After Graduation What Next
Effective networking is achieved through cultivating relationships over time. Reach out to your contacts particularly those with whom you already have a personal, professional or academic connection. Do they know that you are looking for a job? Improve the presentation of your CV and make sure they know what your skills and talents are, so that they keep you in mind if they hear of any openings.
If you have been an active member of professional or business associations, on-campus organisations, stay in touch and keep those connections alive; such networking activities provide good opportunities for job leads. Stay in touch with former managers from internships and part-time jobs; if you left a good impression, they might be able to help. Many great job opportunities are not advertised; they are often filled by personal contacts.
If you are broke and are not one of those fortunate enough to be housed and fed by your relations for an indefinite period, you cannot afford to sit at home until you find your dream job. Don’t focus solely on your area of study, be flexible and broaden your scope, expanding your search to related fields; this will boost your chances of finding something that will still utilise your training and abilities and enhance your skills.
If you regard every other position as demeaning and “beneath you” as you are in fact “a graduate,” you could be in for a long wait. Be humble and ready to start at the bottom and work your way up. There may be opportunities working in a restaurant, as a sales assistant in a shop, baby sitting and lots of other temporary jobs that will keep you busy and give you some badly needed cash until something more in line with your expectations and credentials turns up.
Try to identify that special gift or talent that you might have ignored before now. Do people always comment on your photography or writing skills? Are you good at public speaking or organising, web-design or programming? Can you design clothes or model them? If you can play musical instruments to a decent standard, there may be freelance work as a singer, pianist, church organist or violinist, and at private receptions. There may be opportunities to offer tutorial services in a subject that you excelled in, to students in your area. There are endless options and not only will you be earning, but you will also open yourself to opportunities and contacts that may be of help in your job hunt.
One way to get a foot in the door with a company or organisation is to demonstrate to them what you can do, even without pay. By working as an intern or volunteering, you have an opportunity to impress by showcasing your skills, commitment and professionalism. This might make them want to hire you. Even if they don’t, you would have gained valuable experience. Of course if you have no assistance whatsoever from family or friends, it will be difficult to work for free.
Try to avoid having significant gaps of unemployment in your CV to have to explain in interviews. A future employer will be impressed that you did not just sit at home doing nothing but you kept yourself occupied gaining experience and new skills.
When you are young and free of significant financial or personal commitments such as a family, rent and other debt, you have a unique opportunity to take some risk and consider establishing your own business if you are so inclined. Do you have what you consider to be a great idea that you are passionate about and doesn’t have huge start up costs? You may be surprised at what you can accomplish. There may be comfort in numbers. Perhaps you could consider partnering with a classmate or a friend whose skills complement yours and set up something together.
While no learning is wasted, avoid fleeing into an expensive and lengthy graduate programme that may not necessarily give you an edge. As far as possible, seek continuous training and experience that can directly support any chosen career path. Professional qualifications or certifications, or shorter courses to improve your IT and other practical skills can be of great value. Basic skills in languages such as Mandarin will also broaden your scope.
The hard reality is that being a graduate never guaranteed anyone immediate employment. As you wait for the “right” job, open yourself to various opportunities and experiences. Cultivate friendships with people who remain positive in spite of challenges, as they will give you the encouragement you need to get through this phase.
What are the lessons learnt and the opportunities that you can create out of this experience? Despair and depression will only make you less attractive to potential employers. Above all, maintain a sense of optimism and resilience and keep your spirit and energy levels up through exercise. It is that strength of character and self-confidence that will make you stand out and help to get you through an employer’s door or even the door of your own small business.