You’ve just graduated from university, and you’re thrown out into the world to fend for yourself. You apply to every job ad, go for interviews, and still – nothing. What gives?
Fresh grads know this all too well. Getting hired is hard in Malaysia, and the job market is becoming more competitive. Here’s what fresh grads have to say about their experience in the job market:
The fresh grad stigma
Every now and then, an article appears on social media. Fresh grads are entitled, they have attitude problems, and they have bad English —it’s never positive, and reading it makes you pissed.
Speaking as a fresh grad myself, it’s a gross generalisation to paint us all as lazy and entitled. But, the reality stands – many places are cautious of hiring fresh grads, with all the bad rep we’re getting.
While Avery, 23, agrees that while there are certain presumptions, it’s worked in her favour. Her English is great since she’s an avid reader, and she was willing to accept a lower salary. It’s easier to impress interviewers because of her low expectations, and she knew that. The interviewer was pleasantly surprised that she wasn’t like “most fresh grads.”
Sofia, 21, applied for roughly 30 jobs over 4 months. Still, no dice, despite her good grades and a glowing letter of recommendation from her internship. Some companies were honest enough to tell her the reason – she’s a fresh grad, and it’s a risk they don’t want to take. By risk, they meant, “We don’t want to invest in you to see if you’re worth it.”
It was said in casual conversation, but Sofia could tell that it was only a half-joke. She laughed it off, but she was hurt. She knew that she’s the ideal candidate for the job, but it sucked to know that her age disqualified her.
There’s no easy way to handle it. Just keep your head low, and prove them wrong.
This ties into the next sign of how competitive the job market is, and that is…
Unrealistic minimum requirements
You’re going through LinkedIn, and you find an opening under a company that you like. It’s entry-level, and your degree fits the scope. Your mouse is already hovering over the “Apply” button before you read the fine print: “Minimum 2 years experience in the related field.”
Your heart sinks, and the confusion settles in. How can it be an entry-level position, but still require 2 years?
Unfortunately, this is common. It’s a catch-22. Fresh grads can’t get a job because they don’t have experience, but they can’t find a job to build that experience either.
Chris, 24, managed a way around it. He applied as an intern. Despite having 1 year of working experience, he still didn’t meet the requirements. Still, he agreed that it was a gamble—he didn’t know if they would hire him after.
It helped that he was on good terms with the boss, and he had a friend on the inside to help him out. He worked hard and took initiative. He made a few mistakes, but his boss knew he was a valuable employee.
While he’s glad that it worked out in the end, he acknowledges that not everyone has three months to gamble away like he did. Not when there are bills to pay and hard-to-impress parents. It’s not exactly the best time to try your luck.
Times are hard.
There’s no denying that the economy isn’t doing so well. The Ringgit is weak, and it doesn’t help that prices are rising higher. In such times, some companies are forced to downsize, and a few were closed down for good.
Before his job in human resources, Chris worked as a writer for an online news company. Things got tougher for the company due to rising costs and low traffic, and he was retrenched when the company downsized. He’s just one of the many people whose jobs got cut.
There’s a higher demand for jobs than what’s available on the market. Universities are producing more fresh grads than companies can employ. At the same time, the retrenched employees are competing with fresh grads for those same jobs. Between a candidate with years of experience or choosing one with none at all, the answer is clear.
Even if they do get hired, fresh grads have to be prepared to…
Work to the breaking point
It’s time to prove your worth. You’d pick up work that’s way beyond your job scope, maneuver through office politics, and do your best. There’s no guarantee that the next job will be better—hell, there might not even be a next job.
Sofia knows how unforgiving the market can be. Even when she has to pick up on half-completed projects left by retrenched employees above her pay grade, she has no choice but to do it.
Her manager already assumes that she’s too young to handle her job. The slightest complaint can jeopardise what little faith she has in her.
Arvind, 24, got bullied by an older employee after he was promoted over her. While she had years of experience, the boss picked him over her because he showed an initiative that she didn’t.
Fresh grads have to be prepared to put up with a lot. Some employers might think of it as a test of character, but to be continuously tested means that they don’t believe in you. If it’s stressing you out to the point of affecting your health, I don’t think it’s worth it. Remember – put yourself first.
And, there you have it. One can only hope that the economy recovers from here. To the fresh grads who are still down on their luck, don’t give up. There’s a perfect job waiting for you out there.
Have a success story with your first job? How did you get in? Let us know in the comments below!