By Tonya Evara, marketing student at Griffith Business School
So, you’ve graduated. Congratulations! You’ve just returned from your solo Contiki trip around Europe and you’re wondering: now what? Perhaps the hangover has worn off and you’ve been scouring Seek for months, living off Mi Goreng noodles? Or maybe you’re in the final few semesters of university and praying for the light at the end of the tunnel?
Well, I’ve got both good and bad news for you. The good news is: Generation Y is the most educated generation in Australian history. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), in 1976 only 5% of young adults had a bachelor degree or higher qualification compared to more than a quarter (26%) in 2011.
The bad news: all of these gradates means you’ll be graduating into a highly competitive job market. A report from Graduate Careers Australia in 2015 shows that 68.8% of recent grads were able to secure a full-time job within four months of graduating.
Keeping up with Australia’s changing workforce
So what else is contributing to this change in Australia’s labor force? A primary factor is the evolution of the Australian economy over the last three decades. Take the manufacturing and construction industries for example: once the bread and butter of the Australian job market, these industries have recently lost more than one million jobs. In comparison, new jobs are being created at a rapid rate: primarily in service industries such as knowledge, health and community services. This can be partly attributed to Australia’s ageing population.
Globalisation, innovation and automation has not only changed the types of jobs we have and what industries we work in. It’s also changed how we work. Generation Y will likely change careers up to five times in a lifetime. This is a stark change from our parents and grandparents who likely chose one career path and stuck to it.
Work skills shuffle: What do employers want?
The disruption in the changing workforce has prompted researchers to try and understand the impact it has on employers’ expectations for candidates. Studies from Griffith Business School and the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) have collected and analysed online job advertisements to uncover what employers want. There were two significant themes that emerged out of the research:
- Soft (enterprise/business related) skills take precedence over hard skills (technical knowledge and qualifications) when recruiting new candidates.
- Many graduates in Australia are lacking these soft skills, or are unable to demonstrate them effectively.
Soft skills are personality-driven qualities that relate to your attitudes and abilities. These include things like: creativity, communication skills, problem solving, time management and critical thinking.
Soft skills are not easily taught, and you can’t just rely on your degree to demonstrate them to future employers. So what’s a grad to do? Follow these tips to boost your soft skills and help you land that job after graduation:
- Get to work: Employers are much more likely to hire applicants who have previous work experience, especially full-time work. Work placements and summer internships are also a great alternative. Most universities have Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) programs built into their curricula. These programs are an excellent way to further professional development in a working world environment. The key to this is having relevant work experience, so try and ditch the casual gig at McDonald’s if you can. Next semester, instead of a throwaway elective, enroll in an internship.
- Extracurriculars: If you don’t have much previous work history, extracurricular activities can be a great way to beef up a resume and show some personality. Take advantages of the many associations, clubs and societies you have available at university; sign up and get involved. There’s something for everyone – from volunteering at a local animal shelter to joining a weightlifting club (I may be a bit biased with this one). These show your potential employer that you’re a well-rounded human being, and can help demonstrate initiative, positive attitude and organisational skills.
- Market yourself: Some might consider LinkedInto be the equivalent of an awkward networking event. It’s a little weird, a little confusing and you’d probably prefer to be at home in your pyjamas scrolling through Instagram. However, employers say that a well thought out and established profile can work wonders for a candidate to stand out from the pack. Use it to keep in touch with past employers who can endorse your professional skills, which in turn helps you make new connections. Unlike your Snapchat story it may actually get you a job; a recent study by Jobvitesays over 93% of hiring managers’ use it to recruit and screen new staff.
- Write, edit, and write some more: I know what you’re thinking: surely all that academic writing over the last few years of university should be enough to showcase your writing talents right? Wrong. Consider starting a professional blog. This establishes an online presence – something for recruiters and employers to check out that isn’t your resume or LinkedIn. It also humanises you and shows that you’re awake and interested (and maybe even articulate). The biggest benefit is the effect it will have on your creative writing and ability to express yourself. Get those creative juices flowing!
- Presentation: Good presentation is everything. And I’m not just talking about your haircut. Employers say that many candidates lack the ability to design and pitch a good presentation – an important skill used in almost every profession. Use free websites like Canvaor Design Boldthat make it simple to create professional graphics. Or, become a design specialist by completing a short course online. Once you’ve got the visuals, you have to sell it with your verbal communication. Joining a public speaking group like Toastmasters can be a great way to become a more confident and persuasive speaker. Or, just practise with a family member or friend who you trust not to laugh too much. You only have one shot at a first impression, so learn how to make yours count.
By following these tips you’ll cultivate and develop your soft skills while you study – so you can hit the ground running after graduation. Don’t wait, start now and start your career.
If you’re a student, recent graduate, recruiter or employer – I want to hear from you! You can email me on [email protected]edu.au. Also, if fitness and nutrition is your thing, follow me on Instagram @dreadliftz.