So you’ve recently graduated and now you’re looking for a job. You’ve spruced up your CV and you’ve applied for a few positions. But your phone hasn’t rung yet and nobody has emailed you back. Sound familiar?
This is a familiar story for recent graduates in Iraq. Truth be told, in a difficult economy, competing with other recent graduates, you need to do more to stand out. Ultimately, it boils down to this: when a company needs to fill a vacancy, they have a problem to solve. A gap to fill. They will give the position to the applicant who they think can best solve their problem. The person who can best fill the gap. It comes down to the value you can bring to the company.
So, what can you do to boost your own profile? What can you do to make yourself more desirable to companies looking for recent graduates?
1. Get an internship under your belt
This is an excellent way to bolster your credentials, with some real work experience, which is valued highly by companies. Identify the sector and position you would like to work in, and aim for internship positions that correspond. If it isn’t an exact match, look for similar positions or sectors. And crucially, don’t wait around for internships to be advertised. The proactive recent graduate identifies companies and goes to them. Also, it’s worth remembering that many companies don’t advertise for positions, but rather, hire through word of mouth or otherwise. Apply speculatively. Email, call, and follow up. Follow the companies on social media and interact with them. Persistence pays off.
A word of warning: ensure that the company has your best interests at heart and isn’t simply looking for cheap labour. While you are expected to help the company by working, you are there to learn.
2. Attend free training courses in your city
Look for any courses or vocational training that could add further strings to your bow. Search for training programmes online and in your local newspaper. At the end of 2016, the UNESCO-sponsored programme, Technical and Vocational Education and Training, will be available in four centres in Iraq. There are many more similar funded training programmes.
3. Sign up to MOOCs
Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, are increasingly popular around the globe. They are online courses offered by universities around the world, with many of the globe’s top institutions regularly involved. They are usually free and offer students access to otherwise off-limits courses. Websites such as Coursera give you the opportunity to add new certificates and diplomas to your education history.
For Iraq, ALISON offers courses of a wide range of courses, including English language lessons. Many courses are specifically designed for certain jobs, such as project management. The value of MOOCs can’t really be emphasised enough. They are a fantastic, free way to improve your employability opportunities.
4. Learn new skills online
With advances in technology, you can now learn how to code for free with websites like Code Academy. Coding is valued ever more highly as the world of work becomes increasingly automated and reliant on technology.
Coding not your thing? How about languages? Brush up your English or French, or start learning Chinese with any of a number of possible online learning methods, including DuoLingo, Memrise or Babbel. The Michel Thomas Method is particularly renowned, though comes at a cost.
5. Meet prospective employers and network
Get yourself out there. Find potential meetups or events where you can network and meet people who may be able to help you in your career. There’s a reason why sales people highlight networking as the single most important way to win new clients. And that’s what you are when you are job-hunting: you’re selling yourself. It’s simple: nothing beats interaction in person.
If you make an impression on the right people, it will stand you in good stead. You can help your chances through social media – following companies and groups, people and business leaders – but it is face-to-face interaction where you will really make progress.
6. Start blogging to demonstrate your knowledge
Blogging is one of the most effective ways to demonstrate your knowledge. You can use a free Wordpress account or create your own site. LinkedIn, the professional social network, also has a powerful publishing tool. Then there are platforms made for writing, such as Medium.
You can share your articles in associated groups on Facebook and LinkedIn as well as on Twitter and other social channels. There is also the potential to have your pieces published by online outlets. We recently hired a graduate for Bite.Tech beacuse of her excellent writing skills.
The final word
It’s worth remembering that job-hunting is a trial-and-error process. Rejection and making mistakes can be disheartening, but it is a necessary part of the process that everyone goes through at some point or another. It’s the learning from the mistakes that counts.
In order to rise above your peers and get the job you really want, following these tips will help. If you follow a number of them, and you are disciplined and diligent, it should be a mere matter of time before you get that call or email from a recruiter with good news.