Like many young adults in Singapore, I initially found it difficult to get relevant job hunting advice when I graduated in 2014. Doing well in university was one thing but surviving in the corporate world was a different ball game altogether.
For several of us, the older adults in our lives are simply out-of-touch with the graduate job market. For instance, they might perceive internships, overseas exposure and LinkedIn profiles as unnecessary or even silly. Or, they may only be familiar with SMEs; sunset industries or stagnant companies that many young adults aren’t interested in.
When we look to other older adults outside our family, they may sometimes not have our best interest in mind. We might encounter some recruiters who are more interested in filling up a position than truly caring about whether the role is a right fit for us. Or if we’re unlucky, we might even meet older folks who are more interested in “Generation Y bashing” and sounding superior than really helping us.
In the first two years of my working life, I found that the best resources for me were my ambitious and career savvy seniors. Given that they were in the same boat as I was just a few years ago, they were able to relate better to me and provide me with advice that is most relevant to the rapidly evolving graduate job market.
Another source I learnt a lot from were websites like Undercover Recruiter and The Muse. Thanks to these resources, I’ve picked up so many things ranging from salary negotiations to creating a strong LinkedIn profile.
Thus, I’ve decided to pay it forward by sharing my own experiences here on InternSG with other young graduates.
1.If you don’t know what you like, start by knowing what you don’t like
When I first graduated, I had no clear specific idea about what I would like to do. So, I started off by deciding what I didn’t want to do and slowly narrowed down my search from there to get a better idea.
For instance, I realized from my experience working in a temporary job while I was waiting for university to begin that I hated administrative tasks. As such, I intentionally selected professions that would allow me to do as little admin work as possible such as journalism and business development.
Also, I preferred to be in an environment with low power distances and which were efficient. Thus, I picked companies which had flatter structures and were lean.
2. Remember that an interview is a two way process
A lot of new graduates often mistakenly believe that an interview is solely about the company choosing them. However, the candidate’s decision-making process is no less critical than the employer’s. As this article on Glassdoor puts it:
“I reject the idea of requiring jobseekers to humbly approach His Majesty’s throne in the interview process. A hiring manager has a job to offer, and s/he also has a problem that needs solving. A jobseeker has talent to offer, and he or she needs (or at least would consider) a new job.”
I would advise young adults to make the most of the interview process by also using it to ascertain if you’d be stepping into a minefield upon joining the firm. Given that the number one reason why people quit is because of bad bosses, it is prudent to assess the personality of your future manager during the meeting. Is she hostile and insincere? Is he overly boastful or arrogant? After all, if you get the job, you’d be meeting this person every single day and so it is important to make sure that you like this person in the first place.
Besides trying to assess the hiring manager based on his/her behaviour during the job interview, another method would be to stalk them on LinkedIn or speak to others working in the same industry or company to gather their opinions about this person.
Another important factor would be the culture of the company. When you’re attending interviews, take this opportunity to assess the processes in the company. What is the atmosphere in the company like? Are they backwards in the hiring process i.e. asking you for O level or PSLE results for a graduate position?
To know more about the company’s culture, you can always refer to Glassdoor reviews. However, do take the comments with a pinch of salt and let the interview clarify something you’ve read and might be concerned about.
In my first job after graduation, I did my due diligence to assess the employer and reaped the rewards of having a fantastic manager who cared deeply about his team mates’ development. The company also offered fantastic work life balance, a strong training program and minimal office politics. Starting there was one of the best decisions in my life and I am glad I made a conscious effort to assess the firm and my direct boss before joining.
3. Master the three most important questions
What I’ve found out through experience and reading this brilliant article by Bernard Marr is that in most interviews, the employer ultimately wants to establish three key things. He/she may use different questions and angles to get the answers to these three most important questions.
- Have you got the skills, expertise and experience to perform the job?
- Are you enthusiastic and interested in the job and the company?
- Will you fit into the team, culture and company?
Many Singaporean graduates only focus on the first part but not the other two questions. The second one is particularly important for fresh graduates. I think it is important to highlight one’s eagerness to learn by asking questions about the training and mentorship opportunities available in your firm. Their answers will give you an idea of how much the firm invests in their employees and show that you’re hungry and eager to learn. You can check out a list of other good questions to ask here.
4. There is no such thing as a perfect job
Not many people can find a job that is entirely flawless. Thus, it is important for you to understand what really matters to you. Do you want to specialize in something or get a wide exposure to different areas? Is salary extremely important to you at this stage in your life? What about work life balance?
For me, my objective in my first job was clear – To get solid experience in business development. Thus, I selected a regional role which would expose me to working with clients in the APAC market and learn about the entire B2B sales process from lead generation to closing.
After that, when my needs evolved and when I was thinking of settling down and getting a house, I then made a switch to another job which would offer a much higher pay.
Just remember that for most of us, our first job is not our forever job. It is a starting point, not a stopping point. Just start somewhere and then plan how you can use the skills you learnt and the industry experience you have to move to your desired next step.
5. Get on a rocket ship
When Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg gave a speech to the graduates of Harvard Business School, she recounted advice she had gotten from then-CEO of Google Eric Schmidt when she was job hunting:
“Get on a rocket ship. When companies are growing quickly and they are having a lot of impact, careers take care of themselves. And when companies aren’t growing quickly or their missions don’t matter as much, that’s when stagnation and politics come in. If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.”
I couldn’t agree more with her. Usually, one of the ways to spot a fast growing company is to look at the number of job openings they have. If they’re expanding quickly, usually there would be more vacancies opening up. However, don’t use this as an absolute indicator because it could also mean that the company has a high turnover rate. Do your research on Glassdoor and during the interview.
Besides fast growing companies, fresh graduates could also consider entering fast growing sectors such as big data; technology; healthcare; digital marketing and compliance to equip themselves with relevant skills and experience that these employers look out for. The job market pretty much functions in a similar way as our economy. When the number of openings exceed the number of available talents in the market, naturally companies would be more willing to offer better salaries and benefits to attract talent.
I hope this post has helped you with your journey in finding your first job. If you found this article useful, you might want to check out my piece for Business Insider titled “6 Ways You Can Stand Out In the Graduate Glut”.
Jeraldine Phneah, 25, is a regional account manager at a leading European technology company. She graduated from Nanyang Technological University two years ago with a Bachelor in Communication Studies (Hons) and Minor in Public Policy & Global Affairs. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora and Instagram.
Visit her official website at www.jeraldinephneah.com