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3 advice every fresh graduate should know in 2021

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A University of New South Wales graduate and began her working career as an auditor. Now, she is the talent partner in Ernst & Young Malaysia and the current EY Asean Diversity & Inclusiveness leader. Source: Global Virtual Skills Conference

As economies shrivel from the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic,  there are fewer fresh graduate jobs to apply to. With more competition, there’s little room for error from start to end of the job application process.

With this in mind, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) organised a Global Virtual Skills Conference to help and offer insights on how to land today’s fresh graduate jobs.

Here’s what three panellists — who are former international students themselves — told Study International:

‘Don’t look for the perfect fresh graduate jobs’

Skip the big names, says Lim Kit Wan, a University of Birmingham graduate and social entrepreneur. “Instead, look for opportunities where you will learn and where you will grow,” she explains. “Embrace the experiences and learnings, be patient as self-development is important and it shows initiative and strength of character.”

Make use of what you learned abroad too, Lim adds. “Studying abroad allowed me to understand different cultures, socially and in the workplace, which I definitely would not have been able to experience had I stayed in Malaysia. It allowed me to be more open in my thinking and gave me the ability to work and engage with people from diverse backgrounds.”

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A University of Birmingham graduate, Wan embodies empowerment as a social entrepreneur. Source: Global Virtual Skills Conference

‘Have grit’

“Grit is especially crucial as you will be facing challenges in your work,” says Melvin Yong, a seasoned recruiter in finance and accounting in Malaysia. Yong would know — he worked his way up within the competitive banking and professional services sector in Robert Walters.

Being average won’t cut it. “Push back against mediocrity and if you believe you can do it better, make an effort,” he adds.

He recommends fresh graduates to never stop learning. “As a fresh graduate, in addition to your academic qualifications and internships, the ability to carry yourself well is important. Enrol in classes to improve on your communication which includes the tone of voice, body language, and articulation,” Yong suggests.

“In the current environment where things are progressing in many ways, classes that will equip you with skills not learn at school are extremely beneficial. It’s not just the knowledge obtained but also how you represent yourself as a proactive graduate with a growth mindset.”

Yong worked his way up within the banking and professional services sector in Robert Walters. Source: Global Virtual Skills Conference

‘Develop yourself personally and professionally ASAP’

After graduating from the University of New South Wales, Lee began her career as an auditor. Her experience in the professional services industry spans over 30 years, including a professional accounting career spanning 10 years, including a five-year term with EY in Singapore. She is now leading the EY Talent function in Malaysia for over 20 years.

Her advice to fresh graduates is to pursue self-growth early. “You can do this by taking part in student activities or professional networking events, particularly those aligned to the industry and profession you aspire to pursue,” Lee explains. “You can also join internship programmes, volunteer for non-profit organisations or work on passion projects that will help hone your soft skills.” 

While we should always move forward, fresh graduates should always pause and reflect. “Last but not least, take time to reflect and identify your personal purpose and what motivates you as they will help you connect to your career aspirations,” she says. “Finding meaning in what you do will stand you in good stead to succeed and thrive in the future workforce.”