WHEN I picked up the newspaper on Thursday March 22 recently, I was greeted with articles on the SPM results.
The day before, the SPM 2011 results were released and there was much cheer on the record improvement on the number of students who had scored straight A+ in all their subjects.
It was a remarkable feat to have 559 students (compared with 403 students the previous year) who managed to accomplish such great results.
The overall achievement of students for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) 2011 examinations was the best recorded in five years with an improved National Average Grade at 5.04 compared with 5.19 in 2010.
Some of the students who scored really fantastic results were interviewed and their responses featured in various media. In all the articles quoting these bright students, each of them said that they had studied hard, attended tuition and were consistent in their revision and school work.
Some thanked their teachers or parents for being good mentors who had guided them well in their pursuit of excellence. Everyone had a common story to share they all invested their time and effort in their studies to achieve success!
Take that scenario and transfer it into the world of work. Successful employees/talent who had achieved a milestone in their career will also share success stories about dedication, perseverance and being productive, investing their time and efforts to improve themselves through up-skilling and development programmes and having good mentors in the workplace to guide them.
It is on that note that we realise success is about perseverance, effort and investment. It's about taking each step ahead and doing it better than you did before.
There were a total of 468,808 students who sat for their SPM examination last year.
Being in the recruitment industry, I told myself that a huge portion of these students will be extending their studies at A-levels, pre-U programmes or even Sixth Form and there would be others who would have to make their next move into the world of work.
For those who will be embarking on their job search, preparing resumes for application of jobs and submitting them will be the order of the day. And when you finally secure an interview, you need to ensure that you will be able to impress your interviewer(s) enough to hire you.
Whether you are going to pursue your further studies or looking for a job, you need to understand that it is critical to stand out from the crowd in a world that keeps getting more crowded.
Are the students who intend to seek a job as their next move prepared? Do they understand the environment of a job seeker and the training that they need to focus on? I'm not talking about running a few km or going to the gym; it's not about training in the physical sense but training to succeed.
To aid you in your job search, you will need to understand how great managers identify the right candidate for jobs. When recruiting young candidates or fresh graduates, all employers want candidates with passion and the something extra'. But how do you measure or determine something intangible?
Most interviewers or employers will try to understand potential hires' personal goals as it is not about what a fresh graduate can do for the company today but what they can do for the company tomorrow. The depth of the candidate's technical skills, their depth of knowledge and their drive will determine if they will be hired. How do you as a candidate take control of your life as you enter the working world? How are you going to ensure that you will secure your first job? You may wish to follow the guidelines below as they have helped many candidates whom we have guided in their career journey.
Start with the simplest of tasks to achieve easy success
Draft a simple plan on what sort of jobs will be suitable to your capabilities and passion.
It can be a mere few sentences or lines but it will lead you to a clearer direction of where to start. Map out the industry or companies that you are keen to focus on and work on the job requirements.
Check recruitment advertisements in newspapers or go online for your job search. Do a quick checklist to match the job requirements with your personal traits, capabilities and technical skills to shortlist the jobs available to identify those that will give you a higher rate of being successful in your job application.
Once you have completed these steps, it's time for you to send in your application to prospective employers.
Attitude over aptitude
There is a saying that employers hire candidates for attitude and train for aptitude.
This holds true as personal character, positive traits and passion are favoured by many employers over professional experience. Someone who has a good point of reference, positive attitude and passion will win over someone with a great portfolio but doesn't have any good traits. Tap on your confidence and passion to succeed in life when you attend an interview.
Showcase your capabilities
Employers look for depth of knowledge, problem-solving skills and communication skills during an interview.
It is therefore vital to share your capabilities to your prospective employer. You may speak about your interest, activities and hobbies to draw your interviewer into having a better understanding of you. For some of you, this may be your first attempt at getting a job and you would not have past work experience to share. Touch on topics about your school activities or projects that you had embarked on. The main concept here is to have you share something interesting and to showcase your capabilities.
When you set your expectations too high, you are setting yourself to fail!
This is a critical point to remember as it's important to be realistic in what you expect to achieve, your capabilities and the commensurate rewards and salary scale. Match your abilities to how you can add value to a company. Understand the industry standards or market rate during discussions on salary expectations. As a fresh graduate, not every job pays you RM3,000 with a room of your own and a view to boot. As William Shakespeare said - “to climb steep hills requires a slow pace at first.”
Not every job offers you shorter work hours, ability to work from home or greater flexibility.
Unless you have displayed and proved your worth as an employee, chances are your bosses will not trust you with remote working options such as working from home or away from the office. Find your passion and identify the companies that best suit your capabilities for that successful job offer. The true test of a new employee's capabilities is during the first three months where you are given specific tasks to handle to prove your mettle in differentiating those who are cut out for the job and those that have been placed in the wrong role.
Aim to succeed even though it would be a learning curve for you when you join a company during the first six months. You need to adopt, adapt and approach the role and expectations with a determination to succeed.
There are some career opportunities which may require you to adapt and survive in an environment that was completely different to your usual environment.
Take for example, a job offer which will see you posted to another country on a project. Such opportunities will provide invaluable training in understanding and appreciating different cultures which is a useful skill to have in the globalised corporate environment. Some of these experiences pushes you to think on your feet and is not necessarily something that is taught in schools.
Beyond average go for extra'
In an environment where “average is over,” everybody has to find their extra' factor - their unique talent, skill, contribution, or commitment that separates them from the pack.
That Used to Be Us, Thomas Friedman's newest book (written with Johns Hopkins professor Michael Mandelbaum), has at least one such observation - a principle so clearly true that it should become a mantra of sorts for leaders everywhere who want to build something great and do something important. Chapter Seven of the book is called Average Is Over, and what was average' worked ten years ago but is below average today and will be further below average ten years from now. As a result, everyone needs to raise his or her game just to stay in place, let alone get ahead.
Strike a balance between what you can achieve against what you think and hope to achieve. It's key to understand that in order to achieve and taste success, you need to understand where you're heading and to embrace each step ahead with determination and humility. I'll like to leave you with words of encouragement especially to those venturing into the working world:
“I long to accomplish great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they are great and noble. The world is moved along not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.” - Helen Keller