll in classes that you want to take even if it is unrelated to the career path you want to thread (I took French classes just for the fun of it and was even asked to speak a bit during an interview! This certainly left an impression on the interviewer). This also demonstrates that you are someone who is open to learning new things and are taking proactive measures to increase your skills.
Sure, these suggestions may sound cliche but they certainly worked or me. I managed to land a full-time position just two months after graduating, and the advice I have here is based on what I’ve done to get to where I’m at.
Apart from getting a job just for money, it’s important that the job is something that you can see yourself doing in the long term as we are not encouraged to job hop, especially when the labour market is still looking bleak.
It would also not feel like a job anymore if you enjoy what you are doing and you won’t be another statistic in the number of Singaporean workers who are unhappy.
To job seekers out there, all the best!