Early notice: This post is written based on my own experience, and what I’ve learnt or saw in my life or in the lives of people around me, or what I’ve read online on Facebook / LinkedIn / Twitter, etc. It’s based purely on my own thoughts and opinions, unless stated otherwise, and it may be different from your own experiences, in which I encourage you to share with me in the comments below so people can benefit from a myriad of perspectives 🙂
I’ve been wanting to write a post with the cliche tips and advice for fresh graduates and all, but the thought that “Oh, you’re a fresh graduate yourself, who or what gives you the authority to write about like that when you’re just experiencing it for yourself?”
(yeah, I debate with myself all the time about my own credibility and if I’m good enough to write about the things I want to write, which ends up leading to me not writing anything because I feel like I’m not qualified enough to write about it, which defeats the purpose of me writing and sharing my thoughts and learning from others as well)
But then again, I think about what I’ve done in the past, and how I do things without even caring if I am good enough or not to do them, (i.e. being OSSP Junior in INTEC and helping out my friends in their university applications, even when I was applying myself, and doing Projek Inspirasi and talking about tips and all for choosing programs and universities when I was a student myself), I figured, f*** whatever people say, I don’t want to not embark on a knowledge exchange / discussion just because I don’t have a proper qualification or certification. What’s the point of life, anyway, if you hold yourself back all the time?
First things first: Read this Daily30: Fresh Grad-ing 101 post before you continue reading this post. I would probably write this post as fast as I could, considering how it’s almost midnight and I have to go to work tomorrow, and I’m going to need as much sleep as I can get before things get hectic next week.
Hone your resume/CV
Note: for what’s it worth, the way I see it, a resume is for job-seeking, while a ‘curriculum vitae’ or a CV is more towards academia, where you include more research publications, articles/books published, conferences and talks and all that. But in Malaysia, the word ‘CV’ is often used in job-seeking, so I guess you can use it that way too.
As I am a US graduate, I have been told for 4 years that a resume should only be one-page maximum – where it should be concise and straight to the point. But in Malaysia, a lot of people are into longer CV/resumes, where you include picture and graphs (i.e. for skills, etc) and sometimes a lot of unnecessary information (like date of birth, hobbies, etc). But then again, some companies may ask for that, so that’s different, I guess?
Whatever it is, take these things into consideration:
- You may only have less than a minute to capture the HR/recruiter’s attention with your resume, so make it short, sweet, concise and attention-grabbing.
- Focus on your achievements and experiences, and use statistics/numbers to quantify as many things as possible (i.e. instead of saying “I managed my team’s fundraising efforts”, use “Fundraised a total of RMxxxx for our team’s annual fundraising campaign within YYY period”.) This can help show the effort / results of your actions.
- TAILOR YOUR RESUME FOR EACH JOB APPLICATION. Never use the EXACT SAME resume twice. Tweak it (even a little bit) for different job applications, and match your experiences/achievements to each job description. Figure out what qualifications and qualities are needed for the position, and make sure you fully cover that in your resume.
- Save each resume as a PDF version when you are sending it via email. This helps to save the format the resume is in, and makes it look professional.
- Remember, quality > quantity. No point making it >2 pages long if it’s worthless.
- And remember, not every industry is going to like those fancy pancy resumes with colors and graphs and all. If you’re applying for a creative / multimedia / IT / arts jobs, perhaps a ‘different’ resume would be useful to help you stand out, but a typical banking job, for example, may prefer a traditional resume.
There are also tons of options / designs for you to base your resume on – and not one single format is perfect. Feel free to play around, mix and match designs, start from scratch, buy a template, pay someone to help design your resume for you. Whatever suits you, go ahead and try it out. But whatever it is, never lie on your resume, and use your own words to describe your experiences and achievements – as you may be asked to elaborate on it during interviews.
For example, I have multiple versions of my resume – I have a two-page resume, a one-page concise resume, a ‘creative/fancy’ resume template that I bought off from Etsy, a traditional US-business school resume, etc. You name it – I have different versions for different purposes. I probably spent more hours into it than I care to admit, but why not, your resume is like a short snippet of your life and deserve your best attention.
