Graduation is a time for celebration. You’re done with textbooks and exams and are ready to walk the first step in your much anticipated professional journey. However, the uncertainty of which career path to take, the pressure to land a job you love and even the fear of remaining unemployed can all be stressful. But don’t panic, here are 10 tips to set your job search off on the right foot:
1. Identify your strengths
Many of the skills employers look for are transferable skills, those that can be used in a variety of jobs. Regardless of the industry or company size, employers want trustworthy team players with good communication skills in English and Arabic, and ones who can lead and manage teams. So it’s not just those hard-earned technical skills you acquired in college that will serve you well, but also interpersonal skills and your ability to lead, inspire and motivate people.
2. Do your research
Research companies thoroughly to understand the industry, competition and challenges they are facing, and where they are likely to expand or change direction in the future. Refer to company profiles on the internet and newspaper archives and search for company annual reports, job vacancies and marketing materials online. Talk to people and find out what they like most and least about their jobs and the companies they work for. Social media sites and professional networking platforms are a great way to get the inside scoop.
3. Build an online presence
Employers use the internet not only to research candidates online before hiring, but also to hire them. In fact, our research has indicated that the internet is one of the preferred methods of recruitment for both managerial and non-managerial employees. The best way to make use of this trend is to build a personalised public profile. A public profile is your online business card and will allow you to brand yourself professionally and gain visibility among potential employers.
4. Smarten up your online presence
Since hiring managers, recruiters and just about anyone can find you online these days, clean up photos you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see; whether on Facebook, Instagram or elsewhere on the web. Your email address should also be one designated for your job search activities or, at the very least, clear and professional. Employers will Google you, so get rid of those incriminating photos, ranting statuses and blog entries. Finally, ensure your online public profile is polished and up to date.
5. Create a killer CV
Your CV should be truthful, simple and professional. Fresh graduates are encouraged to bring their education into focus and include relevant courses, extracurricular activities, any volunteering work, scholarships, internships, dissertations, awards and results (if they are impressive). Also include links to multimedia samples of your work and a professional video CV to stand out from the crowd. Customise your CV according to the jobs you’re applying for and keep it updated, compelling and complete. Remember, sloppy grammar and spelling mistakes are a big no.
6. Write the perfect cover letter
Your cover letter personalises your CV and summarises who you are, what you are interested in and why you are suitable for the job. No CV should be sent without a cover letter.
Most fresh graduates aren’t thinking about networking, but that’s exactly what you should be doing. Many universities have strong alumni networks students can tap into, and many departments offer opportunities to meet professionals working in that field. Many of them also hold career fairs for their students on a regular basis to meet potential employers. Get out and shake hands. Get advice on the profession you’re interested in and ask questions on how to best position yourself.
8. Learn to introduce yourself online and offline
Employers have made it clear: what they’re looking for goes well beyond degrees and relevant experience. In fact, many of them are looking for candidates who are cooperative, helpful and flexible. Capitalise on these skills when networking or answering daunting interview questions. Be confident in your response, and don’t be afraid to say what you want from a career.
9. Prepare for your job interview
Find out what a professional job interview involves. Ask professionals in your network what questions you should expect to be asked, and practice your answers. Have a friend mock interview to get your nervous tics out and learn to smoothly answer questions. Remember, interviews are all about first impressions, so physical appearance and grooming is also important. There’s no second chance to make a first impression.
10. Make career fairs work for you
Keep abreast of all career fairs happening and participate in those that interest you. If you are short on time, attend virtual job fairs that go live online and bring together job seekers and employers in an online recruitment environment to explore potential fits. These are accessible 24/7 and provide a confidential setting for you to chat with employers and apply directly for the jobs.
Lama Ataya heads the marketing department at the Middle East’s leading jobs site, Bayt.com