4 Ways to Prepare For Your Career While in Uni

“I’ve emailed my CV and resume to the recruiters, yet still no reply from them!”

“I’ve been unemployed for almost 6 months.” “I don’t know what to do! I need a job!”

Do these phrases sound familiar? You might have heard these complaints from your seniors or friends especially during the pandemic.

It’s impossible for a country to achieve a 0% unemployment rate but during the pandemic, it has definitely gotten worse. If you’re currently a final year student or soon-to-be graduate experiencing stressful moments in finding a job or even an internship placement, you’re not the only one in that boat. I too faced a lot of struggles and rejections while finding an internship placement last year!  

In 2020, YouGov conducted a survey that reported nearly a quarter of employees in Malaysia are fearful of job insecurity. Here are some interesting findings that polled from 665 full-time workers:

  • Fear of losing a job increased from 5% to 25% prior to COVID-19

  • 7/10 believe it’s hard to find a job during unemployment

  • 6% of respondents felt ‘very insecure’ about their jobs

Truth be told, there’s a high chance for fresh grads to work in an industry totally unrelated to the degree taken yet still be successful, especially during and post-pandemic. What’s the secret? 

Aside from the academic subjects studied, what’s important is how you prepare yourself for the workforce while in university. To all final-year students and soon-to-be graduates, here are my useful tips to prepare yourselves for the workforce while you’re still in university.

1. Level Up Your Microsoft Products and Google Work Apps Knowledge

4 Ways to Prepare For Your Career While in Uni 1

Think you’ve mastered all of these programmes during your degree? It’s time for a re-evaluation. While most of us are only familiar with the basics of Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets to complete our assignments, we rarely figure out the special features and formulas! 

Take Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets for example. Most companies tabulate their data, timeline, and other important things into Excel or Sheets. Even during my internship, I’d to use Excel way more than Word or any other Microsoft product. 

“No worries lah. I’m an intern! I’ll be taught and guided on the job.”

Sure, you’re new after all! But the reality is that you can’t expect your manager or supervisor to teach you everything from A to Z. We’re living in the era of digitalisation where you can ask Mr. Google anything. Take the initiative to independently learn them while you can. 

Take it a step further and join any online courses related to Microsoft or Google services that are available on LinkedIn or learn them via YouTube!

Trust me those extra skills will help you increase your competency, employability, and leave a good impression on your supervisor or manager. And though many companies also have their own programmes that they use, it’s always great to level up the basics!

Tip: Impress your boss with knowledge on creating things like filters and formulas. You can look into related courses from Coursera, FutureLearn, and LinkedIn.

2. Expose Yourself to Critical Thinking Activities 

4 Ways to Prepare For Your Career While in Uni 2

Ask any recruiter or industry leader about skills that they’re looking for in a new employee, and I’m sure critical skills would be one of them. According to Business Wire, critical thinking is one of the top 5 skills in 2021. But, why is it so important?

Questionmark CEO Lars Pedersen, once said: 

“The pace of change continues to accelerate. As we head into 2021, employers need team members who are adaptable, motivated, resilient, and able to solve any given problem that’s in front of them.”

There are many ways one can develop critical thinking skills. For me, joining the Maybank Accelerator Programme last year — a self-development programme that not only provides learning and sharing sessions but also includes different stages of assessment, I remember participating in a role-playing game where police and prisoners are meant to cross a river (It’s similar to the river crossing game.).

The challenging yet interesting task pushed me and my team to think creatively and critically to win the game.

3. Grab Opportunities to Develop Leadership Skills

4 Ways to Prepare For Your Career While in Uni 3

It’s not uncommon for you to see a job, internship, and even scholarship applications having this under their requirements —  ‘Actively involved in curricular activities’ or ‘Proven leadership skills’

It’s also sad to know that Human Resource managers revealed that ⅕ of graduates lack leadership skills. I know, I know, being a leader isn’t a piece of cake but leadership is crucial for your survival in the real working world. When working, you’ve to complete certain tasks as a team on top of your individual tasks. Here’s why getting exposure to leadership is important for your future.

Imagine being appointed as a project lead and having to lead a team of 15-20 people. Here’s how things could pan out: 

  • You have zero leadership experience. 

With no leadership experience, it’ll be difficult to lead such a big team. Unlike your university days, your manager wouldn’t be able to guide you 24 hours to become a leader. If you can’t handle these problems, it might delay your project progress, leaving a bad impression on your managers. 
  • You have leadership experience. 

Your journey might be easier compared to the first scenario. Why? You’ve experience in handling team members’ attitudes while keeping track of the project progress.

Now, developing your leadership skills doesn’t mean you have to be the president of every club you’re in. Volunteer as a team leader for your group assignments, join any club or ambassadorship programme, or even take charge of events happening around uni! Grab opportunities to become a leader regardless of the team’s or project’s scale. 

Throughout the experience, you’ll improve your communication skills, teamwork, and become more responsible. 

4. Develop and Enhance Your Online Personal Brand

4 Ways to Prepare For Your Career While in Uni 4

Building your personal brand now would help you promote yourself in the working world. Nowadays, recruiters aren’t only looking into your resume or CV during the screening process. Social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, Goodwall, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, also play an important role. 

That’s where your online brand comes in. Make good use of your social media platforms to share your achievements, leadership experience, and even workshops you’ve participated in.

Here are my tips to develop an online personal brand: 

  • Share your achievements, experiences, and participation

Don’t forget to include your reflection on leadership experiences or events you’ve participated in. It may sound a little braggy but no one’s going to sell your brand except you! 

Be open-minded and, trust me, it’s the right way to get industry leaders or recruiters to know about your involvement.

  • Keep it clean and private

This one’s especially for your public or professional social accounts. Share only appropriate pictures as your profile picture or in your posts. 

Those pictures and posts resemble your personality so it’s important to reflect on how you want the public, especially industry partners, to view you. Remember to also avoid using vulgar words as they reflect your character.

  • Make good connections

One of the reasons to grow your online brand is to give yourself the platform to build and widen your network with different industry leaders. 

Remember a company representative or industry leader that you’ve met during the professional development week? Following them on these platforms is a good way to connect, continue communications, and stay up-to-date with different opportunities, internships, or graduate programmes.

That way you’re not tied to using only traditional methods, like emailing or calling them for any inquiries on jobs or company-related matters. LinkedIn is a recognised professional platform and may even be worthwhile in finding a partner… for business opportunities of course!

  • Be up-to-date with the latest programmes

Challenge yourself to join any programmes organised by the different companies you follow that will help in your personal development or career. 

Still haven’t figured out what you’d like to do in the future? Join available graduate programmes which usually provide job rotation allowing you a good opportunity to experience working in different departments. 

With that experience, you might even find something you’re interested in! Plus, you’ll also be working alongside industry leaders which will help to strengthen your online personal brand.

4 Ways to Prepare For Your Career While in Uni 5

“Your mind is a powerful thing. When you fill it with positive thoughts, your life will start to change.” 

- Gautama Buddha 

With all these tips on preparing for the workforce while you’re still in university, the best thing to have is a positive and growth mindset. So spend your free time searching for any job opportunities, even when facing several rejections. Always maintain that positive mindset because as one door closes another opens. It’s just a matter of time! 

Good luck and continue persevering! 

Nur Sorfina is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Business (Honours) Banking & Finance at Taylor’s University. She is one of the KPMG Taylor's Ambassadors Social Media Strategist.