It’s your final year of school, and soon you’ll have a full-fledged degree on your hands. In the next few months (or even shorter, hopefully), you’ll be a working adult, and be counted amongst the 3.4 million people in Singapore’s labour force.
But wait! Before throwing that mortar board in the air and framing up your degree, don’t forget to make the most out of everything your university or polytechnic has to offer you. Once you graduate, chances are, you won’t be able to enjoy the benefits (some of which you might not even have realised) of being in an educational institute.
Here are some of the things that should be in your checklist:
1) Start Applying for Jobs 6 Months Before You Graduate
This may sound like common sense, but it’s important to get a head start on job applications. It usually takes a month before employers get back to you on your applications, so starting early means you’ll have job offers before you graduate. A month is a long time to be doing nothing, so why not start early while you’re still studying?
Also, practice makes perfect. Your first few job applications will be spent fine-tuning your CV, rewriting your cover letters, and honing your interview skills. You probably aren’t going to ace any salary negotiations right off the bat, and having a few job interview experiences in the belt will give you the confidence you need to be able to negotiate better terms and benefits for what will likely be your first full time job.
2) Ask Your Teachers and Professors For Testimonials and Referrals
While you’re still fresh in your tutors’ minds, ask for a testimonial from them. This will help your future employers get a better idea (and impression) of you before they hire you. Remember that your teachers also have other commitments as well, so offer to write the testimonial for them if they like – this also means that you get to put what you think are your best qualities in the testimonial.
In addition, most job applications require that you list down two or more character referees. Rather than asking friends and family, have your former professors be included as character referees. It looks more credible and impartial.
3) Get a Certified Copy of Your CCA Record
Most tertiary institutions will provide a certified copy of your CCA (co-curricular activity) record upon request, but it’s usually not automatically given to graduating students. Check with your institution’s CCA department to see how you can obtain a copy.
It might not seem that useful at first, but there are two benefits to having a school certified copy of your CCA record. First, it provides validation for all the CCAs listed in your CV. Second, it might remind you of some ECA that you took part in but forgot, and thus help boost your resume as well.
4) Get Your Resume Vetted
Every university and polytechnic has a career guidance department, which is a good place to start if you want someone more experienced to vet your CV. No amount of Internet advice and resume help books can boost your portfolio better than a person who’s seen and improved hundreds of resumes.
Sometimes it’s the choice of words or the way you present your educational and work experiences that makes all the difference between a cookie cutter CV or an outstanding resume. A well-trained eye will be able to spot these differences, and don’t forget, that’s what the career guidance department is for. So walk on in and ask a career guidance counsellor to check out your curriculum vitae!
Read also: 4 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Resume
5) Attend Career Guidance Workshops
Towards the end of your final semester, your inbox will start getting bombarded with emails for resume workshops, job interview seminars, personal grooming talks, and many other sessions that offer free advice and training for prospective job applicants.
Sign up for them, especially if they’re free. They might not seem important while you’re rushing out your final year project or mugging for that one last paper, but you’ll be thankful for the extra skills and knowledge they bring when it comes down to your future employment opportunities. Also, they tend to make you think more about your upcoming career paths and how to present yourself, which is always a good thing.
6) Sign Up With All Your Alumni Clubs/Networks
Again, this is especially so if membership is free. These networks tend to provide freebies, possible job openings, and other opportunities (provided you read their emails). It’s likely that you’re going to be automatically subscribed to them anyway, but always take the chance to maximise your networks.
This will prove especially useful in future, if your job requires you to tap on your networks to access a broader base of potential clients, consumers, or even employees. These alumni clubs are usually very helpful if you need to broadcast (relevant) information to like-minded people, and are often your foundation for future networking.
7) Maximise Your School’s Print Facilities
Many tertiary institutions have discounted printing prices (as compared to printers outside of school). You’re going to need to have at least ten copies of your resume on hand, as well as copies of all your relevant certificates and transcripts for job interviews. This adds up, especially when you’re an unemployed student. So appreciate the low printing prices while you still can.
Just watch out for those printer jams!
8) Research Potential Employers and Industries
Remember how I mentioned you should start applying for jobs six months before you graduate? This is an excellent reason why. When you get called in for a job interview, use your free access to your school’s subscribed databases to read up about your future company as much as possible.
If you’ve never used these databases before (how did you do any research papers?), start with your school’s library website. You probably won’t get a chance to have unlimited access to JSTOR, Lexis Nexis, and Factiva after you graduate (and your account is shut down), so use it as much as you can now.
Going into a job interview having thoroughly researched the company will give you the additional confidence and knowledge to answer any potential questions the interview might ask, and also prompt you to ask the right questions as well. Google is useful, but paid databases will give you the edge.
9) Make More Friends and Invest in Them
This may sound slightly mercenary, but this will be the last time you can make friends as easily and quickly. Firstly, you won’t have the chance to be exposed to as many strangers as you would be in your classes. Secondly, the people you meet will be more wary and guarded, since it’s difficult to be friends with your colleagues at the workplace.
Treasure the friends you have. Get to know more people, even if it’s your final semester. Just like signing up with your alumni clubs, this will help your broaden your network. And you never know when you might meet your soul mate, or best friend, along the way.
10) Enjoy the Last Semester of School
Most importantly, enjoy your last few months as a student. Don’t be so caught up in maximising every last minute of your academic life that you forget to stop and smell the roses. You may not know it now, but this will be the “good old days” that you talk about in the future.
Sign up for that mountaineering trip that you have been procrastinating to all these years. Accept every invitation for a meal with your schoolmates. Ask your professors out for coffee. Form a team and take part in your varsity’s sports day. Support your friends at school performances. Organize cook-outs at your place for your classmates. Perform in a school play.
A time like this will never come by again. You’ll have a lifetime to work after you graduate, and the older you get, the less your education matters (although it’s still important) in your resume. But you’ll never be able to access as much free stuff, get to know as many different people, or have as much freedom as being a student.
Have fun as your education draws to a close. And always, always keep your student pass/ID – the amount of discounts you can get with it is staggering (provided you still look like a student).