If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a new graduate on your first ever job hunt, armed with a degree and a few months or years of OJT experience under your belt. Or maybe you’ve heard how tough the job market will be for this year’s almost 700,000 college grads and are wondering what it means for you and your future.
With more applicants competing for jobs, employers are adding requirements and qualifications to get the best fit for their companies. And many fresh grads fall short due to a growing job-skills mismatch.
It’s still common to see “Fresh graduates are welcome to apply” on job ads, but more often than not, many open positions require applicants “preferably with x number of work experience”. As a result, many new grads are faced with a dilemma: it seems that to get your first job, you need to have experience.
The good news is, according to JobStreet.com’s Jobs and Salary Report for Fresh Graduates, many employers will hire fresh graduates who have experience from internships, part-time jobs, or even community work.
But to stand out and get ahead in the competition, here are 6 ways to get awesome job skills that can help you get a job.
1. Determine your transferable skills
Transferable skills are skills that you can use in any job. The good news is that you may have already acquired many transferable skills from personal experience, school, internships, part-time jobs, and even your hobbies.
In addition to internship or part-time experience, Jobstreet.com’s Report also said that many companies consider new grads who have certain functional and behavioral skills, such as communication skills, problem-solving skills, initiative, willingness to learn, and technical know-how.
Other soft skills that you may have acquired as a student—such as presentation skills, organizing skills, leadership, planning, and time management skills—are also valued by many employers, so keep them in mind when creating your resume. But more importantly, in your job application and interview, make sure that you can provide examples of how you developed or demonstrated these skills in different situations.
2. Learn something new
I know what you’re thinking: “Study again?? But I just graduated from school!” But believe me, it will be to your advantage to learn many skills, even (or especially) those that are not related to your college major. Why? Because this means that your career opportunities are not limited to your degree.
There are many short courses, training, seminars, and workshops that you can attend to learn new skills. You can even earn certificates from most training courses and seminars, which can boost your credentials and your chances of getting hired.
If budget is tight, there are many online courses that you can take, many of which are free. You can even take courses from top universities and Ivy League schools like Harvard or Yale from MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) sites like Coursera, edX, FutureLearn, Udacity and Open2Study. Alternatively, you can also watch documentaries, video tutorials, and TED talks or read articles, books or online discussions on particular topics that interest you.
In addition to acquiring new knowledge and skills, you will also be developing and demonstrating your willingness to learn, which is something that is valued by employers and useful in any job that you may land in.
3. Embrace your being a digital native
If you were born after 1980 and grew up with access to digital technology as a kid, congratulations: you’re a digital native. And this privilege may help you in this job-hunting business.
As companies become more dependent on technology, digital skills are a must-have no matter what job you apply in. But here’s the good news: you don’t need to be a programmer or computer scientist to find job opportunities. If you’ve ever used office programs like Word and Excel and know your way around Google to find information, then you’re off to a good a start. These programs usually come in handy in whatever job you find yourself in.
Additionally, you might be surprised to know that your knowledge of social media, blogs, and image editing apps or programs are not only useful but actually required in some job positions such as digital marketing. It might be a good idea to use your time online learning how to boost these skills for your career.
4. Start a personal project
Most people think that doing something you love is a waste of time if you’re not earning money from it, especially if you could use that time for finding a job that will earn you money. But if you’re a fresh graduate with no “professional experience” in the job that you’re aspiring to, a personal project is a great way to improve your skills, gain practical experience, and have something to show for it.
For example: If you want to be hired as a web designer, try designing a personal website. If you’re an aspiring graphic artist, create graphics of anything that interests you, like cute cats or anime characters if that’s your thing. If you’re aiming to become a writer, then write stories or start a blog. Even if you do it for personal enjoyment, it should give you hands-on practice, allow you to learn as you go, and give something to show to your prospective employer what you can do.
5. Get a hobby
Baking cupcakes or translating Korean dramas into English might not give you the practical skills needed to become an Accountant, but career coaches believe that hobbies can make you more appealing to prospective employers. To the more discerning recruiters, having a hobby indicates that you have voluntarily taken the time to learn something, which highlights other desirable job skills such as initiative, passion, diligence, creativity, and the like.
But of course, you can’t just put your hobbies on your resume and call it a day. This article from The Guardian provides a great list of advice on how to present your hobbies and interests on job applications. The key here is translating your hobbies into skills that you can actually use for the job that you want to apply for.
6. Help people
As mentioned in the Job and Salary Report for Fresh Graduates, experience earned from community or volunteer work can boost your job application. Likewise, helping family and friends with personal activities can be a way for you to put your skills into practice, gain experience, and learn new skills. Hosting your niece’s birthday can improve your public-speaking skills. Creating a video montage for your parents’ anniversary can be a personal project to put your creative skills into practice. Organizing a tutorial program for out-of-school kids can develop your organizing and leadership skills. If you have time in your hands, might as well put it to good use, right? As they say, “It’s not wasted time if you learned something,” especially if you get to help someone out while you’re at it.