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3 Things University Students Need to Do Now That the Job Market Sucks

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Joanne Poh

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Most local uni students know about those “hire me leh” graduation photos. That’s pretty much set the tone for the cohorts who’ll be graduating in the next few years.

For the longest time, the job market has favoured employees, who’ve job hopped with abandon simply because they could. But things are taking an ugly turn, with the number of job vacancies falling steadily. In fact, the unemployment rate amongst graduates is at its highest since 2009.

Uni graduates who can continue to enjoy an extended youth by relying on mum and dad in between leisurely post-graduation job applications need not worry. But those who are serious about entering employment immediately after graduation because, uh, one can’t survive on wifi alone, here’s what you should be doing while you’re still at school.

 

Never let a holiday go by without doing something productive

As a university student, one of your biggest advantages is the fact that you have so much more free time than working adults. If you think it’s tough picking up new skills or finding time to rest, wait till you’ve become a full-fledged cog in the ever-turning wheel of the economy.

Even if you’re one of those people who actually studies during the school term, you still have four whole months of holiday time. Use your holidays wisely by never letting one go by without doing something productive.

Now, the most obvious example of “something productive” is an internship. But while you should definitely consider taking on a few internships, that’s not the only way to spend your holidays.

If there are other ways you’d like to spend your time, such as volunteering overseas, taking a yoga teacher training course, learning how to manage social media accounts or doing up your online portfolio, do it now, before you graduate. You never know when something might come in handy.

 

Grab every chance to expand your network

One thing I noticed when I first graduated was that the friends who graduated without job offers and yet managed to find positions almost immediately after graduation were those who had gotten these jobs through connections, whether friends of their parents, their own acquaintances or contacts from internships.

Take it from me when I say that it’s much easier to make friends and expand your network while you’re a university student than when you’re a broke, unemployed graduate.

So take every chance you can get to make new friends and acquaintances. So many uni students in Singapore attend classes without bothering to speak to the person beside them, or only interact with a small clique of friends. That’s not going to do you any favours.

Also, don’t limit yourself to your classmates. Even if CCAs are not your thing, explore some of your other interests and find a community of like-minded people. You might end up joining a rock climbing gym, volunteering at the SPCA or jamming with a bunch of ukulele players. In fact, this might be even more useful to you than joining a school-organised CCA, since you’ll meet people who are older and might have more lobang.

 

Acquire some real skills

One of employers’ biggest grouses is the fact that fresh grads have zero useable skills. No matter how fantastic your grades were at school, you have to understand that your superior understanding of the marketing theory is of no use to an employer who wants you to know how to do SEO keyword research.

Instead of spending all your time at uni trying to pass exams, invest some time into acquiring some real skills, too. If you don’t know what skills you should be acquiring, part of your mission should be to explore different areas and find out which direction you want to go in when you graduate.

Sure, you can leave all this to after graduation, but it also means a lot more trial and error on your part, as well as the risk of a longer period of post-graduate unemployment.

Don’t be one of those computer science graduates who suck at programming, arts grads who want to venture into PR yet have no idea what a press release looks like, finance grads who suck at using Excel, or communications grads who do not know the first thing about executing social media campaigns and yet apply for jobs as social media managers.

Don’t rely on your internships to teach you all the necessary skills, either, because we all know some internship supervisors only care about how good the coffee you make is. If you don’t know what you want to learn at an internship, you are going to be that coffee boy. Find out what skills you lack, and then do what it takes to master them.

As a university student, how are you preparing yourself for the job market? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.