By Eugene Clark and Remy Maroc: This is the time of year when millions of university students across China and in other countries will be graduating and looking for employment. In this article, I team up with an international recruiting specialist to offer some job tips for graduates.
Part 1: What jobs to apply for?
Choosing the best possible job for depends in large part on knowing yourself and the kinds of activities you enjoy and seem to be naturally good at and drawn to. This is far more likely to land you in the right place than wasting time comparing yourself to your friends or choosing a job based only on how much it pays. Pick a job you will enjoy and that matches your talents.
Remember this is Only Your First Job.
Searching for a job is not a one-time event. The reality is that most graduates today will have more than ten different jobs over the course of their career. Even if you are lucky and stay with the same organisation your entire working life, you will change roles many times within that organisation. If you find you are in a job that does not meet your needs, keep looking. We spend much of our lives working and it is important to find work that fulfils your needs and goals. Do your best to settle for nothing less.
Take note that a high percentage of graduates end up working in jobs and fields outside their course of study. For example, someone who does a teaching degree may find no jobs available. Yet, the underlying skills acquired in an education degree can translate into many different roles. Ali Baba’s Jack Ma, for example, had many jobs (eg English teacher) and many failures before becoming co-founder and CEO of the Alibaba Group. So, be open to travel the lesser worn path as it may lead to some very exciting opportunities.
Don’t Let Money Warp your Judgment.
There’s much more to life than money. While the amount you earn is important, do not let this be your sole determining factor. Look long term to the growth opportunities of a particular job. Try your best to find work that will provide you not only a living, but also a life.
Sometimes you won’t be able to find a job that is at the level you prefer. If this type of work is something you really want to do, consider starting at a lower level a and being prepared to work your way up.
Pick a Growing Market.
As between possible positions in different industries, do your homework about the industry. In high growth areas (eg artificial intelligence) you know that the industry is expanding. This means there will be ample opportunities for growth and development. If the industry is a declining one, future opportunities are likely to be more limited. It’s like surfing. When the surf is up, even average surfers can get a good ride. When the surf is flat, there are far fewer opportunities and the rides are far less rewarding.
Focus on Learning
Look for a job that enables you to keep learning. The best and happiest employees are those that continue to learn about their organisations, their company’s products and services. Also keep learning about the wider context in which your organisation operates.
Part 2: How to get the job?
Beyond knowing yourself, being successful in a job search also means being prepared. Do your homework on your prospective employer, their services and products. Ask also about their corporate culture to get a sense of how and whether you would fit in and whether you would like to work for such an organisation. Read all you can about the particular industry and the challenges and issues it faces and how you might be part of the solution to those challenges. Part of your preparation also means taking advantage of career expos, career information from your university and other job assistance that is available. Brush up as well on your job search skills. Is your CV in good shape? How about your interviewing skills?
Remember that first impressions are important so also pay attention to appearance. When speaking to a prospective employer make sure you know and have PRACTICED the following:
- Your story – This should be brief but let people know who you are and get a sense of what value you could bring to their organisation.
- Why you are interested in that organisation and the role.
- What does the company do? Who is the CEO? Who are their main competitors? What is their culture?
- Why would you be a good fit for the company and the role? (Think about what you can do for them, not what they can do for you)
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the 19th Century American essayist and philosopher, wrote that “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Make sure your prospective employer sees you as enthusiastic and excited about the opportunity.
Be Respectful and Humble
Organisations tend to hire people based on their qualifications and talents, but fire them when they don’t fit in and cannot work with others. Show respect and courtesy to everyone you meet. Indeed, I always asked our administrative team about a candidate and warning bells went off if I discovered that the candidate was rude or impolite to them. I wanted to know how they acted to others and when they were not ‘on guard’. Employers appreciate a little humility. They want to know if you are coachable and open to learning new things and further growth and development.
