The graduation ceremony had a touch of grandeur, solemnity and nostalgia about it; the special day has come and gone. You reached the milestone; you stayed focused and graduated well. The plan was that with this solid foundation, armed with a degree under your belt, you could step out, start to build your own future and conquer the world. That time came over a year ago and there is still nowhere to go.
Every day young, intelligent, articulate graduates, pound the pavements in search of work. For so many graduates, having a degree has not translated, as expected into a job. Some have applied, unsuccessfully, for hundreds of jobs, some have part-time work, or internships, several are doing a masters degree “to improve their chances.” Today’s graduates are competing for entry-level jobs against laid-off workers with MBAs and years of experience; with the increased competition for only a few jobs the job outlook continues to look grim for scores of graduates.
Here are some suggestions that might be useful until things improve.
Cultivate your Network
Effective networking is achieved through cultivating relationships over time. Reach out to those with whom you already have a personal, professional or academic connection. Does everyone you know realize that you are looking for a job? Use all the contacts and connections that you have, including your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, family friends and so on. Make sure they know what your skills and talents are, so that they keep you in mind when they hear of any openings.
Stay in close touch with professional colleagues and actively seek to expand your network. If you have been an active member of professional or business associations, on-campus organizations, or social groups, keep those connections alive. Networking activities, provide good opportunities to gain useful insights on careers, get job leads, and for you to sell yourself. Stay in touch with former managers from internships, and part-time jobs; if you left a good impression, they might be able to help.
Use on-line resources to search for job opportunities. If you are interested in a particular company do online research about that company and follow the companies activities closely in the media. Improve the presentation of your CV to make it flawless and perfectly tailored to the positions you are seeking. Through company websites you will be able to send out several applications efficiently, but bear in mind that most great job opportunities are not advertised; they are often filled by personal contacts.
If you are broke and are not one of those that is lucky enough to be housed and fed by your parents or relatives for an indefinite period, you cannot afford to sit at home until you find your dream job. Naturally it can be very tedious and disconcerting sending out several applications and get no response, but don’t focus solely on your area of study, be flexible and broaden your scope. Expanded your search to related fields; this will boost your chances of finding something that is relevant and that will still utilize your training and abilities and enhance your skills.
If you regard every other position as demeaning and “beneath you” as you are in fact “a graduate,” you could be in for a long wait. In this highly competitive world in recession, it is important that you are humble and accept the fact that you might have to start at the bottom and work your way up. There may be opportunities working at a restaurant, in a shop, baby sitting and lots of other temporary jobs that can keep you busy and give you some badly needed cash until something more in line with your expectations and credentials turns up.
Do you have a special skill or talent?
Be creative and identify that special gift or talent that you might have ignored before now. Do people always comment on your painting, photography or writing skills? Are you good at public speaking or organizing, web-design or programming? Can you design clothes or model them? If you can play musical instruments to a decent standard, there may be freelance work as a singer, pianist, organist or violinist in churches, clubs, music lounges or private receptions. There may be opportunities to offer tutorial services in a subject that you excelled in, to students in your area. There are endless options and not only will you be earning, but you will also open yourself to opportunities and contacts that may be of help in your job hunt.
Consider working for free
One good way to get your foot in the door with a company or organization is to demonstrate to them what you can do. By working as an intern or volunteering, you have an opportunity to impress them by showcasing your skills, commitment, and professionalism and doing something that makes a difference. This might make them want to hire you.
Whilst getting your foot in the door and proving what you can do can get you full time employment after a few months, do not assume that it will translate into a permanent position with the organization or you might be disappointed. Even if it doesn’t, you would have gained valuable experience. Of course if you have no assistance whatsoever from family or friends, it will be difficult to work for free.
Try to avoid having significant gaps of unemployment in your CV to have to explain in interviews. A future employer will be impressed that you did not just sit at home doing nothing but you kept yourself occupied gaining experience and new skills.
Consider setting up your own business
What is it that you are passionate about and capable of doing relatively easily and well? When you are young and free of significant financial or personal commitments such as a family, a mortgage and other debt, you have a unique opportunity to take some risk and consider establishing your own business if you are so inclined. Do you have what you consider to be a great idea that you are passionate about and doesn’t have huge start up costs? You may be surprised at what you can accomplish.
There may be comfort in numbers. Perhaps you could partner with a classmate or a friend whose skills complement your own and set up something together.
Continue to develop yourself
Whilst no learning is wasted, avoid fleeing into an expensive and lengthy graduate program that may not necessarily give you that added advantage, just to postpone the difficult period. As far as possible, seek continuous training and experience that can directly support any chosen career path. Professional qualifications or certifications, or shorter courses to improve your IT and other skills can sometimes be of greater value at this time. Basic skills in languages such as Mandarin, Spanish, French may give you an edge. Employers will always value employees who strive to develop themselves. Keep abreast of current events and in particular of what is happening in your industry. Be disciplined about keeping your learning alive.
The hard reality is that being a graduate never guaranteed anyone immediate employment. As you await the “right” job, open yourself to various opportunities and experiences. Develop a supportive group of friends and cultivate friendships with people who are positive in spite of the challenges. Such people will make the most of this opportunity, and will give you the encouragement you badly need to get through this phase.
Ask yourself what the lessons learnt are, so that you benefit from the overall experience. What opportunities can you create out of the uncertainty? Despair and depression will only make you less attractive to a potential employer. Above all, maintain a sense of optimism and resilience and keep your spirits and energy levels up through exercise. It is that strength of character and self-confidence that will make you stand out and help get you through an employer’s door or even the door of your own small business.
Photo Credit: Stock Image
Nimi Akinkugbe has extensive experience in private banking and wealth management. She is passionate about encouraging financial independence and offers frank, practical insights to create a greater awareness and understanding of personal finance and wealth management issues. She is married with 3 children.Find out more via www.nimiakinkugbe.com