Alexandra Racheru has screened more than 1,000 graduate applications and interviewed more than 300 graduates in the past two years, in her role with Ibec's Global Graduates Programme.
She knows what employers are looking for and, here, she offers pointers to how, from first year, students can start building the skills and attributes that will stand to them in job interviews down the line.
Making the right career choices early in life will give you the advantage you need in a time when the job market is so competitive. To ensure you are on the right track, you need to first work on a career plan that best suits your goals.
The following tips may be helpful when you consider your next career move:
Branding is storytelling
Personal branding is reflecting on who you are and finding the best way to display your life story in a manner that will reveal your true self: your personality, abilities, values and passions. When you have a defined personal brand, making the right career choices won't be a struggle.
Make sure your brand message is clear
Having a clear message about who you are will help you market yourself better during the application and interview stages. A good story will make the employers and recruiters to want to know the person behind it, so they can decide whether you are the best fit for their company's vacancy. You therefore need to create a memorable CV.
Find your Unique Selling Point (USP)
Identify what differentiates you from the other candidates. Make a list of all your skills, knowledge and experiences and highlight what's unique about you. Once you've decided what skills you think differentiate you from others, you can tailor your USP to the job you're applying for. Look at the requirements outlined in the job description and if any match with your unique skills, use them as the focus of your application.
Students forget that employers check out their profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites. Make sure you post appropriate and quality content on these platforms and use these channels to create a professional presence that can impress potential employers. Set up your LinkedIn account on day one of college. It is important that your LinkedIn profile is up to date and you are actively engaging with influencers or groups that are of interest to you.
Nowadays more and more employers are looking for work-ready graduates that have developed soft skills such as communication, teamwork, motivation and resilience. You can develop these skills by joining different committees, clubs, societies and internships.
This is one of the key skills most employers look for. It is the ability to express your ideas and views in an engaging way, ensuring your listener wants to hear the message and is clear about what is being said. Developing these skills and your personal style from day one is very worthwhile, both one to one and in groups, as this will stand to every graduate in the world of work in terms of being heard and noticed.
Employers often tell us of the value of a person who can relate well to others and who is good in a team. While you are at college, try to develop your skills when working in a team by getting involved in team activities and taking the lead in team projects. When you come to the stage of interviewing for jobs, you will need to show that you can work well with others, so the more examples of this you have, the better you will come across to a potential employer.
Motivation and Resilience
Our experience of many employers is that they look for and expect graduates to be adaptable, to be able to take responsibility for their own performance, and to be able to identify opportunities when they arise. Also, as a practice, if you begin writing an individual blog to capture your experiences and reflections on these experiences, it is an excellent way to build a list of examples which can be shared with potential employers in the future.
A growth mindset means believing in your ability to develop and improve through dedication and hard work. In order to cultivate a growth mindset, you need to be open to receive feedback from others. True growth comes when you allow yourself to be vulnerable. Sometimes we might have blind spots that only others can see in us and getting honest feedback from our peers, can be just the thing we need to become our best self.
Instead of asking: 'How did I do?' you could ask: 'What can I do better next time?' True leaders in their chosen field have a growth mindset. They never back down, and always keep looking for solutions and ways to develop themselves. Embrace any opportunities you are given and leverage them to grow and keep learning new things.
From my experience, as a programme executive of Ibec Global Graduates, building your brand, transferable skills and a growth mindset are key elements that you should look at developing during your time in college.
So, have fun, learn, grow and build on your natural strengths through the wide range of learning opportunities college life affords you. Also, make sure you get to know what you like because when you work at something you enjoy, that enthusiasm and natural fit will be apparent to every potential employer, as well as being the right fit for you.
Alexandra Racheru is Programme Executive of Ibec Global Graduates