MANILA- How could today's fresh graduate be employable in a competitive job market? Have a firm mindset, be ready inside out, and be careful what you post on social media.
These are just some of the tips that career experts gave millennials about to join the work force, as the season sees hundreds of thousands of fresh graduates from a generation raised in the age of instant gratification.
More than half a million college students graduate every year in the Philippines on average, nearly 700,000 last year per government estimates.
In country where the unemployment rate recently grew- 6.6 percent in January, up from 5.7 percent year on year- graduates that makeup a much-touted demographic sweet spot often find themselves grappling for their place in the work force.
This even as growth has been seen in so-called "sunrise" and high-demand industries that absorb entry-level workers: business-process outsourcing, retail, real estate, manufacturing, and food and beverage, according to a recent Jobstreet.com survey.
But there are ways to stand out. And these experts offered graduates a crash course on how to get hired, from gearing up for a lasting career to preparing a resumé.
For Jesse Rebustillo, former president of the People Management Association of the Philippines, it starts with the proper mindset: be serious about the quest to getting hired.
"First of all, they should change their mindset, that they are coming from the school and now entering the business world," Rebustillo said in a dzMM interview Saturday.
"So the mindset is that "I have to show what I have learned for the past years," he said.
Speaking from his experience as a "probinsyano" who moved to Manila to build a career, Rebustillo said getting employed is not just about landing any job. It is about getting what you want, what best suits your competencies, and where best you could nurture a career.
"You are starting a career, not just looking for a job," Rebustillo said.
"You have to think about the kind of company you want to be with until you attain your full potential," he said.
Miguelito Relente, Guidance Counselor at the Far Eastern University, noted a competency gap seen in today's job applicants, with industries struggling to find candidates bearing the qualities necessary for their vacancies.
"Perhaps the gap can be seen in the aspect that the industry has different needs from what we in the academe produces," he said.
What do employers look for?
The experts cited studies on top skills that companies find lacking in a candidate: English proficiency and problem-solving ability.
Further to this, they cited top qualities that employees look for in a potential hire: communication, critical thinking and initiative.
"After students are told "you're finished [with school], congratulations, the irony is that they have to study again what they did not learn in school," Rebustillo said.
"It's not to say that schools did not do enough, but there are things you don't learn in school, like breeding, how you mingle with the community, your friends," he said.
When it comes to communication, employers look beyond grammar and intonation he said.
"It's the content. Are the answers correct? It should not be in "jejemon" language or gamification," he said, in reference to the colloquial varieties of youth language.
"Even the style of dressing is communication," he said.
He said applicants must also be able to show common sense: avoid asking recruiters questions like "what should be my attire" or "where can I get food here" for instance.
To the tech-savvy digital natives now keen to start a career, Relente gave an invaluable tip: be wary of your online activity.
"This is one of the things that employers look at: what you post on social media," Relente said.
"HR (human resources) practitioners review this. This is one of the things we tell our students: to be careful what they post on social media. Yes, they are interviewing you because you applied, but prior to that, HR hs already checked to see how your personality is," he said.
Rebustillo seconded: "So now, it's just after graduation, if you just had a drinking session and took a selfie, maybe don't post that yet."
Develop your career early
Relente said the journey to the right career begins early in a student's life, even as soon as grade school, where the school could already give guidance and preparation for the pupil's potential career.
"[The student] should already know the job that suits them so when they join the workforce, they are ready, they're person is whole as well as their potential career," Relente said.
Schools have programs that could measure a student's inclinations and competencies early, so that by the time they reach tertiary schooling, they could make a decisive pick of a course that would lead to their chosen career.
"...[U]pon reaching college, it should already be concrete in the student's mind the kind of career he wants. He or she should not enter college still undecided about the course to take. That means he or she was not fully guided in high school," he said.
Where to look
Rebustillo said fresh graduates should go "multiplatform" in terms of their job search. Go online, look at printed classifieds or even job postings at offices themselves.
He said applicants must make a shortlist of their target jobs from the get-go.
"We have to catch up with the times. We are multiplatform now: read the newspapers, look at what's posted on bulletin boards, go online, look at where there is a possibility," he said.
"You have to have a firm mindset that you are out to get a job," he said.
Preparing a catchy resumé
In preparing the resumé, applicants should keep it concise but full of impact.
"It's not full sentences anymore. It's one or two pages to give the HR [officer] evaluating you a quick view [of your qualifications," he said.
The preferred font is a size 12 or 13, in a professional type. A picture is not required, he said. Only provide one when asked.
"You put your name, address, and a decent email address," said Rebustillo, noting how some addresses could be less than professional.
"And your telephone number. You should also practice how to answer the phone," he said.
Fresh graduates should then readily place their educational background in descending order, starting from college. Place the school first, then your course and year of graduation.
Applicants must then place on-the-job training experience.
"You have to know what position and what role you played," Rebustillo said.
He said applicants should also include all skills relevant to his training and education.
"And please, with due respect, avoid using the bio-data (template) you could buy for P3 or P5 pesos. You should show that you could already make your own," he said.
Subhead: Should you negotiate?
Upon getting a job offer, applicants must know their actual worth and be realistic if they intend to negotiate, the experts said.
In the onset, candidates should avoid readily raising the matter of the salary during the application process, unless asked by the recruiter of their expectations, Rebustillo said.
Information on average wages in various industries are available online, he added.
"Today's graduates feel like they are of high value, so they put a high value on themselves... [When negotiating], just smile and do not debate," he said, adding that entry-level jobs may be expected to pay minimum wage.