As a Career Coach, I speak to hundreds of undergraduates every other month to assist them with their job-searching needs. With over ten years of experience in this industry and my connections to the world’s top universities, companies and firms, these are the top five mistakes that fresh graduates can’t seem to stop making (I’ve gone above and beyond in warning them too).
Stop making them!
The Spray and Pray Technique
More is not always more. Sometimes more becomes less. Unless an employer states that you are welcome to apply to more than one role, do not apply to every role on offer (or too many roles). It hints of desperation and no clear focus of your specific strengths and focus. Limit yourself to two or three roles which best suit your strengths. It also shows employers confidence and most importantly – that you know what you want.
I also have students and graduates applying to every role you come across without modifying their resumes to fit the role. It’s a natural instinct to play the numbers game and apply widely. But unless you have a very outstanding set of experiences and skills specific to a role, you will be less likely to make the first cut. Look closely and objectively at the JD in relation to your skills and suitability for the role.
Oh wait – so what if you want the role but know you’re not up to it? Then you should not waste everyone’s time and give that role a miss.
Not Preparing Adequately for Interviews
You’ve been called up for an interview. Great! Congrats. You need to prepare by understanding the industry, the company’s business focus/model, their competitors, challenges and prospects for the industry. Lastly you must be able to critically provide a summary of the role you are applying for and have at least two thoughtful questions prepared about the role.
At the same time, it’s important to project a warm, confident, likable persona to your interviewers. Even if they are cold and transactional, you are the one being interviewed not them so be cheerful and try to build rapport with your interviewer. It goes a long way.
Don’t let it show in your energy levels and levels of enthusiasm during interviews. Take every interview cheerfully with a smile and as a learning/practise opportunity.
It’s a jungle out there and competition is fierce. Sending out resumes and getting very few replies is fairly normal in any industry. You should not allow yourself to feel discouraged. Don’t let it show in your energy levels and levels of enthusiasm during interviews. Take every interview cheerfully with a smile and as a learning/practise opportunity. You’ll get better with every interview you go for.
Not Considering ‘Other Industries’
There are popular companies and roles that almost everyone wants to join as fresh grads. We know the Big 3, all the students are also applying for the big FMCGs. With that comes lower chances of landing such roles.
Do yourself a favour and be objective and honest with yourself – Decide if you stand a strong chance of landing such roles. If not, it’s not the end of the world! Consider other industries and niches where there’s less competition but where trends show future prospects are high for career development. eg. Sustainability, Tourism, Transport & Logistics!
Your function very likely exists in other industries. If you’re a Marketer – you can do Marketing in all industries. If you’re an engineer, the likelihood you’re needed across the categories are likewise high. Don’t limit yourself to what you’ve seen and am familiar with. It might actually come in handy for you to be broadening your horizons and experience.
Taking Too Long to Enter the Job Market
Sure, you have worked very hard and you want to take a break before starting work.
Yes, you are entitled to but taking too long to start applying can be perceived negatively and even diminish your value in employers’ eyes. It’s better to secure a role and then negotiate a later starting date than to take a break then start applying. Remember, every 6 months, there will be a fresh batch of grads who’ll be out looking for jobs.
Don’t wait and openly invite unnecessary competition.
Speaking to a Career Coach Too Late
Ah, the common mistake. Having fresh graduates I’ve never spoken to all swarm in for appointments for the first time in their last semester. That’s three to four years too late. Most students end their finals in May, and open-graduate roles hire from a few months before in November.
That aside, you should be speaking to your Career Coach/Officers as early as in your first-year of undergraduate studies to understand your strengths, weaknesses to ensure you have adequate time to tackle them in your course of study.
That said, better late than never. All educational institutes should come with their own Careers Office – speak to them and go for mock interviews! Get them to have a look at your CV and cover letters, it’ll do wonders, given how they’ve been doing this for years.
Remember – don’t apply blindly, and always be confident. Employers want to hire the ones who know what they want, and not those who are unsure and uncertain – who wants those on their team?
Are you an undergraduate or fresh graduate looking for job opportunities? What are some best practices or mistakes you or your peers have made?