Be Creative and Believe in Yourself
“I have always been a believer in you can do anything you want. When there was a job that I really wanted I would go the extra mile to do whatever I could to stand out from other candidates. An example of this is I even offered to work for a week for free so that they could see how hard I would work for them and the value I could add to their team. You can also do informational interviews with people in the organisation. This too will show your dedication and genuine enthusiasm and will help you build connections too. Another way to stand out is to ask for feedback if you are unsuccessful in an interview. This will only help you prepare better to nail the next one. I actually did this back in university when I applied for an internship and not only did I get some valuable feedback to help me in the future but the employer was so impressed they changed their mind and offered me the role.”
Don’t get discouraged by rejection. There are many people applying for positions and many reasons why you might not get that interview. Indeed, if you think about it most people fail more times than they succeed in applying for jobs. As Vivian Komori notes, “Life is not about how fast you run or how high you climb, but how well you bounce."
Part 3: How to be successful once you have secured the job
Actualizing your Potential and Continuing to Learn
Some graduates think, ‘Now that I have a job, my days of having to study are over.’ In truth, you have only just begun. A job is not an end point, but only one stop along a lifelong journey. As American author, Louis L ‘Amour states:
“We are, finally, all wanderers in search of knowledge. Most of us hold the dream of becoming something better than we are, something larger, richer, in some way more important to the world and ourselves. Too often, the way taken is the wrong way, with too much emphasis on what we want to have, rather than what we wish to become.” — Louis L'Amour
The best way to ramp up quickly in a new role is to do the following:
- Ask questions – Be engaged in every conversation and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Get to know as many people as possible – Find out all who has been really successful in your role previously and reach out to them to ask them what worked well for them. It will also be beneficial to reach out to other areas within the business to understand what they do that way you can see how it all fits together. You will find that you will pull little bits of advice from each person to make up your own formula for success that works for you and that you hopefully can share one day.
- Ask for feedback – It’s so important to OWN YOUR OWN DEVELOPMENT. You can’t improve on something if you don’t know what needs to be worked on. Ask your customers, ask your superiors, ask your colleagues, and your clients for feedback and you will quickly learn tricks of the trade that will set up for success and put you miles ahead of anyone else. *Remember when asking for feedback, be open, acknowledge it and then figure out the best way to apply it. Take advantage of all company resources too as they always have many tools available to help you be the best at your job.
- Realize also that every job will have its challenges. Indeed, the challenges should be seen as opportunities to learn and sometimes that learning will be difficult. As John W Gardner notes:
“There is no learning without some difficulty and fumbling. If you want to keep on learning, you must keep on risking failure--all your life.”
It is important to realize that talent will never be developed or be enough without hard work. There are no shortcuts. As novelist Ray Bradbury put it:
"I know you've heard it a thousand times before. But it's true hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don't love something, then don't do it."
Artist Michelangelo similarly acknowledged: "If you knew how much work went into it, you wouldn't call it genius."
Hang in There
Hold on for one more day, one more month or one more year. Keep things in perspective and understand that you will be learning and probably will not feel comfortable for at least the first nine months of any job. Making judgements too early or leaving a job too soon could cause you to miss out on what could be an amazing career. As a general rule you should remain in a role or with an organisation for at least 2 years if you want to put it on your resume. This will show prospective employers that you made it through training and brought something of value to your previous company. Things always tend turn around and you will have your ups and downs with every job but I promise you if you stick it out, it will be incredibly worth it.
Gratitude is the Best Attitude
Cicero reminds us that ‘Gratitude the greatest of all virtues and the parent of all the rest.’ One of many things admirable about Chinese culture is their strong sense of family and obligation to parents, family members and friends who have made their success possible.
Be and Stay Healthy.
Remember finally that while getting that job is terribly important, do not do so at the risk to your own health.
In the words of Irish poet and philosopher, John Donahue:
May your work never weary you.
May it release within you wellsprings of
refreshment, inspiration and excitement.
May you be present in what you do.
May you never become lost in bland absences.
May the day never burden.
May dawn find you awake and alert,
approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May you go into the night blessed, sheltered and protected.
May your soul calm, console and renew you.