Nobody teaches you how to “adult”, least of all your teachers at school. Whether you scored As or Ds, you’ll be just as lost as everyone else when you wade through the never-ending sea of job ads on JobsDB or JobStreet, and upload your CV into the abyss.
As a fresh grad, you might be wondering: Is my resume good enough? What is the average salary for a degree holder? How can I score a job with no experience?
Top tips for fresh graduates in Singapore
Here are some tips that took the rest of us years to figure out.
1. Use job portal filters — “entry level”
Are you feeling discouraged because all the interesting jobs seem to require experience? Have you wondered how you can get any experience in the first place if there are no jobs willing to take on people without?
Well, entry-level jobs do exist — they just tend to get lost in a sea of posts for more experienced candidates, since most of the workforce already have some years under their belt.
To narrow down your search, use the job portal’s filter to select “entry level” or an experience level of “0 to 2 years” This way, you instantly get rid of irrelevant job listings for more experienced hires. If the jobs database does not have these filters, try typing “junior executive”, “entry-level”, “junior” or “fresh grad” into the search field instead.
Don’t be intimidated if you find a job you really like, but it requires a minimum of 1 or 2 years experience. HR people often overstate their requirements, so if you feel you have 80% of the skills listed, go ahead and apply.
Here are some sample entry-level jobs we found on the various job portals.
|Programmer||Programming industry certification, preferably at least one year of programming experience in AMX, Crestron and Extron control systems.||$2,000 to $2,800|
|Digital Marketing Executive||Diploma or degree||$2,000 to $3,500|
|HR Assistant (2 year contract)||Minimum diploma in Business or HR||$2,500|
|Management trainee||Diploma or degree||$3,000 to $6,000|
|Client Relationship Executive (Business Customer Management), Sales and Marketing||Pre-U, A Level, diploma or degree||$3,000 to $6,000 (salary + commission)|
|Underwriting assistant||Bachelor’s degree, 1 year experience||$3,333|
|Business Analyst (Investment)||Bachelor’s degree in mathematics, physics, computer science or equivalent||$3,500 to $5,000|
2. Apply directly on company websites
Job portals can be very hit-and-miss, and many companies do not use them when trying to recruit candidates. They should not be your only port of call when searching for jobs.
Instead, make a list of all the companies you’re interested in working for, and then go directly to their websites. Most company websites have a “recruitment” or “career” page that lists the current openings and instructions on how to apply.
3. Your fresh grad resume can still appeal to key skill sets
Despite not having any full-time work experience, you can still make certain key skills stand out on your CV. They could be skills learnt at school or at an internship or part-time job.
HR people often scan or “ctrl+F” resumes for certain keywords. So make sure you word your resume carefully and strategically.
Check out job postings in the field you want to enter, and look out for words and phrases they use often, such as “social media management” or “customer service”. Then insert these catchphrases into descriptions of what you did during your course of study, internships, part-time jobs or CCAs.
4. Be open to different roles
The cream of the crop and the well-connected will be aiming for management associate programmes at big multinational companies. These programmes are designed for fresh grads and are especially popular at the bigger banks in Singapore. Needless to say, these roles are usually quite prestigious and come with generous salary packages.
But the hard truth is that vacancies are limited and their positions often get filled at university job fairs, which means that they might not even run job ads. So, if you haven’t been successful at getting a management trainee position, consider job-specific roles, such as software developer, UX designer, public relations executive, marketing executive and so on.
If you really lack experience — maybe you’ve never even done an internship — it might help to start as an intern just to test out the field and gain some experience before working your way up.
Just make sure you don’t get exploited by the company into working for an intern-level pay for too long. Once you’ve gotten the necessary experience, if the company isn’t willing to hire you full-time, move on to another.
In certain industries, contract roles are a good way to get your foot in the door. This is particularly true when it comes to big, prestigious companies like multinational banks. As a contract worker, you might not enjoy the perks regular employees get (such as annual leave or bonuses), but if it eventually leads to a well-paid, full-time position, it might be worth it. And even if it doesn’t, you’ll have a big name on your CV which can lead to a better next job.
5. Benchmark your salary to market rate
Not trying to scare you, but some employers will do anything to undercut you. This tends to be more prevalent in SMEs, where fresh grads’ salaries are less standardised. Employers also know that as a fresh grad, it is easy to get desperate and accept the first job that comes your way.
But accepting a low salary can have a lasting effect on your career, as future employers might peg your salary to your past remuneration. So, do your research and try to ensure that you negotiate a market-rate salary from the get go.
Not sure what market rate is? If you have a professional qualification (eg. architecture, accounting, law, engineering degree) and are looking for a job in your field of study, your best bet is to check with your seniors at school. Many of them will be working in a relevant field and can tell you what to expect. Otherwise, check job ads online to get a rough idea of what other companies are paying entry-level hires.
6. Speak to people
As a newbie job seeker, you should wear this label loud and proud as it signals to potential employers that you are available for hire.
When at a job fair or company exhibition, don’t hesitate to speak with people working at companies you are interested in applying for. Ask questions, learn what their office culture is like and find out what types of technical and soft skills the hiring managers are looking for.
Also, reach out to your personal network and make it public knowledge that you are looking for a job. Your uncle’s friend or tuition kid’s mum might have a good lead.
These types of leads can really punch above their weight, as a recommendation can help you get noticed more easily than a cold application on a jobs website.
Do you have any job seeking tips that have worked for you? Share them in the comments!