After the graduation ceremony, then what?

After the graduation ceremony, then what?graduation

The graduation ceremony with its touch of grandeur, solemnity and nostalgia has come and gone. You stayed focused, reached the milestone and graduated well. The plan was that with this solid foundation, (the degree under your belt) you would step out, start to build your own future and conquer the world. One year later, there is still nowhere to go.

Every day young, intelligent, articulate graduates, pound the pavements in search of work. For so many, having a degree has not translated as expected, into a job. Some have applied unsuccessfully for hundreds of jobs, some have part-time work, or internships, several are doing a masters degree “to improve their chances.” Today’s graduates are competing for entry-level jobs against experienced laid-off workers with MBAs’. With the increased competition for the few jobs, the job outlook continues to look grim for scores of graduates.

Here are some suggestions that might be useful until things improve.

1. Cultivate your network

Effective networking is achieved through cultivating relationships over time. Reach out to those with whom you already have a personal, professional or academic connection. Do they realize that you are looking for a job? Use all the contacts and connections available, including your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends etc. Make them aware of your skills and talents so that they keep you in mind should they hear of any openings.

Stay in close touch with colleagues, former managers from internships or part-time jobs.  If you left a good impression, they will be supportive. If you were an active member of professional or business associations, on-campus organizations, or social groups, keep those connections alive. Networking activities provide good opportunities to gain useful insights on careers, get job leads, and to sell yourself.

Use on-line resources to search for job opportunities. If you are interested in a particular company, research about it and follow the company’s activities and what is happening in the industry. Keep abreast of current events, particularly of what is happening in your industry. Through company websites you will be able to send out several applications efficiently, but bear in mind that most great job opportunities are not advertised; they are often filled by personal contacts. Your CV should be flawless and tailored to the positions you are seeking.

2. Be flexible

If you are broke, and do not receive support from your family for an indefinite period, you cannot afford to sit at home until you find your dream job. It is tedious and disconcerting, to send out numerous applications and get no response, but don’t focus solely on your area of study. Be flexible and broaden your scope. Expand your search to related fields; this will boost your chances of finding something relevant that will still utilize your competences and enhance your skills.

If you regard certain positions as demeaning or “beneath you” as you are “a graduate,” you could be in for a long wait. You need to be humble and accept the fact that you might have to start at the bottom and work your way up. There are temporary jobs that can keep you busy and give you some badly needed cash until something in line with your expectations and credentials turns up.

3. Do you have a special skill or talent?

Be creative and identify that special gift or talent that you have ignored before now. Do you often receive compliments about your painting, cooking, photography or writing skills? Are you good at public speaking, web-design or programming, designing or modeling clothes? If you can play musical instruments to a decent standard, there may be freelance work as a singer, pianist, or guitarist in churches, clubs, private receptions or offer private tuition in a subject that you excelled in to students in your area. There are endless options and, not only will you be earning, but you will also open yourself to opportunities and contacts that may be of help in your job hunt.

 4. Can you work for free?

One good way to get your foot in the door with a company or organization is by working as an intern or a volunteer. You have an opportunity to impress them by showcasing your skills, commitment, and professionalism. Even if this doesn’t translate into a permanent position, you would have gained valuable experience. Obviously, without any assistance whatsoever from family or friends, it will be difficult to work for free.

It can be awkward to have to explain away significant gaps of unemployment in your CV in an interview. A future employer will be impressed that you kept yourself occupied gaining experience and new skills, instead of sitting at home doing nothing.

 5. Consider setting up your own business

When you are young and free of significant financial or personal commitments or debt, you have a unique opportunity to take some risk. Consider establishing your own business if you are so inclined. Do you have what you consider to be a great idea that you are passionate about and doesn’t have huge start up costs? You will be surprised at what you can accomplish. You might partner with a classmate or a friend whose skills complement your own and set up a business together.

You might have already established a business when you were on campus but did not have the time to nurture and develop it. This could be that time since studies and exams are out of the way. Take some time to prepare a strong business plan for your enterprise and slowly build your business.

 6. Continue developing yourself

Whilst no learning is wasted, avoid fleeing into an expensive and lengthy graduate program, just to postpone the difficult period. Seek continuous training and experience that can directly support any chosen career path. Professional qualifications or certifications, or shorter courses to improve your IT and other skills can sometimes be of greater value at this time. Basic skills in languages such as Mandarin, Spanish, French may give you an edge. Employers value employees who strive to develop themselves. Be disciplined about keeping your learning alive.

The harsh reality is that being a graduate never guarantees immediate employment. As you await the “right” job, open yourself to various opportunities and experiences. Develop a supportive group of friends who remain positive in spite of the challenges, as they will give you the encouragement you badly need to get through this phase.

What lessons have you learnt and what opportunities can you create out of the uncertainty? Above all, keep your spirits and energy levels up and maintain a sense of optimism and resilience with exercise. That strength of character and self-confidence will make you stand out and help get you through an employer’s door or even the door of your own small business.

Mrs Nimi Akinkugbe,

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