The Class of 2020 is graduating into an epidemic. Our final weeks at school are a fiasco of disruptions and remote learning, ameliorated by the recent S/U announcements for those in NTU and NUS.
But nothing can take our minds away from the elephant in the room: our first job. We know that things are looking bad. Job vacancies are falling, and retrenchments are likely to worsen in light of current economic uncertainties. How can we secure a job in such an upheaval?
Graduating in such gloomy times isn’t just about the difficulty in securing a job. Those who graduate into a strong labour market are likely to earn more throughout their careers than those who graduate during a recession. Singapore is not yet in recession, but economists are speculating that increasing lockdowns could send the economy into a recession.
So yes, graduating in uncertain times like this may limit your job opportunities. How can fresh graduates look for a job amid the virus outbreak?
#1 Muted Career Expectations
Some of us might be more idealistic on our job searches. Most accounting students have their eyes set on the Big Four firms; others only want to start their career paths at huge tech companies. There’s no fault in having lofty career aspirations, but not all of us can achieve it in a shrinking job market.
Lowering your expectations might sound like an unsatisfying route out, but it can improve chances of getting hired. With companies downsizing and initiating hiring freezes, it’s harder than ever to cling on to our expectations.
Whether we choose to attribute it to bad luck or not, it’s still possible build your way up once we have weathered this pandemic. Your first job may not be the most ideal in terms of remuneration or responsibilities; but a dream job does not have to apply to just the first appointment that you are in. It continues.
Say you have desires to join Google – perhaps there weren’t enough positions open, you didn’t make the cut, or they were not hiring – regardless of what it was, your dream of entering the company shouldn’t just end there. It remains as part of your long-term career growth, as you work towards that aspiration. The virus outbreak might have caused a delay, but it doesn’t call an end to your goals.
#2 Needing To Pursue Different Career Paths
Keep your options open and be ready to seize new opportunities when they present themselves. If you’ve spent weeks sending out resumes and going on interviews to little avail, your first instinct may be to push yourself further. After all, in a time where hustle and perseverance are glorified, we might think that effort will eventually get us there.
But such persistence may be unproductive in light of the global pandemic. Job opportunities are dwindling now; a refresh on a job portal that you frequent would remind you so. Instead, we should consider diversifying our job search and be open-minded to opportunities.
Often, we may be fixated on staying with a career option, closing off everything else that doesn’t fit. But how many of us know exactly what to expect from our dream job? As fresh graduates with only an inkling of how the industry works, we may be too fast to close off doors without understanding what it entails.
#3 Having To Settle For Contract-Based Employment
The gig economy is gaining traction in Singapore, with about 9.3% of all employed residents being self-employed. And if you consider the 2019 graduate employment survey, 2% of graduates are freelancing and 7% are in part-time/temporary employment.
Yes, contract work may sound less appealing due to its instability. But as COVID-19 delivers a blow to the economy, it’s unlike that companies will open up full-time positions amidst the slowdown. Instead, contract work offers the flexibility for the companies to complete their short-term projects, thus might even be in greater supply now.Contract jobs can be beneficial for us graduates too. It exposes us a variety of work projects, and we get to walk away with relevant skills and experience. With greater competence, it puts us in better standing when applying for jobs in future.
Plus, the flexibility of a contract position can be to your advantage too. In 2017, nearly seven in 10 graduates left their first job in less than a year. Reasons for quitting include the lack of professional growth, desire to earn higher wages and wanting to steer their career in another direction.
The point is, most graduates leave their first jobs because it’s not what they expected it to be. So, while the thought of contract positions can be unattractive, it can provide you with more time to learn about the industry before you settle on a career path.
#4 More Internships In-Lieu Of Jobs
Internships might not be the first thing you look for, but when the job hunt seems to drag on with no end in sight, it could be your next best alternative. Given how competitive the entry-level job market can be, graduates without sufficient work experience may find it tough to outshine the others.
So how can an internship help? To get your foot in the door. If you perform well, it’ll even give you a better shot a landing a full-time job at the company. Employers may not be urgently looking to fill a position, but most would consider converting a capable intern that fit well into the team over an external hire who has a limited understanding of the company.
Sometimes, the internship might not lead to a conversion. That’s fine. You still get to beef up your resume with an additional internship experience. Now, you are better equipped to meet more employers and secure a job.
Plus, you get to expand on your professional network too. You’ve probably heard it countless times – networking is important for your career. Most jobs are filled via networking, either filled internally or via a referral, before they get posted online.
An internship is a great way to develop your network and potentially set up job opportunities, without fighting with hundreds of other candidates on job portals..
Biting The Bullet
Now might still be a tad too early for some to worry. Perhaps there’s still that silver of hope to land your dream job. But with impending economic headwinds, it is also wise to know your other options and dial back on expectations when the time calls for it.
There’s no telling when the COVID-19 outbreak will be over. And as much as we can mull over the lost opportunities that the virus has caused, it’s also those that diversify their career considerations that will secure employment first.
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