Fresh Grad 101

Fresh Grad 101: What to look for in a job?

Assalamualaikum,

This blog is inspired, in part, from a recent career talk / workshop that I went to. But it is not entirely from that workshop though, because I’ve been seeing a lot of similar cases around me with friends and people I meet, so I thought perhaps I could write something about it.

I wrote a little about how you, especially if you’re a fresh graduate, can find that coveted first job. That post goes over the process of actually applying for a job, including honing your resume / CV, perfecting your cover letter / email and using various job search websites and applications.

So in this particular post, I wanted to focus on something that some, if not most, people tend to forget : what to look for in a job?

If you ask me, this is perhaps one of the most important things to consider when applying for jobs, but then again, that’s what I think anyway. I’ll also be using some examples from my past experiences, because, well, that’s the easiest and simplest way for me to do it. I can’t draw much on other people’s experience, so my experiences would have to suffice for now. And while this is intended for fresh graduates, it can be applicable to anyone looking for a job too, be it part-time or full-time.

Finding that perfect job / career

First of all – there is no perfect job / career in the world.

Every single one of us are different. We have different interests, different skills and talents, different likes and dislikes. Humans are born to be different anyway, so what’s perfect for one person may not be perfect to another. Plus, it’s all relative anyway. A job that you consider perfect for you now may not be perfect for you 30 years down the road, when you have more responsibility to your family and/or have health issues.

So just get that drilled into your head – there is no perfect job or career out there. Not one job is better than the other, so stop worrying about what it may look like if you don’t get the ‘perfect’ job. It’s okay if your friends are doctors and you choose not to pursue that medical career. Don’t feel bad about yourself if your friends are getting into management trainee programs in some of the top banking or consulting firms. 

Young me, going to a career fair in September 2014

Get to know yourself

Do a personal skills audit (something like this or this for example, but you can just Google up some examples on your own). Read through the skills audit, think about what you’re good at, what skills and strengths you have, what you need to work on a little bit more. Or take a personality test like the Meyers-Briggs personality test. It may give you an idea or two of potential career paths that may be suitable for you, but by all means, you don’t have to follow it exactly.

They are by no means the perfect tool to help you in getting to know yourself. But they are good starting points for you as they can give you something to think about. You can also ask your family and friends to describe you in one or two sentences, your strengths and weaknesses. Take a few minutes to really think about yourself, what you enjoy doing, what other skills you may want to develop more.

By getting to know yourself, you’ll be able to list down some main strengths that you have. Come up with examples from your past experiences, from your part-time jobs or internships or extra-curricular involvements, as evidence for those skills. This would come in handy when you’re working on your CV or preparing for a job interview, as they will definitely want to hear about real life situations in which you utilize the skills.

Know what you need to know

Think about where you imagine yourself in 10-15 years from now. Think further into the future – what would your dream career / job be? What do you want to be known for? Look into those career(s) or job(s), and see what skills or experiences are needed to get there.

Or find some people who are working in those jobs, and reach out to them. Find them on LinkedIn or Google them up. Look at their bio, their CV / resume. Research on their past experiences, and see what they’ve done when they were younger. Connect with them and ask for their advice, and most of the time, they’d be more than happy to help you out.

For example, around the end of 2016, I was contemplating of attending graduate schools to study Student Affairs. It was a relatively alien program to me, especially since it’s not a thing in Malaysia. So I do what most girls do well – I became FBI. I went to Google and looked up past Malaysians who have done similar Master’s programs in the US. I found this one Malaysian professor who have completed a Master’s program in Student Affairs in the US. A quick Google search after that got me his email, and so I shoot him a message, asking for his advice about pursuing the program and the prospects of a career in Student Affairs in Malaysia.

People don’t usually like to do this, because (1) they don’t know how to reach out to these people, or (2) they’re afraid of not getting any responses back. It’s a little daunting sometimes, especially if the person you’re reaching out to is in a completely different level than you (mine was an ex pro-vice chancellor of a university, so that was BLOODY INTIMIDATING OKAY).

But…

They are all humans after all, and if you ask them nicely, I’m sure they will be glad to help you out.

However, please do be smart when you’re asking them about their experiences and advice. Spend some time researching their backgrounds, understanding what they do and what they believe in. Be smart in asking your question(s) – be specific and concise. Most of these people would probably be busy most of the time, so a short “Hi, can you help me in figuring out my career path?” would probably not go so well.

Instead, take time and effort to introduce yourself first (briefly!), what you’re doing, and what you plan to do. Then relate it to something that they’re currently doing (or have done in the past). Make that connection to show that you’ve put some thought into it, instead of sending cold emails to everyone out there. Give them time to answer before you send another follow-up email. Sometimes they may be too busy that they couldn’t answer immediately or within a couple of days, so give them some time before following-up with another email.

My last day of internship at MACEE Kuala Lumpur, 2016

Okay, I’ve done all that. Now what do I do?

Once you’ve figured out (1) what strengths / weaknesses you have, and (2) what you need to know / learn to get to where you want to go – it’s time to figure out what job(s) may be suitable for you to achieve your goal(s).

When I graduated in May 2017, I knew that I didn’t want to pursue a career in Actuarial Science. I knew that I wanted to pursue a career that would allow me to work with students – but I wasn’t sure exactly what kind of career(s) would suit me best. Being an education advisor / consultant was an interesting option, but I was also intrigued by the prospects of working in a school/college/university. 

I had experiences working with students (through my internship, part-time jobs and volunteer work) – so that was one strength that I utilized. The fact that I worked as an Admissions Representative during my undergraduate life helped a lot as well.

So when I was applying for my first ever full-time job, I narrowed down my search to only universities / colleges / international schools in Malaysia. I looked for any student-facing positions available – such as at the admissions office, student records, advising office, student affairs, career development office, the likes. I also applied to private education consulting companies, like EduAdvisor.

Long story short, after a couple of interviews and offers / rejections – I went to Monash University Malaysia as a course executive. This job gave me an insight into the world of student affairs and education management. It was a job that utilized my past experiences, and helped me to grow as a person for my future career.

Don’t blindly apply to every single job vacancy, but really know what to look for in a job.

Once you’ve figured out what to look for in a job, it’d make your work a lot easier. After all, quality is better than quantity, no? There is no point in randomly sending your CV / resume to every single job opportunity, because chances are slim that you’d get any of those opportunities.

Instead, focus on what you have to offer to the company (your strengths, your skills) and what you want to learn (the job description, the company’s training and development program). This way, you can tailor each application to fit the specific opportunity, and increase your odds at scoring an interview and/or offer.

Think about what is important to you, not anyone else. Focus on yourself, your future and your development needs. Don’t get intimidated by other people around you. Just remember that everyone has their own race in life, their own paths to walk on.

I think this should be it for now – I think I’ve written long enough. If you’ve actually managed to read through the whole post, well, I salute you good sir. 

Hope you find it somewhat beneficial to you, and if you do think it’s useful, please do share it with your friends! Please also feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section, or to suggest some topics I can write about in the future. 🙂

Until next time – stay awesome!

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