How graduates can market themselves

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In January alone, over 15,000 people graduated with degrees from Makerere and Kampala International University.

Despite the impressive numbers of graduands, the issue of employment has attracted considerable interest in the recent past. Gone are the days when a graduate would walk into a job immediately after graduation.

According to the 2017 National Planning Authority (NPA) statistics 2017, 700,000 graduates join the job market every year, regardless of qualification, but only 90,000 get jobs. This translates to 87% of people being ready to work, but cannot find a job.

The National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) records show that there are 47 universities, nine of which are public, nine degreeawarding institutions and 207 other tertiary institutions.

All these send their students into the world of work annually, where they find thousands of other graduates waiting on employment opportunities.

Competition for jobs is tight — there are many qualified graduates with no jobs and the job market is really tight. A fresh graduate may have an extraordinary cover letter and resume with impressive results and references, but there are other candidates with comparable documents.

What matters is how you set yourself apart from the competition. But how can this be done? First of all, fresh graduates should have an “X Factor” which they need to front while searching for a job. An X Factor is a term used to refer to particular attribute(s) that differentiate one from other people with similar qualifications.

The X factor is usually a natural or one that you could have built over time through your different experiences. All employers are aware that fresh graduates do not really have skills. So, the number one consideration by many employers is someone with a special talent.

When human resource personnel are hiring, they focus on three things; knowledge, skills and abilities. The knowledge that you have acquired from university, the skills or the attributes you become proficient at with practice. The abilities are those things that one can do and /or are gifted at.

As a new graduate, one needs to be able to articulate their skills and abilities. One also needs to have an idea of what kind of work they can do and the kind of career they would like to pursue. For example, if one has a degree in accounting, but their long term aspiration is to manage a business, then one could get a job that allows them to be an accountant and later on progress to business management.

One can decide to upgrade their qualifications through further studies or start to engage with persons in their desired career role and start to learn from them in preparation for the future role. Many graduates find that employers always look for experience.

So, they ask, how can I have experience when I have just left school? However contemporary employers look for competence rather than experience. “Experience” is usually required for higher level jobs that require technical skills and perhaps proven ability of having performed a similar role prior.

As a fresh graduate, focus on finding an entry level job, one that allows the opportunity to learn and gain experience. For entry level roles, one requires aptitude (mental smartness) and attitude (a willingness to learn and do). Also note that experience does not only refer to work or employment-related experience.

It could be experience one has gained at home, on school projects and school leadership assignments or voluntary and internship experiences one has had.

Do not let a poor CV cost you a job

When it comes to applying for a new job, one’s curriculum vitae (CV) is the ticket togeetting that initial foot in the door and secure one an interview, but how does one ensure their CV is added to the interview pile? First impressions are usually critical to success.

Therefore, as one writes that CV, make sure it is impressive, but not deceptive. Indicating achievements and describing yourself properly in terms of what value you can add to an organisation can help you get you invited to an interview.

One’s CV does not have to have solid jobs, but a description of yourself, talents, experiences and skills; all tailored to the job being applying for. Whereas qualifications get you invited to the interview, your skills and abilities are more important in getting you a job.

Organizations are more interested in what you can do, than what grades you achieved at university. One’s CV needs to have a career objective, which defines where you ultimately want to get and what experiences you want to go through. It tells a prospective employer what your career interest is and provides a good starting point for placement possibilities.

As a fresh graduate, one’s career objective should be to acquire skills and work related experience in the kind of environment that would enable one to grow and better themselves to be become solid professionals. Most importantly, one’s CV should be tailored to the organisation and job being applied for.

It is always important to have prior knowledge about the company, its values and objectives and programmes/initiatives. This enables one to speak to the specifics of the organisation and show how it connects to their beliefs, values and aspirations, thereby making one a well suited candidate.

By Priscilla Mwandha
The writer is a human
resources business partner
at Uganda Breweries Limited

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