New graduates find themselves in the unique position of having entered higher education with certain expectations for their student years and career path, but then having to suddenly adapt to a whole new paradigm of online learning and facing a very different jobs marketplace from the one they originally envisioned when they graduated at the end of last year.
As a result of these experiences and changed circumstances, recent graduates could be especially vulnerable to the consequences of the pandemic, with one of the biggest impacts being the loss of certainty and the ‘normal narrative’ of how graduates will transition to work, an education expert says.
“Graduates must therefore now – more than ever before – be creative and intentional in their job search,” says Dr Rufaro Mavunga, Head of Programme: Law Faculty at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest and most accredited private higher education provider.
“If you are a recent graduate who has never worked a day in your life, writing a CV and a cover letter may seem like a daunting and intimidating task. There is, however, so much information available on so many platforms such as recruitment websites that provide tips on how to write a winning CV,” she says.
It is also crucial to read job descriptions carefully to identify the required skills and experience so that you can ensure your CV and application aligns with these. It is important to highlight your skills and competencies tailored to what the advertised jobs require. It may be necessary to tweak your CV for each job application.
“It is helpful to list the requirements and refer back to this list as you write your resume.”
While your skills and expertise must align with the job descriptors given, attention to the aesthetic look of the CV is also very important.
“Graduates are advised to use a simple format as complicated page layouts can be hard for applicant tracking systems to handle. Graduates should also carefully consider if everything they have included in a CV is actually necessary.
“At all times graduates should attempt to put their best foot forward by avoiding typos and grammatical errors that detract from the overall presentation. And priority should be given to quality over quantity to stand out from other applicants.”
Dr Mavunga notes that although many jobs are currently being advertised on online platforms, graduates should not neglect speculative applications.
“Speculative applications are where you create your own opportunity by reaching out speculatively to organisations, even when they are not advertising,” she explains.
“So make a list of companies that are of interest to you, research their public relations material and then reach out. Think outside the box to make your approach stand out from the rest!”. Many large corporates have links on their websites for graduate employment but don’t necessarily advertise these on the popular job seeking sites.
Another aspect that could potentially enhance graduate employability is the building of networks.
“Social networking is defined as the use of internet-based social media sites to stay connected with friends, family, colleagues, customers, or clients. Social networking can have a social purpose, or a professional purpose, or both, through various sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Creating a strong and professional presence on social media may link you with information and opportunities that can assist in the job search process,” says Dr Mavunga.
“Social networks are also important because they allow you to connect with persons you may not normally encounter. Always remember that employers often look at a candidate’s social media platforms to measure whether a particular candidate would be a good fit for their company – so post accordingly. Graduates should focus on making their social media platforms employer friendly and perhaps remove any posts that could be a cause of concern for a potential employer.”
Covid-19 affected the world of work in different ways in different countries, but there are some clear patterns in the ways that work is changing.
“Numerous companies are moving business processes online with more staff working remotely. Graduate recruitment is also moving online with recruiters having interviews and assessments online or in a blended format. It seems likely that at least some of these changes will endure beyond the current crisis, so graduates must take steps to embrace this new environment,” Dr Mavunga says.
And then, expectations must be managed.
“Many first-time job seekers have a vision of what they think their first job should look like. In the current climate, not all graduates will be so lucky to have that vision realised, at least maybe not immediately, and it might be necessary to shift expectations. For instance, while you might have had your heart set on a full-time job with full benefits, it might be time to consider a six-month internship or fellowship or possibly seek out and take on contracting jobs. The key is to be flexible, realistic, as well as knowledgeable about career options.”
There are constant negative reports pertaining to high unemployment rates and the scarcity of jobs. Such reports leave one discouraged, with the feeling that the chances of landing a job are slim.
“Graduates should, however, develop patience and persistence to increase their chances of employability. Job search fatigue after searching unsuccessfully is a reality, but remaining positive and putting in the necessary effort will pay off in the long run. Graduates should look for ways to be positive in the face of the negative. Building that skill will come in handy throughout your career.”