CAREER READINESS AND EMPLOYABILITY SKILLS
A. A. Adedapo, PhD
O. A. Oladejo, PhD
By the end of the chapter, students should:
· be able to state relevant skills and attributes needed to choose a write career;
· be able to identify necessary steps required to acquire employability skills;
· be able to give contextual clarifications on career readiness and employability;
· be able to write a good curriculum vitae or résumé and how to prepare for interviews.
A fundamental prerequisite for enhanced quality of life is to have a vocational or professional engagement capable of providing one with basic necessity of life as well as fulfilment.It is a universal belief that man should work and earn a living to be regarded as someone responsible. This is so because on a daily basis, man is expected to undertake some responsibilities and it is gratifying to bear such responsibilities from the proceeds of hiswork. Recently in many parts of the world, the labour world has been plagued with the challenge of unemployment. This is particularly so in many developing economies across the globe, Nigeria inclusive. In Nigeria, the unrivalled rising trend of unemployment has become a huge threat to itssurvival as a nation.The National Bureau of Statistics in its Unemployment and Underemployment Report (2016) presentsthe trend as indicated below:
• The economically active population or working age population (persons within ages 15- 64) has increased from 105.02 million in Q4 2015 to 106.0 million in Q1 2016.
• In Q1 2016, the labour force population ( those within the working age population willing, able and actively looking for work) has increased to 78.4 million from 76.9million in Q4 2015
• An additional 1,528,647 economically active persons within 15-64 years of age have entered the labour force in the Q1 of 2016 (able, willing and actively looking for work between January 1 and March, 31 2016).
• Within the same period, the total number in full time employment (who did any form of work for at least 40 hours) has decreased by 528,148 persons or 0.97%. This consists of people who lost their jobs and were either forced to move or for various reasons chose to move from full time employment to underemployment.
• Within the same period, the number of unemployed in the labour force, has increased by 1,449,18 persons (increase of 518,000 between Q3 and Q4 2015) between Q4 2015 and Q1 2016.
• Youth unemployment has risen to 42.24 percent, as 15.2million youths remain unemployed in the economy.
• More specifically, out of a total youth labour force of 38.2 million (representing 48.7% of total labour force in Nigeria of 78.48m), a total of 15.2m of them have become either unemployed or underemployed since Q1 2016 representing a huge portion of the entire youths.
The data above show that unemployment is on the increase, hence the need for a drastic measure. Some have argued that provision of more job opportunities may not necessarily be the solution because many Nigerian educated youths are allegedly not employable due to employers’ usual demand for three or more years’ relevant experience from prospective entrants into their labour force. A national survey jointly sponsored by National Universities Commission (NUC) and Education Trust Fund (ETF) seeking to determine the labour market needs corroborate the report. The study reveals that 44% of the 20 organisations rated Nigerian science graduates average in competence, 56% rated them average in innovation, 50% rated them average in rational judgement, 63% rated them average in leadership skills and 44% rated them average in creativity.Agbede (2015) claims that they were found to possess abysmally low potentials in soft skills which is critical to their employability. In a similar study, Greg (2014) earlier observes that many Nigerian youths encounter problems during their school-to-work transition due to lack of relevant information about occupations, lack of personal and educational requirements to progress in jobs, scarcity and uneven availability of job opportunities. Okafor (2011) observes that the desperate desire on the part of youths to acquire university education irrespective of course and course contents is adding to the scourge of unemployment in Nigeria. As a result, a number of skills acquired from the universities appear to be dysfunctional and irrelevant. Career readiness must be considered a priority before graduation. Preparation for life-after-school should not start after completion of studies; it must start at the beginning or at least towards completion as adequate preparation is required to make prospective graduates get set for the career world with more determination.
Career is a work engagement that offers the opportunity to progress along the work-path from which workplace fulfilment is derivable. The author also sees career as the totality of work experience which the worker undertakes to earn a living over a stretched period of time. These definitions explain that career is more of a long-lasting or life-long work affair. It is a regular work engagement that is undertaken after some specific training in a given field. People engage in it in exchange for a reward, usually in cash.
Career readiness can be defined as the state of preparedness to successfully undertake a life-long work from which one hopes to earn a living and progress along a specific area of profession or vocation. It can also be defined as the attainment and demonstration of relevant competencies that can prepare one for a successful transition into the workplace life. It is the acquisition of knowledge, skills and dispositions needed to be successful in post-training life that can lead to gainful employment. This means that students should be fully aware of the career opportunities available to them, the education necessary to be successful in their chosen field and have a plan to attain their goals. In other words, career readiness is a projective assignment in which one views his future work-life from the present state. The basic tool for the projection is introspection which is an act or process of self-examination for the purposes of inspecting one’s own thoughts, feelings and competencies. Three cardinal questions must be posed and answered by the concerned person:
(1) What abilities (aptitude) and interests have I?
(2) What career do I wish to pursue?
