THE job market is now very competitive and demands are constantly changing. Therefore, the expectations from talents have also evolved with the disruptive and uncertain economic climate we are in, say employability and human resources specialists.
Young jobseekers and fresh graduates who have just come out of some two years of online learning can navigate the hiring process to secure employment by being agile and continuously seeking ways to improve themselves, says Awatif Ghapar, a human resources professional specialising in early career development at international professional services company PwC Malaysia.
“It starts with good personal branding – from the activities during university days until graduation. How does your profile portray you as an individual? Does it have the skills and criteria employers are looking for?” says Awatif, who is a founding team member of One Step Closer, a social enterprise supporting employability.
“If you are an engineering student or graduate, are there any co-curricular activities such as competitions, final year project accomplishments, internships, special projects and so on that can help your career?” she says.
Value of networks
An equally important step is to network by building and maintaining relationships. Pointing out a common mistake, Awatif explains that networking is not just about adding prominent personalities as your LinkedIn connections.
“Keep in touch with your lecturers, university career centres, peers and so on. Initiate conversations online, interact with them and keep in touch. It’s even better if you can make a good impression. You could share positive and constructive thoughts about the work they do or ask for guidance or mentorship,” she explains.
Those who are still searching for jobs can continue to upskill themselves by learning a new language, picking up digital skills, or working parttime.
“It shows you are keen to learn and continuously grow yourself regardless of your situation. It also reflects your resilience and self-motivation,” says Awatif.
Capitalising on online skills
Although many new graduates were forced to move to online learning and may not have had as many opportunities to hone some skills that require face-to-face interaction, “conventional” skills like communication, self-leadership, problem solving, and even Microsoft Office are still very relevant, says Awatif.
“It is equally important for fresh grads to know how to communicate online; this includes basic etiquette for email correspondence, social media interactions, online interviews, and managing different stakeholders in a virtual setting. There is less body language to be used as a signal, so fresh grads need to learn how to deliver effective communications virtually,” she says.
Presentation skills are also essential, and they go beyond software like Microsoft PowerPoint. There are many tools and platforms out there that may be used to present information, says Awatif, with the common ones being Google Apps, Power BI, Powtoon, and Canva.
“For certain roles, social media managing, content creation and design of visually appealing posts on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and so on might also be key, on top of the ability to analyse data to better reach different audience groups,” she says.
Other critical digital skills that are valuable include data analytics, software development, data science, creative digital writing, e-commerce and statistics.
“Business decisions are often made using data trends hence data interpretation and presentation are highly valuable skills. The digital approach to engage consumers has pushed the demands for creativity to be in line with digital skills,” she says.
She adds that jobseekers can maximise their opportunities by visiting multiple job portals, sending resumes and job applications for review, networking with seniors or mentors in their chosen fields, and attending virtual career fairs and recruitment events.
There are many resources online – initiatives from both the government and private sector – such as MYFutureJobs, HRD Corp, TalentCorp, Coursera, Acumen Academy, Google and so on that offer free or subsidised courses for upskilling, says Awatif.
An often overlooked factor is a person’s social media presence. Many recruiters check applicants’ personal social media pages to filter out candidates so it is important that what you put out online reflects how you would like to be perceived by potential employers.
Jobseekers seeking employability assistance can visit One Step closer at onestepclosermy.carrd.co for free resources and career advice.
Securing employment early
Despite changing environments, having a good resume is still a necessary requirement for jobseekers, says Universiti Sains Malaysia’s former Centre of Alumni, Career and Graduate Employability director Dr Norazharuddin Shah Abdullah.
Currently, many applicants submit generic, one-size-fits-all resumes when what is actually needed is to tailor-make resumes to each application, says Norazharuddin, whose background is in engineering.
While digital skills have become more important, and the baseline for necessary basic IT skills has risen substantially, such skills alone are not enough.
“The bigger question is how to integrate, manage your own IT capacity and be relevant to, or even ahead of, the job scope,” he says.
Now, skills with certification have become the item of choice with more courses available online. This is also the case with online-based activities, says Norazharuddin, pointing out how influencers, media content developers and digital sales and services skills are very much in demand.
“The most important thing for fresh graduates to do now is to plan for an appropriate endgame – short-term, mid-term and long-term goals. They need to be flexible enough to ensure relevance to stay ahead of their peers and be noticed by stakeholders they are interested to engage with,” he says.
“One opportunity to secure employment is through the industrial training route. Fresh graduates’ academic courses may require industrial attachment as a part to be fulfilled for graduation, and that industrial training or attachment can be the initial step towards employment,” says Norazharuddin.
Fresh graduates should also consider the government’s Graduate Employability initiative for various industries. Such programmes require industrial collaborators to provide training and up to six months’ attachment, and can be a stepping stone to full time employment.
There is also an important role for universities to play as a bridge between students and industries, says Norazharuddin.
“The syllabus needs to change and be flexible enough to keep up with market demands. If universities fail to market themselves, the burden will fall on the students. Universities need to do much more,” says Norazharuddin, stressing that it is vital that universities have job placement centres and industry collaborations.