We often hear of hiring managers and working professionals telling young graduates to take up any offer they can get before entering the workforce while some will say to be picky so they can have an ideal start to their career.
Who’s right, who’s wrong?
To help clarify the confusion, we check in with BDO’s Thong Siew Fong to help fresh graduates make the best decision.
How has the pandemic impacted fresh graduate recruitment in BDO?
This pandemic has clearly resulted in many volatilities and uncertainties. We weren’t sure then how MCO 1.0 would impact our clients, or whether our services could still be deployed to our clients, hinging on our fee revenue or collections. Instead of an acceleration to the fifth gear usually around Q2, we throttled at first gear as we could only hire on a needs basis.
Has COVID changed your HR trends?
Remote working is by far one of the biggest changes. With sufficient digital tools and infrastructures such as VPN, Ms Teams, cloud-based audit process tool, secure portal for clients to offload files, and many more in place, employees have the flexibility to work from home or places where there is reliable internet access.
Currently, learning is 100% virtual through our online Learning Management System. Post-COVID, I believe this is here to stay as we expect to see more blended learning form of trainings being made available to our people.
We also pivoted to online fitness sessions i.e. yoga and HIIT since August 2020 since August 2020 and about to start some wellness sessions to focus on employee mental health and well-being, which have never been as crucial as now.
What should fresh graduates expect when searching for jobs now?
The job market has always been the ‘survival of the fittest’ for fresh graduates, and it is a lot more competitive now as it is the employer’s market. Just a good resume may not land you a job; you must equip yourself with strong communication skills, leadership qualities, and a distinctive personal brand. You must stand out at the interview.
Should fresh graduates work in industries that are unrelated to their specialisation?
Sometimes roles unrelated to your specialisation can provide you a different skill set, and over time maybe even the know-how to excel, provided you are there with a lifelong learning mindset and passion. It has been proven that many people excel in areas they are not specialised in. Example: Chef Wan studied accountancy; I heard the famous saxophonist Kenny G studied accountancy too. This is food for thought!
Should fresh graduates consider taking on lower-paying jobs to get their career started?
Sometimes lower-paying jobs may bring a very bright future. Even if does not, or if you can’t find a better paying one, work to develop your skill sets first and in the meantime, earn a salary to pay the basic necessities or be financially independent from your parents. You definitely have more to share with your next employer instead of just saying “I stayed idle and my parents supported me this period”.
What about the gig economy? Is it wise to begin here?
With the acceleration of digital products in the market, the gig economy is a way forward as I know the younger generation prefers some form of flexibility at work. Employers will embrace this as a norm in their recruitment process too, very soon!
Whether this is a wise decision or not, it depends on how much self-discipline you have in earning an income, and whether you can keep your commitment low…forever, as the stream of income is not fixed. Gig is good as a supplemental income.
Personally, I think the gig economy is suitable for people with less commitment (usually very young ones!) or people who really need the flexibility at work (mothers, caregivers) or retirees..
There has always been talks about graduates being picky when it comes to the job hunt. What is your experience with this?
It is fine to be picky if the graduate is an all-rounded individual with so much zest to offer. They are called high achievers (which may not be high performers by the way). Unfortunately, many of us are just average Joes and hence, pandemic or not, we should apply to more employers and flatter them equally. Then the decision lies with you when you do receive multiple job offers. From my experience, I have hired average Joes who are presently high performers at work and are committed to BDO and they are the pillar to our firm's success.
Any tips for a fresh graduate with zero experience to get hired?
Firstly, not every employer expects a fresh graduate to have work experience. Even if they do, we do not expect it to be relevant to the job role we offer. But we love to hear the skill sets they have developed in the course of their part-time work experience.
If you have zero experience, then your co-curricular activities are even more crucial to get you hired where you can show us your active participation in clubs/societies/voluntary work/sports and even better if you hold one or more leadership positions and have organised some club events.
How about tips on resume writing as well as going for interviews?
Do not just focus on academics but also your active participation in co-curricular activities and work experience (if any). If you are weaker academically, then you need to balance it with (heavier!) skill sets which you have developed by participating in co-curricular activities or work experience to balance the scale.
As for interviews, research the company and the role, and then practise on all possible questions that can be directed to you. Even if you are not prepared for 100% of the questions, being prepared for 50% is sufficient to build your confidence and lower your anxiety. Lastly, be yourself and add some smiles, ok!
What is your take on what to consider when applying for jobs, especially in today’s job market?
Applying for jobs today is a lot more sassy and there are many digital platforms outside like GRADUAN® to assist you. You also have access to all the latest information and insights of a company through their websites or social media platforms. Utilise all these privileges of finding jobs in this digital era. Be well prepared in every application, consider every little detail leading to a successful job offer if you can, and remember, practice makes perfect. I am a firm believer that “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. So plan ahead!