(3) Are my abilities worth making me achieve my desired dream
These questions are in line with the career education model of Ewens, Dopson and Seals (1976) which reveals that in order to pursue an achievable career, there must be a match between the individual’s aptitude (competencies and qualities) and the choice profession. Many other factors such as remuneration, public perception, lucrativity, accruable benefits or opportunities, accessibility, risk factor as well as peer and family influenceare also important in career choice; however, they are secondary compared to aptitude and interest. A career choice made on the basis of personal values, aptitude and interest is a wise decision. A number of theories on career decision making have been propounded to justify the claim and analyse this critical stage of human life. The theories include the following:
• Psychodynamic theories
• Holland personality theory
• Sociological theory
• Developmental theory
• Trait-factor theory
The theories which comprise psychoanalytic, need and self theories are expressed as a single perspective on career decision. The theories hold the view that career decisions are determined by individual’s needs, wants, drives, motives and inclinations. This perspective suggests that career decision making should respect all the afore-listed factors, as each factor is capable of a massive influence in decision making in respect of what career should be undertaken. As cited by Salami (1997), Roe (1954) claims that since individuals differ in needs, they therefore choose different occupations. The needs may arise at any stage of development of an individual and can vary at different stages of development. When the lower level needs such as security needs (biological, food, shelter, rest and security) are met, there is the likelihood to seek a job which would satisfy his higher needs such as esteem, prestige, autonomy, independence, aesthetics and self-actualisation.
Holland personality theory
Holland’s personality theory proposes that career choice is rightly made by assessing individuals in terms of two or three prominent personality types and matching the respective types with the environmental aspects of the potential careers. He identified six personality types namely; realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising and conventional personalities. According to the theorist, while some of the personality types are closely related and the carriers would find their career choice in the same career cluster, the wide disparity in others would take them apart (Table 1).
Table 1: Six personality types
The sociological theorists submit that factors such as culture, parental socio-economic status, educational background and religious affinity contribute in no small measure to factors that determine people’s choice of career.
The theory emphasises a theoretical approach to career choice which is divisible into three phases of fantasy period (below 11 years), tentative period (11-18years) and realistic period (18-22 years). He clarifies that at the fantasy period, the young boy or girl marvels in dream of a choice occupation or profession as a mere desire without any deep thought or concern. The second phase when the child becomes adolescent is the tentative stage as the child thinks of his interests, likes, dislikes and skills in line with what career he could use them to do. The last phase is the realistic period which emphasises the choice made as a result of rational decision. To be rational in this context means that decisions are taken in recognition of personal competence, interest, good knowledge of the career and hope for contentment and self-fulfilment.
Trait-factor theory emphasises three cardinal steps in career decision making: knowledge of self, knowledge of the world of work (the profession) and ability to relate and integrate the knowledge of self and the basic and secondary demands of the streams of assignment in the career. The theory is closely related to Holland's theory because it also supports matching of aptitude, interest and ability with career demands.
To be proactive in the contemporary time, career readiness lessons should be incorporated into the regular curriculum as employers are now desperate in seeking people with a combination of technical and non-technical skills. The non-technical skillsare soft skills, customer service skills and life skills often sought by employers. Career readiness involves the development of three major skills: core academic skills and the ability to apply those skills to concrete situations in order to function in the workplace and in routine daily activities; employability skills such as critical thinking and responsibility which are essential in any career area; and technical, job-specific skills which are related to a specific career pathway.
Steps in career readiness
Choosing a career is a more difficult task due to the various considerations now required compared to the olden days when career and vocation was usually inherited from parents. Career choice today requires a lot of preparation and planning. It requires strategic preparation and planning that involve understanding oneself, discovering a worthy profession and taking necessary steps to tackle barriers and obstacles. One’s temperament, skills, interest, values, lifestyle and cognitive ability are important areas that must be considered in taking a sustainable career decision. Figure 1 below analytically explains the step by step actions to take in career discovery.
a. Understanding oneself
So many people do erroneously believe they know themselves but they know little about themselves. To understand oneself means to identify one’s values, likes, dislikes, interests, temperament, aptitude, attitude, health status, allergies, strength and weaknesses. There are some characteristic traits in people that suggest the career that suit them. Also, understanding one’s qualities, strength and weaknesses will assist a great deal. Individuals with a stronger sense of who they are and where their lives are headed would more likely engage in mature interpersonal relationships and successfully assume adult roles (Beyers&Seiffge-Krenke,2010).
b. Seek career information
Dedicate time and resources to get relevant education and current information on the desired cluster in order to have better awareness of any choice of career. For instance, if interested in Management, read wide on management as a practice beyond the theories, identify various management fields such as human resource management, project management, business management, property management among others. Visit professionals at work; ask questions on their respective fields to know the prospects and challenges. Also, prospective graduates of Law, before or during the Bar Attachment should seek relevant information on the fields of specialization available; identify people in corporate law, maritime law, civil litigation, arbitration and criminal justice to get fair opinions and make the right decision.
