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5 Ways New Grads Can Score Brownie Points With Potential Employers

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Joanne Poh

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It’s not the best of times to be a fresh grad. Not only has the class of 2017 graduated in a very challenging economy, but expectations of them just keep rising.

After fighting tooth and nail to graduate with a decent degree, fresh grads are now being told that the piece of paper in fact means nothing—no, they also need practical experience, soft skills and a global outlook. It’s surprising no employer has said that they prefer to hire fresh grads with perfect skin and teeth, too.

That’s not exactly very reassuring, especially since for those who have already graduated. Here’s what will help score you a few brownie points with employers.

 

Wear appropriate, well-fitted clothes

You can always tell which of the interviewees just graduated from uni. They’re the ones who’ve thrown a blazer from Topshop/Topman over whatever they’re wearing, or who’re swimming in officewear that looks like it belongs to their parents.

Trust me, if you have to ask yourself even for a split second whether it’s appropriate or whether it fits well, the answer is no. Spend some time shopping for or tailoring a few genuinely appropriate, well-fitted pieces in the lead-up to your first interview.

 

Have some overseas experience

It’s not just MNCs that value candidates with international exposure now. Businesses are now realising that Singapore is a mere speck, and are increasingly looking for opportunities to expand overseas or outsource their business functions in other countries.

That’s why a “global outlook” is becoming increasingly important to employers. So try not to look like too much of a frog-in-a-well. Grab any opportunities to go on exchange programmes or overseas community service projects. And it’s worthwhile trying your best to do one or two overseas internships, even if they’re unpaid, before you graduate.

 

Have a good grasp of current affairs and general knowledge

Nobody wants to employ a graduate who can regurgitate textbookfuls of information, yet is totally clueless as to what is going on in the world.

Having a good grasp of current affairs is a must for any knowledge worker. Even if your job is a technical one, you must be well-versed in developments in your own and related industries, both at home and overseas. And of course, you must also be able to discuss what’s going on in the world—failure to do so intelligently makes you look very bad.

You might have left General Paper far behind after leaving JC, but that doesn’t excuse you from reading the news regularly, as well as continually adding to your knowledge of history and politics.

And no, using Facebook as your main news source or only reading the New Paper won’t cut it. Employers want you to know about more than the latest molest or murder cases in Singapore

 

Display good communication skills

Singaporeans are constantly being berated for being poor communicators. This is one thing just about anyone can improve on if they set their mind to it and take active steps, whether by taking a course, reading up or asking for feedback.

You might also want to brush up on your language skills. Anyone who’s worked in an office where email was the main mode of communication can tell you that the number of Singaporeans who are able to draft clear, readable and grammatically-accurate emails is pretty low.

There’s no shame in making the effort to improve your English, and you’ll be surprised by how quickly you progress thanks to exposure to the language at an early age.

 

Have great story-telling ability

We live in an age where being a good storyteller no longer means knowing all the best fairy-tales and mythical characters, but knowing how to promote your personal brand and that of your employer.

Being able to market yourself well, both before and after an interview, is going to be increasingly important as employers get flooded with piles of identical CVs. Your online presence can get you noticed, so make sure it’s in line with your personal brand.

And of course, when you walk into that interview room, you’ve got to think of yourself more as a performer than some scared noob who’s desperate to get hired. A successful interview is about putting on a good show and telling the best story.

What else can fresh grads do to get noticed by employers? 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.