How To Boost Your Career Prospects While At University
Amid rising retrenchment and unemployment rates, securing employment in a time where COVID-19 has severely impacted the economy and job market may seem like a grim prospect. While waiting on a job opportunity that you desire, how can you set yourself up for success in the ‘new normal’? We speak with Karen Tang, Manager, Career Guidance of SIM Career Connect, who shares more about the initiatives developed at SIM to help you better position yourself in a volatile job market.
Ms Karen Tang (pictured far left) with the SIM Career Connect Staff and Talent Development Programme Interns, celebrating a graduate's milestone.
The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the job market with many businesses made to shut down or freeze hiring. It has certainly been tough for graduating students who are in search of employment opportunities. Could you tell us more about the initiatives that the SIM Career Connect team has developed in support of these students?
As the pandemic accelerated moves towards digitisation, SIM Career Connect looked at ways to develop digital career resources for our students so that they can be better prepared to land jobs during this difficult time. Some of these initiatives that we developed include creating online platforms for students to sharpen their career skills through career tips in the SIM Career Guide, aptitude tests, mock interview practices powered by Interviewer AI and the opportunity to go on virtual experiential learning with global companies such as Accenture, J.P. Morgan, General Electric, Citibank, KPMG and more.
We also initiated the ‘Future of Work Training Series', specially designed for undergraduates and fresh graduates to gain practical knowledge on managing well in the world of work. One training programme under this series was the ‘Onboarding E-Commerce Roles' which culminated in a highly valued six-month internship with Changi Airport Group for 12 selected participants. The successful candidates gained real life work experience with iShopChangi, Changi Airport's online retail business. This year, there will be more of such training programmes leading to practical work exposure in analyst and wealth management roles.
Another programme to highlight is the ‘Polaris Industry Masterclass in Management Consulting' which is guided by a representative of McKinsey. This five-week programme trains students to work as management consultants. They get to work on real business projects from a leading venture firm, apply what they learned into practice and interact with McKinsey's consultants to improve their skills.
With physical events being limited due to the pandemic how has the SIM Career Connect team improvised on organising events such as the Career and Internship Fair and other important events?
Many of our key events are held virtually, such as the DREAMS and IGNITE Career and Internship Fairs where students meet with employers. There are also events such as the Young Graduate Career Forum, International Student Career Forum and Project Protégé Mentorship where students meet with SIM Alumni for career advice and networking.
We also conducted online career preparation workshops on topics such as resume writing, LinkedIn branding, salary negotiation, understanding employment contracts and navigating the corporate jungle. For Career Guidance sessions, our career coaches see students over Zoom, as well as communicate with them via emails and phone calls to create a more personalised experience.ne and everyone!
SIM Career Connect holds annual Career & Internship Fairs which enable students to connect with over a hundred employers from a wide range of industries.
What important employment trends have emerged during COVID-19? Which sectors currently offer students a higher chance of securing job opportunities?
COVID-19 has certainly accelerated digital transformation for companies and changed the way we work almost overnight as organisations have had to adapt their operations to comply with the safety requirements.
For job roles, there is an increasing demand for data analysts, big data specialists, digital marketing and strategy specialists, digital transformation specialists, information security analysts, software developers, UX (user experience) designers, wealth planning managers, risk management specialists, business development professionals and project managers.
According to Dollars and Sense, the four sectors that are expected to do well in 2021 are finance, information and communications technology (ICT), healthcare and manufacturing.
How can students enhance their knowledge and skills to align themselves with these trends?
At Career Connect, we encourage work experiential learning, such as taking up internships with external companies during your academic breaks. We also offer simulated internships that mirror corporate settings such as the ‘Talent Development Programme' (an in-house internship programme with Career Connect), the ‘Analyst Training Programme' and ‘Future of Work Onboarding Roles in Wealth Management', to name a few. Students can also participate in Hackathon projects such as ‘GDEXA Digital Lab', to be equipped with future skills based on real-world cases in breakthrough topics such as E-commerce and Big Data Analytics.
In this fast-changing world, employers are increasingly not just looking at degree qualifications, but also at micro-credentials, digital badges and various other forms of skills assessment. The SIM Centre for Micro-Credentials offers courses for our learners to develop specific skills in certain fields and industries, such as Credit Analyst, R Programming for Data Analysis, Essentials of ABSS Accounting Software, Ethical Hacking and Problem-Solving Skills for a Better Future.
Students can also gain practical skills such as teamwork and leadership by joining SIM Student Clubs like the Business & Strategy Club, the SIM Accounting Association, Investment and Networking Club, Economics Society and participating in business-related competitions.
Amid recruitment freezes, what else could students do to gain work experience?
Working towards your career aspirations is a journey and every work experience counts. Make your learning intentional for everyday experiences, conversations, meetings and deliverables carry opportunities to develop and grow. If full-time job offers are not in sight yet, I would encourage students to gain relevant work experience with temporary or contract jobs, and through programmes like the SGUnited Traineeships. These traineeships will help local fresh grads to gain valuable industry experience and at the same time earn a training allowance. When the economy recovers there is a higher chance of being employed.
How can SIM students learn more about the available job opportunities and internships?
Our Employer Engagement department engages with employers across sectors for job opportunities and internship positions for SIM students. These openings are posted on the SIM Career Portal called ‘Unicorn'. They are for both SIM students and fresh grads (those that have graduated for not more than a year).
What would your advice be to students who have found it difficult to secure employment?
Identify people who are in your network and get in touch with them. Having coffee chats with your network may be more effective than sending resumes aimlessly. Keep abreast of developments of the sectors and companies you are looking to apply to and think of ways to contribute to problem-solving and business growth. This may require you to acquire the relevant skills beyond your academic qualifications - such as picking up hot-in-demand technical skills and soft skills such as data management and analytics, analytical thinking, problem-solving, user experience, technology use, emotional intelligence, resilience and service orientation which your peers may not already have.
You could also sharpen your skills through volunteering, participating in business competitions, hackathon projects, and producing portfolios to showcase your practical knowledge and skills while applying and waiting to be hired.
Never give up and keep preparing yourself to be the right candidate because you will be ready to seize the right opportunity when it is at your door!
To find out more about the full range of programmes and workshops by SIM Career Connect, follow them on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and join their Telegram channel:@t.me/careerconnect. You can also look out for weekly email blasts sent to your SIM student account!