3 Key Steps to Winning at the Employment Game for New Graduates
I’ve been approached more and more often recently by universities and colleges to speak to their international as well as soon to graduate student cohort about career success and employment pathways. As a former international student, I find myself looking into the hopeful eyes of bright people, both young and old, and it brings me back to my arrival in Australia seven years ago.
If there was a magic wand, I’d wave it so that every person might find a role that tapped into their individual strengths and interests. Until that moment comes, here are a few strategies toward gainful employment that have made a difference for me.
I spent many months feeling stuck; moaning about my career which was at a standstill. I had a patient posse of friends but they soon grew tired of me. I soon grew tired of me.
The moment I accepted that this was a new country with a different way of doing things, everything shifted. I researched how people found jobs in Australia and changed my approach to fit the prevailing style. Other steps included finding a career coach, signing up for networking classes and spending time focusing on the non advertised job market. I refined (and re-refined) my elevator pitch and had conversations with different people to find out who knew whom and what opportunities were out there. Acceptance is often a key first step whether you’re an international student, a new entrant into the job market or someone transitioning into a new career/ industry.
For instance, just like I wouldn’t go to Italy expecting everyone to speak in English, I now don’t expect for everything to be as familiar as it used to be ‘back home’ or ‘back in the day’. In that same vein, I could spend years bemoaning the fact that no one spoke English in Italy. One day, I woke up and chose to learn Italian instead.
Awareness is at the heart of everything; including winning at the employment game. Be aware of our patterns e.g. what are our blind spots that constantly trips us up? What are our greatest strengths, interests, barriers and challenges? What work brings us joy or fills us with dread?
Awareness is key because when we understand ourselves, it can help us shine a light on the type of career that suits us best. When we are aware of our patterns, it will also help us understand what works or doesn’t work in our favour.
Once we see things with more clarity, we can refine what we do. For instance, I’ve accepted different roles in different countries within vastly different industries. As a result, my skill sets aren’t easily definable. In today’s world that requires a lot more specificity, my resume had become a liability. With awareness came a different course of action. I refined my resume, relied on networking more often to better present myself while focusing on roles which allowed me to deepen specific skill sets.
We are all in possession of two great resources; time and money. What we achieve in life is heavily impacted by what we choose to do with both precious resources. If finding meaningful work is important, it should be supported by sufficient investment.
For instance, you may not be aware of the right career to embark on. You may be stuck in an endless cycle of ‘I don’t know what I want to do’. To you, I say take ANY action because ‘I don’t know’ doesn’t cut it. If you don’t know if a career in, let’s say aged care, is right for you; find out for yourself. Research the different facilities, speak to all the personal care workers you or your friends know, request for an internship, get connected to people working within the industry, attend industry events or career information sessions, go to workshops where aged care personnel converge, embark on further study, read. The list is endless and best of all, there are people out there who want to help you. But it must start with you.
We know action is important yet action is something not everyone takes. I know this because my contact details are given out at seminars and events to students who are encouraged to get in touch to schedule practice networking sessions. We role play commonly asked behavioural questions used at interviews and we work on elevator pitches. I do this pro bono because I remember how it felt when I first started out. 10 students may ask for my details, but few actually follow up and schedule time to meet. Which is a shame; but ultimately also a good thing because if you are willing to take tangible and consistent action, you will stand out.
If all this sounds like a whole lot of work, it sure is.
It takes time (and work) to reach acceptance; to be aware and become more in tune with ourselves; and to take consistent action on our career strategy. But I can promise you that it’s worth it because these steps ultimately lead toward employment; in a role you enjoy that fits you. On the other hand, we could also have a job we’re not entirely invested in or live a life that is not fully engaging or fulfilling.
Both alternatives are equally possible.