Career Planning: Job Search Challenges
Market conditions keep fluctuating from being depressed to boom and keep throwing new job search challenges. But, job seekers need to keep a positive outlook and intensify their search in both good and bad times. Yes, during depressed market times it does become difficult, but one has to survive the bad period to fight another day.
HR professionals explain that the man-power structure in companies is like a pyramid, with fresh graduates at the bottom and experienced people forming the rest of the pyramid. With time, people from lower levels start moving upwards and some people leave the company as well, leaving a vacuum at the bottom layer. To sustain future operations, companies have to hire new people no matter what is the market scenario.
So, even in the tough times, fresh hiring will not stop altogether. New opportunities will continue to be created, even though the pressure to perform at higher levels will increase. Fresh graduates just need to cast their net wider and look for companies that are doing fresh hiring. One cannot rely on the campus placement only; one has to look for companies beyond those visiting the campus.
This, however, calls for a big change in attitude. During the boom period, fresh graduates are lapped up by companies at phenomenal salaries, and youngsters happily. switch jobs. Campus placements in many colleges get over in a few days. However, when gloom sets in, students and colleges have to wake up to the new reality—they need to work for getting offers, as also scale down their expectations and be ready to accept lower paying jobs to tide over the crisis.
Remaining unemployed for too long, waiting for the dream job to come your way is not advised. To survive, a graduate must take up any job in order to acquire skills that college degrees do not provide. The period should be taken as a good learning experience. Slowly, as things begin to improve, one can look for a better opportunity or get promoted in the job in hand.
The changing job market constantly demands new survival kit, both for freshers who are looking for their first job, and for those who are already in jobs and need to make sure they do not lose their job before getting a new one.
Acquire Marketable Skills
Many students tend to think that getting a degree is enough to get a job. This is not correct, because a degree does not guarantee the skills required to do a particular job. Our education system, even in technical and professional institutes, does not make the students fully employable-ready. A degree is good only to get you an interview call; beyond that it is your ability that will get you selected.
Students, thus, need to build a set of skills beyond what is offered by educational institutes. These skills consist of confidence, communication, technical skills and problem-solving techniques. Many institutes do not go beyond completing the syllabus and conducting examinations, so students often turn up for jobs lacking even the basic etiquette. Companies report that though they get many applications for a job, very few of the candidates are even considered, and fewer are selected. Knowledge and ability are both important to be marketable.
Several surveys have shown that apart from academic knowledge, students must have the following skills to improve their employ-ability:
- Communications Skills: The skill mentioned most often by employers is the ability to listen, write and speak effectively. Increasingly, candidates are required to write essays or summaries when they go for interviews. Spend some time to improve these skills before you start applying’ for jobs.
- Computer literacy: All jobs now require a basic understanding of computer hardware and software. Word processing, spread-sheets and presentations are essential.
- Analytical/Research Skills: These skills assess your ability to assess situations, seek multiple perspectives, gather more information if necessary, and identify key issues. Your research skills can be seen through your project reports that were part of your course.
- Flexibility/Interpersonal Abilities: Apart from your degree what else have you done? Have you managed multiple assignments and tasks and widened your horizons?
- Multicultural Sensitivity: Do you have knowledge about global practices? Job-seekers must demonstrate a sensitivity and awareness to other people and cultures.
- Leadership or Management Skills: Freshers might find it difficult to exhibit these skills, but if you have taken part in extra-curricular activities, there could be an activity in which these skills were exhibited.
- Personal Values: Values such as honesty, morality, adaptability, dedication, and a positive attitude are sought by employers. If you have lied about some detail on your bio-data, it will be taken seriously. Also, make sure that your ex-employers or teachers speak well of you if they are asked for a reference. Increasing your employability skills is of utmost importance. The good news is that these skills and personal values can be learnt and developed over a period of time. Remember to document them and use them in your bio-data or your covering letter.
Before you start searching for a job, spend some time in discovering yourself. Most students have not done this exercise when they turn up for interviews. Many candidates simply expect a job on basis of their degree. The attitude is: “I am a graduate so you owe me a job.” This approach has long ceased to work in the job markets. Employers increasingly have stopped hiring just on the basis of the label.
There are several tests available to discover your personality and inner motivations. The Myers-Brigg Personality Test or the Motivational Appraisal or Personal Potential tests are useful in this context. Through them, a person is able to list down his/her personality type and also discover what kind of job is suited. So, when an interviewer asks what the candidate can do, the answer has to be more specific than simply saying, “I want to make a lot of money.”
Before you venture out, consider what kind of job you want to do and what will make you happy. Think of your short-term goals, as well as where you want to reach in 10 or 15 years. If you think you are creative, search for jobs that will give you freedom. Think beyond money. We do accept that young people are looking for money, but that should be a secondary objective? The first objective in any person’s life should be to achieve something, and surely money will follow.
Another step in knowing your-self is to list down all your characteristics. If someone has given you a compliment, list it down. If you have won prizes or awards, list them down too. Even if you have not won any prizes, make an inventory of all your qualities. Make it a point to document them as far as possible. Once you are clear in your mind about yourself, you can convince the interviewer that you are the person most suited for the job.
Knowing yourself will also help you avoid the common pitfalls that fresh graduates can easily fall into:
- Being casual: A candidate who has not profiled himself and answers in general terms shows that he is casual:
—I want to earn a lot of money.
—I can do any job that you assign to me.
—My cousin is an engineer and he got a good job, so I should also get one. Instead of the above, if one says that he can do something well and help the company in some way, that candidate will certainly be valued more.
- Undermining oneself: Many students put themselves down: They compare themselves to others, or make mental notes about qualities they think they do not have. Some of the common complaints we hear are:
—I am not good in English
—I did not get the opportunities that others have got
—People from another college/city are smarter
Avoid these common pitfalls. If you think you are not good in something, make efforts to overcome your problems. Seek the help of teachers or join coaching classes. But do not go out with a baggage that makes you feel inadequate.
Surprisingly, many of the short-comings that people think they have are just imaginary. Too many people don’t give themselves due credit for the skills they have. They keep comparing themselves to people who are better than them, and have a tunnel vision about themselves and focus only on what they have done in the past or their mistakes/failures. After analyzing yourself, you will discover that you really do have skills that are valuable to the marketplace.
- Packaging: If you are buying a product, chances are that you will choose one that has a recommendation from your friend, or testimonials, studies or surveys. People usually pick products from a shelf that help them feel nice in some way. This gives us an insight as to what HR managers are looking for. Your chances of standing out among other people will improve if you too gather some testimonials, references and praise for what you have done during your college years. If you have done some projects, collect a letter from your supervisor saying that you did a commendable job. This helps in better packaging yourself. Highlight your accomplishments and remember that your resume is your label. You need to separate yourself from other candidates by ways that your label stands out. Think of yourself as a valuable product in the market, a product that can help the company in some way.
- Widen your net: Do not rely on one source only for employment opportunities. Your first source for finding a good job is the campus placement programme. Use it well. Your second source is people whom you know. Many companies circulate a vacancy internally before going out for recruitment. So, if your friend can recommend your name, your chances of getting an interview will increase.
- Avoid websites/advertisements that offer lucrative jobs: You will get many interview calls and offers in your mailbox that offer good jobs easily. Many candidates have found that these are nothing but fraud mails. If you get such offers, make it a point to visit the named company and meet the HR manager yourself instead of responding to mails. Advertisements are also unreliable ways of finding jobs. The Internet might seem a lucrative way to find jobs, but remember that the path of least resistance leads to the place of least results. The time spent in meeting people and finding about projects that they might have, is likely to yield better results.