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In Episode 1, your host David Phua covers some of the key considerations for graduates looking to start their professional careers.
From identifying the types of business you’d want to work for, to the value of a good internship to give you that all important work experience.
Tune in again next week, for a new episode of The Employability Podcast, brought to you by Gradability.
Here’s the full transcript of this episode:
00:00 David: You’re listening to the Employability podcast where graduation meets employment. During this series, we uncover the good, the bad, and the ugly in terms of being more employable and ultimately getting hired.
Hard truths. No bullshit, no filters, just the information you really need to hear. Presented by Gradability.
Welcome to the first episode of The Employability podcast. On today’s show, I cover some of the key considerations for graduates looking to start their professional careers, from identifying the types of business you want to work for to the value of a good internship to give you that all-important work experience. I hope you find the show helpful.
Graduating is both an exhilarating and terrifying experience. It’s exhilarating because you’ve done it. You’ve completed your course, and you’re ready to step out into the great big world as a graduate.
It’s terrifying because you’re about to step out into the great big world, and for the first time, you don’t have a program to follow, a course structure or a timetable. For the first time since you were about five, you have to figure this out on your own.
Now, if you’re one of those people who plan things out early and manage to get yourself a role already, well-done. You’re already ahead of the game. If that’s not you, all is not lost. And there are things you can do to give yourself a bit of an edge, other than just applying for role after role and hoping something sticks.
01:38 To start with, you want to ask yourself what it is you want to do with your career, and I mean what you want to do, not necessarily what your qualification is in, nor what your family believes you should be doing. You can be extremely successful chasing a career someone else has planned for you, but bear in mind, you’re going to be doing this for anywhere between 30 to 50 years, five days a week, eight to nine hours a day.
That’s an extraordinarily long time to be doing something you don’t like. Now, I strongly encourage you to write this down. What do you want to do with your career? Then spend a few hours on Seek or any of the other job boards looking up roles that fit this category.
02:23 What you want to look for here are things like the types of companies that are advertising. Is there a pattern to the type of business that attracts you? Specific skills required, and these are compared to the skills that you already have. You also want to be looking at attributes and traits needed for success.
Now, be careful not to focus too much on salary, which is easy to do. While it’s great to be able to walk into a well-paying role, there’s more to your first role than just a pay packet. Have a look at the type of companies that you are shortlisting. Way back when I started my career, I realized a few months into my job search that I was more interested in small businesses where I would have the ability to work closely with management and get a broader sense of what the business was doing, rather than large corporates that were a lot more structured.
03:08 I found myself attracted to businesses that stood for a cause. These weren’t necessarily not-for-profits, but I wasn’t drawn to companies that just sold widgets or products. Now, these signs are important because they help you to understand who your target market is and how to tailor your approach.
What skills are these businesses looking for and what skills do you have? Now, what is that gap and how quickly can you close it? Can you do it on your own or do you need additional help? How do you demonstrate this?
If you’re job hunting in Australia, you can almost bet that the employer will be looking for local experience. Do you have this? How do you get experience if you don’t have experience? This is the age-old question. Can you do an internship to help you bridge this gap, how do you get an internship? How will you know if it worked?
04:01 Say, for instance, you’re an It graduate, majoring in web development. You want to demonstrate to your would-be-employer that you have some hands-on experience in a real world setting.
Whether that’s helping a business set up a new website or a module, an internship with a reputable company can help unlock this for you and provide you with the practical experience you require.
Let’s be real here. You’ve just completed a three to four year degree, and you believe that you’ve earned the right to a seat at the table. The last thing you want to be told by an old fella like me is that you need to now go out and work for “free” for a few months.
I can hear you sitting there. Are you kidding me? I’m a graduate. I don’t need to do that. I feel your frustration. I really do. I felt that same frustration over 20 years ago when I started my career.
But what’s three months of learning compared to the next 50 years of your life? How will these three months set you up to maximize your earning capacity moving forward? These are really important questions to answer.
05:03 When I graduated, internships weren’t a thing. So while I chased what I thought was my dream of working in marketing and PR, I was unemployed for twelve months before I woke up and took a role as a volunteer as they were called in those days at the Perth International Arts Festival, from which I was able to network my way to my first paid role.
If I had only known the power of that experience before, I wouldn’t have waited so long to take the plunge. One thing I often hear in relation to an internship is why should I pay to work for someone? And the reality is you’re not paying to work. The right internship provider will ensure that what you get is the right level of support all the way through your internship.
From ensuring that your host and mentor are prepared for you, that you have the right tools to support your training and development, as well as the mechanisms to troubleshoot if you need any help throughout this experience.
05:56 You should also be getting access to a mentor who can accelerate your career options through providing you with the right level of guidance. This is both technical and social. The right internship means from the first day you turn up, there will be a training plan already set up for you that includes a proper induction to the business, understanding of the various workflows and where you’re plugged into what’s happening in the team.
Your mentor should help guide you through various tasks and projects so you get the opportunity to learn what you need in a safe and non-threatening environment. It’s important to note that not every internship leads directly to paid employment. Although many of them will.
Most employers are always on the lookout for exceptional talent and by doing well in your internship, you go a long way to helping put yourself at the front of the queue for an opportunity.
In the event there isn’t a paid role at the end of the placement, you’ve still gained invaluable experience that will help you cover that all-important local experience requirement. I want to talk about attitude for a moment.
06:53 Unfortunately, there are some people who look at an internship as: “I’m not getting paid, so I’m not going to try that hard.” And this gets reflected in any number of ways from quality of work, punctuality, appearance and general attitude.
This is a bit like trying to run 100 meters race, but tying your shoes together at start. Real talk here. If you have a shitty attitude, don’t expect an employer to do you any favors. Attitude is one of the most critical things you can demonstrate to a potential employer to set you apart from others.