Work on your cover letter / email
That first impression matters a lot, so work on delivering a good, if not perfect, first impression. Do not send an email with merely “Hi, I need a job, please see CV attached”, as it will most probably be sent straight to the bin.
Instead, take time to research the company / organization. Learn more about their culture, their mission and vision, and the job description. Try to incorporate how your experiences can be beneficial for them, and convince them of your credibility. Don’t just say “Hire me because I need a job”, but instead give them a reason to hire you because of what you’ll bring to them.
As an example, here’s the email and my cover letter that I sent to Monash University (my current employer) when I was applying for a job here.
Some things you can note in the email and/or cover letter that you can use in your future emails/letters to employers:
- Short and simple email – state your interests, where you heard about them, some contact information. Be sure to use proper salutation (use name if you’re sending it to a specific person, or To Whom It May Concern or Dear HR Officer, etc). Introduce yourself briefly (at least a name, if not anything else). Don’t simply go into the content without a proper introduction.
- Cover letter – be sure to write the right company name and position – please don’t get this one wrong. At least show the courtesy of getting the right company name (spelling, etc).
- Pick one or two of your experiences that are best suited to the job, and elaborate more on it. Try to find things that relates to the position, and highlight the skills that would be useful. Prove to them that you have the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed in the job – and that you have the motivation to learn and do better with them team.
- Check for any grammar / spelling mistakes – be sure to reread through them and if possible, have someone else reread them too.
Utilize all the different websites and sources to find job opportunities
In this world, you can find opportunities in many different ways. There’s no need to flip newspapers to find job advertisements, as all of them are now available on your smartphone. Use the typical websites like Jobstreet, Monster, MyStarJobs, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, etc to look for opportunities. Or try out some other websites like Wobb, MauKerja, DuitDoIt, Graduan, or StartUpJobs.
Also attend the many, many, many jobs and careers fairs that are happening in Malaysia. Just Google up “Careers Fair Malaysia” and you’d be spoilt for choice. There’s the Graduan Aspire Career Fair, the Mega Career Fair, the Mega Careers & Study Fair, and many many more. Even if you’re not sure of what kinds of jobs you are looking for, just go to these careers fairs, and use it as an opportunity to practice. Practice your communication skills, to talk to different recruiters, to learn about different industries and opportunities, to network with companies and people. Who knows, maybe you wouldn’t get your first job there, but instead create a long-lasting professional relationship?
If going to a careers fair seem like a daunting task for you (especially if you’re a shy person or an introvert, like Aiman is), take it one step at a time. Set small goals for you to achieve at each careers fair, such as (1) speaking to at least five different recruiters, (2) dropping your resume at ten different companies, or (3) listening to at least one career talk (career fairs usually have sessions where some companies/recruiters/professionals share their experiences, etc). You have to learn to step out of your comfort zone, and, if it helps, bring along a friend who can accompany you (like I accompanied Aiman to his career fair last year).
Whatever it is, do not limit yourself to only one platform, as different opportunities may be posted to different platforms, and choosing to look for jobs on one website may limit your options or deter you from that perfect opportunity for yourself.
Okay, this is getting a tad bit too long (>1,500 words) and it’s past midnight already omg (it legit took me an hour+ to write this), so I should end it here and continue it next time. I hope whatever I wrote up there makes sense and is somewhat beneficial to you in finding that first job. I know it’s daunting, stepping out of college and stepping into the real working world, and I assure you, it is not as scary as it seems. It can be an amazing learning opportunity, so go out there and start getting those experiences in.
If anyone’s interested to learn more, I can share more about my other experiences – job applications, interviews, negotiating salaries, etc – in a different post. If you have any other questions or concerns, feel free to drop a comment or share your experiences with other readers too – I’m sure people will be glad to read from other people’s perspective as well! 🙂
Until next time, stay awesome people 🙂