Congratulations! You have successfully graduated from a secondary or tertiary educational institution. You are qualified, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and the world of work looms ahead. Reality check: your job prospects may not seem so encouraging given the current economic recession which translates into companies cutting costs by reducing headcount and salaries. This in turn leads to a highly competitive job market as more and more qualified candidates join the workforce and compete for fewer jobs. What this means is that you have to work harder and smarter when it comes to your job-hunting strategy.
It’s not all about the money. Look at the big picture. Think long game. Chances are your job search may be a long one. Instead of spending months being idle you could be gaining valuable experience for your resume that increases your value to an employer. In the absence of a robust internship culture in Trinidad & Tobago there are many volunteer opportunities. The Volunteer Centre of Trinidad & Tobago (VCTT) website is a good place to start. Also consider any NGOs you may have an interest in or causes that are close to your heart and offer your services.
All your experiences can be of value.
Not only volunteer work and internships can have merit in the workplace. Representing your school/country internationally, sporting team memberships, participation in an NGO or community group can not only provide experience but teach needed skills. The key is to make the experience relevant to the job you’re applying for. Consider any challenges you faced in that capacity and how you overcame them as well as all the things you learned. Add them to your cover letter and resume arsenal.
More education won’t necessarily make you a better candidate.
If you are considering what to do after you graduate sometimes the easiest option is to simply continue furthering your education. However, pursuing past a Bachelor’s degree level, depending on your field/position, may not automatically increase one’s salary or marketability. It might be wiser to gain work experience first. Consider the probable return on your investment and think carefully before signing up for an expensive postgrad course or degree that may be of little interest to employers and work against you by stamping you with the ‘overqualified’ label. The extra degree can become superfluous. For example, Executive MBAs are all the rage in T&T now but will it make you more or less marketable?
Consider the future prospects of your chosen field/industry.
The digital revolution has turned some industries such as music, book publishing and print journalism, upside-down. Some jobs may not even exist in 5-10 years or may become poorly paid and insecure as technology changes the job landscape. Take your skills to a growing or emerging sector such as renewable energy where your job prospects may be better.
Don’t dismiss SMEs.
Small companies may not be able to afford expensive advertising so they will not have job listings on popular online job boards. This doesn’t mean that they do not offer competitive salaries and worthwhile jobs on par with larger companies. Make sure you broaden your options by checking social media and newspapers and do not exclude smaller companies.
Check your online footprint.
Google yourself. See what comes up. How does it make you look? What impression of you does it give a prospective employer? Potential employers will google you so be proactive and clean up your act before they do.
Network, network, network! Remember that every acquaintance you make becomes part of your network. Keep in touch. Let family, friends and associates know that you are job-hunting. You never know who your next job referral will come from.