Because let’s face it, at this point it’s not going to be your experience that sets you apart. Now, there’s this old saying dress for the job you want, not the job you have. And as cheesy as that may sound, there’s truth to it because you want to show your host employer that you are serious about your role and that you are professional.
Turning up late and looking like you just rolled out of bed, that just sends a really bad message. And when I talk about having a positive attitude. I’m not just talking about in your dealings with your mentor.
07:56 I’ve seen people be really good at presenting the right image to their superiors and then turn around and be rude or dismissive to someone who’s lower down that hierarchy. Remember, people will talk. And whether we like to believe it or not, people always talk about the new person.
Whether they’re polite, how they operate, and all those sorts of things. In another episode, I’ll talk about how your interview isn’t just with the people actually conducting the interview, but also with the person at reception, the people who walk past you, and sometimes even the person you pass at the coffee shop on the way.
A positive attitude is not something you put on for show. It’s something you should live every day. So, you’re at the stage where you’ve identified the industry and the type of company you want to work with.
08:43 You know the sort of roles you aspire to, and you’ve looked at how an internship might help you out. You’re prepped, and you’re ready to show the world your skills, and you’re ready to conquer your Everest.
Quick question – what makes you different to every other graduate out there applying for the same role? I’ll ask you that again. What makes you different to every other graduate out there applying for the same role?
Now, let’s skip the standard, “I’m hard-working and willing to learn, I have a positive attitude, and I’m a real go-getter, because those are just motherhood statements.” Everyone says that. What makes you stand out? What do you bring to the table?
You’ve got to be able to talk about your skills and experience in a manner that’s relevant to the role you’re applying for so you can demonstrate suitability and capability.
Most interviews these days center around behavioral questions. Give me an example of when you’ve done this or tell me about when you’ve been able to do that. So you need to be equipped to answer these.
09:42 Think about transferable skills. If you’re lacking in real world experience, you need to think about how you’ve tackled various situations in non-work scenarios. One of the questions interviewers love asking, for instance, is tell me about when you’ve had to manage conflict with a superior or something similar to that.
Now, what they’re looking for in your ability is your ability to tackle a tricky situation and how you cope with pressure. It could be that you had to push back on a leader of a group assignment alignment or challenge a tutor at Uni.
So, think about what scenarios you’ve been through and how these can apply in real life. Remember, you also want to showcase your ability to find solutions. So, not just that you told your group leader that you felt upset about something in terms of how they’re running a project, you have to demonstrate an outcome.
10:31 You should also expect a few standard questions like where do you see yourself in five years? Or what are your biggest weaknesses? Now, while I personally don’t like these questions, the fact is they’re out there.
And a very quick Google search will throw up a range of different ways to tackle these. So, there really isn’t an excuse to freeze at the question. Something to steel yourself for is the fact you will almost definitely face rejection through the process.
I could sit here and tell you that you will get every job you apply for. The reality is that’s not going to happen. Personally, I performed so horribly in my first interview that I continue to be embarrassed by it almost 30 years later.
But I also learned from it because once I got rejected, I made a point of calling the interviewer back to ask for feedback on why I didn’t get the role. And it was pretty soul-destroying to hear what they had to say about me.
11:28 But it also made me realize just how big the gaps were between how good I thought I was and how I was coming across to prospective employers. And I had to work really hard to narrow that gap for the next opportunity.
The lesson there is remember that just because you failed once doesn’t mean you’re destined to always fail. Go and find out why, when, and where you went wrong, and take steps to address this.
11:52 One of the mindset shifts I had to overcome when I graduated was the belief that I’ve graduated. I’ll never have to study again, ever. Now, this view couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m always learning, even today. And it was only once I got my head over that misconception that my career started to take off. Always be learning.
One other reason for getting back in touch with the interviewer, and I stress this is a phone call, not an email, is that you want to leave an impression. You want them to remember you, so that if an opportunity arises later, your name and your voice come to mind.
The same tactic also works when you’re applying for the role. So, each graduate role gets about 100 to 150 applications. So, one way to help you stand out is to actually put a call in prior to your application. Ask some questions about the role that are not in the ad.
Now, this could be something simple like asking for a full position description, or if there are any specialist skills that are not listed in the ad that are required.
12:50 You could ask if it’s a newly created role and if not, why the incumbent is leaving. Thoughtful questions help to get you front of mind, while at the same time giving you great pointers as to how to structure your application.
Remember, these should be questions that are not in the ad. Don’t go and ask a question that is very clearly in the advertisement, because you just come across as somebody who didn’t pay any attention to that.
That doesn’t help your case. Remember that the person you talk to more often than not will be the person conducting that first shortlist so you can make an impression with them. They can help influence the decision to interview you.
They’re not the end decision maker. But remember, you want to get past that first gatekeeper. A nice follow up touch is to let them know after you’ve put your application in so they know to look out for that.
13:37 I hope these tips on how to get your career going after graduating are useful. Just to summarize; make a list of the types of roles and business you would like to work for, see if there are any patterns. And then determine how you need to mold your application to be more attractive to them.
Consider the benefits of an internship in giving you a bit more real world experience to plug that gap. And if considering this, make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities. Using a reputable company can make this process a lot easier. Be sure that you can articulate your skills and experience while also being able to explain why you are different to the other 150 applications for the role.
14:19 Stand out from the crowd with how you approach an application and don’t be afraid of rejection. Use it as a learning experience. I hope you found this useful.
You have been listening to the Employability podcast presented by Gradability. If you would like more information about today’s topics, please check out the show notes or visit www.gradability.com.au.
A reminder to subscribe on your favourite podcast app so you don’t miss an episode. I’m David Phua. Until next time, remember to control the controllables.