Wanted to do a small write up to help people during this time where it’s super difficult to land a grad job or internship.
Many companies have gone into survival mode making them less likely to take risks, so it’s important is now more than ever to make sure you’re prepared and ready to do the hard yards to land that dream job.
I’ve compiled a list of things that have helped students I’ve worked with.
Who am I?
I’m Ajay. I founded a Non-Profit called Real Skills six years ago that has helped thousands of students land jobs. I have also applied for hundreds of jobs myself, and I’ve also been a recruiter, hiring for Draper Startup House, several engineering firms and Crossover (which hires around 50-150 people per month).
I’ve tried to stay broad to help as many people as possible, but if you have specific questions I’ll try and help as much as I can in the comments.
Who is this for?
Anyone who is looking for a job really but a particular focus on entry-level positions where either you’re currently studying looking for experience (internship), fresh grad or soon to be a grad looking for a full-time job. Or, perhaps you’ve decided you want to make a career change and have little experience in this new field.
One of the things that I found super beneficial is building skills that are directly and indirectly related to the field I was interested in.
Back in my first year of Uni, I learned Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Matlab out of interest and thought it might help. I found that when I interviewed for an internship at a mining company, the hiring managers actually used those two skills as differentiating points.
“Oh, you know CAD and Matlab? That could be super useful, we did need someone to do some odd jobs.”
Time and time I hear stories about the marketing intern who did some basic SQL or the chemical engineer who became the python handyman (the coding language not the animal!) for the team.
Have a look at some skills that may be useful for side tasks for the role you’re going for. Hiring someone who is more generalist is a hedge for hiring managers.
In my case, I hired 3 people in 2021 - all of whom have 2 or more specialties, so that if my company pivots we will be ready to handle the changes.
What kind of skills do you think could complement your current skills or make you more desirable to a company?
I know, I know. “I’m trying to get experience hence why I’m looking for work.”
Whilst this may be true there are other ways to build experience and differentiate yourself from other people. I myself have hired many people who have never worked a proper job.
However, 100% of them have had done some sort of personal project, a side gig or something of their own to demonstrate their work.
Back in my second year of university (as a Mech Engineering student) I wanted to work in marketing. So I spent 3 months upskilling and doing side projects / free consulting gigs.
After a while, when I went for my first interview, I could talk at length about my work experience and past project, which landed me my first marketing job.
Another thing that really helped was that instead of a cover letter, I wrote them a marketing plan. So, go out and find some projects to work on. If you don’t have any ideas you can check out EntryLevel (www.entrylevel.net) - we have free programs where you can build experience and ‘work’ in a simulated environment with a mentor from a reputable company (like Atlassian, Transferwise etc.).
What kind of projects do you think would best help you?
What could you do in the next week that is a small, isolated project to show off your skills?
Globalisation is a real threat to jobs. It’s highly likely that there is someone else in the world who can do your job much cheaper than you.
Why pay for a mechanical engineer in Australia when someone in India or another country can do it much cheaper?
I’ve seen this happen a lot with my friends in engineering - a lot of the tricky work is outsourced. If you’re in India or a country that gets a lot of outsourcing, you’ll still face local competition - and thus this advice is still super important.
The best defensibility that we have as members of the workforce to local and global competition is building our soft skills. Finding a scientist, engineering or financial analyst is easy. Finding one who can present well, have high compatibility in a team and high emotional intelligence is a lot harder.
Building your soft skills can take you a long way and make you stand out - that’s why interviews are a filter for many companies and for some jobs, you have 5 or 6 of them.
Think of the resume as the skills filter, and the interview as the culture filter. Soft skills are things you can improve and learn. I know this from my experience as I’ve gone from a timid kid who couldnever do public speaking to someone who teaches classes and speaks at conferences all over the world.
What soft skills can you work on?
Start by writing down a list, then ask yourself: “what actions can I take to build these skills?”
I’m always surprised by the number of students who don’t actually know anyone in the field that they are planning to work in.
I don’t think you can blame your circumstances for this - I became an engineer in a family of bankers (literally everyone except me works at CBA in my family).
There are some fairly easy ways to build a network.
First, start by connecting with older students. By getting close with them you can definitely get a leg up, and by the time you’re graduating, they are most likely already working. You can meet plenty at society meetups and other uni-related activities.
The second area is LinkedIn DMs. I’ve sent hundreds (if not thousands) of DMs to people on LinkedIn who I wanted to talk to.
A simple “Hey would love to pick your brain” some time will garner at least 5% of people replying, and maybe a few of them willing to catch up.
Many, many people are willing to catch to people to help them out - people love to pay it forward and for those that don’t you can move on - you’ve lost nothing!
I genuinely believe that if you focus on these 4 things in 2022, you’ll hit some jackpots in terms of internships and jobs!
Also, if you have any other tips - would love for you to share - tag us on LinkedIn at EntryLevel.
I was lucky in 2020, but for many job seekers, it was a really hard year. In turn, I want to pay it forward and help as many people as I can.
So, if you have any questions that myself or someone else in the community could answer, just tag us on social media and I’ll do my best to help!