Fig. 9.1. Career Search Diagram by Oladejo (2017)
Participation at relevant lectures, seminars and workshops organised by relevant professional groups is also recommended.
c. Seek career counsel
Counselling is designed to assist an individual discover possible alternatives in tackling or solving personal-social, educational or vocational challenges. It is an interactive engagement in which a trained counselling psychologist / counsellor interacts with the counsellee in order to assist him or her on certain challenges with a view to adjusting and living a fulfilled life. According to Makinde (1983), counselling is viewed as an integrative process between a client, who is vulnerable and needs assistance, and a counsellor who is trained and educated to give this assistance. The goal of the interaction is to help the client to learn to deal more effectively with himself and the reality of his condition and to identify pathways towards combating the challenges. It is therefore important to consult a counsellor when the choice of a career path becomes problematic. Seeking counsel from a career specialist would also avert distorted career decision which may lead to career groping (situation in which anyone in search of a career is trapped in obscurity). It may also lead to a waste of time and unfulfilled ambition if the trapped person does not get help on time.
d. Choose a career path
Prospective graduates are to choose a field of interest from the pool of career cluster. They should beware of choosing a career path on account of certain attractive benefits which may not last and fulfilment which may not be derived. In the same way, some flexibility is expected in making career choice: someone who studied Guidance and Counselling and has decided to choose counselling practice as a career path should not foreclose the possibility of teaching or managing a school. A First Class graduate of Banking and Finance who prefers to pursue a career in the banking industry should not foreclose the option of lecturing. This is referred to as career choice flexibility.
e. Acquisition of peculiar skills
Prospective graduates must learn to acquire skills other than their primary expertise (course of study). Such skills would make them compete and set them aside. Individuals who possess certain skills not commonly possessed by their colleagues are likely to be preferred: a prospective Petroleum Engineering graduate could learn swimming which will be an added advantage to secure a job in the onshore industry. Again, an English-speaking journalist who possesses proficiency in French and or Arabic language(s) is no doubt, a better preference. The need for other skills is trending in the labour world today because they offer great leap for organisational growth. According to Edward (2009), overall organisational efficiency and reduction in overhead cost have been linked to the ability of personnel to multi-task. Conscious effort is needed to acquirethese skills.
f. Set career goals
The importance of goal setting at the pre-career engagement stage is to propel fore-thought and focus. It is also an alternative channel to motivate the person to thrive in the face of adversity and discomfort. Goal–setting theory by Locke (1968) postulates that rather than being motivated by needs or feeling of insatiability, humans are motivated by their conscious intentions to attain a specific goal. It is further clarified that once a goal is acceptable and a conscious commitment is made to work towards it, the person’s heightened motivation is reflected in increased effort, persistence and perseverance. The goal-setting plan should include highlights of steps to undertake in pursuit of a chosen career. It is also a set of alternatives to explore in case an earlier option fails. Though, expected to be taken with cautious flexibility, the plan should also indicate time-lag to remain guided within a specified period.
g. Vocational profiling
It is a tool that provides a structured and goal-oriented approach towards securing and maintaining employment in the open labour market within a person-centred approach. The objective is to achieve the best possible match between the job seekers skills and support the needs and the requirements of the job/employer; this is called the job match. Vocational profiling is a tool that service providers may use to facilitate the process so that the job seeker is able to make personal and informed choices about jobs and careers. Vocational profiling aims at developing personal awareness and understanding of opportunities and obstacles in the labour market.
Mentoring is a conscious process of influencing another person, usually a subordinate, to take up one’s personal qualities by choice. It is usually an informal and voluntary relationship between the mentor and the mentee where the mentee is expected to imbibe certain desirable characteristics from the mentor. The process often includes teaching, training, instruction, indoctrination, cultivation, facilitation and impartation. The mentor is expected to influence the mentee’s way of life positively and provide desirable leverage to leap to a greater height like or beyond the mentor. In the past, mentoring was found to be difficult because of distance, but the emergence of Information Technology (IT) has removed the barrier of distance. The mentee could study the biography and career progression of the preferred mentor and begin to follow and relate online. Several social media platforms could be explored for profitable venture as this rather than the usual trivial exchanges for which the youths are known. It is always advisable that the decision to make someone your mentor should be made without biases along ethnic or religious lines.
Employability skills have been cited by employers as the skills most critical to workplace success in the 21st-century economy. These skills include critical thinking, adaptability, problem solving, oral and written communications, collaboration and teamwork, creativity, responsibility, ethics and technology use. Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) agreed that employers placed trust on employees’ adaptability and critical thinking skills which areof greatest importance.Career mobility is often possible if the worker possesses transferable or soft skills. Most people with soft skills can hold jobs with different employers and move across different employment sectors through their working life. There is the need to be flexible in working patterns and be prepared to change jobs if it is believed that there are better opportunities elsewhere. To be flexible, a set of'transferable skills’that are not specific to one particular career path but are relevant in several labour sectors are needed.Employers are often looking for skills that go beyond qualifications and experience. While your education and experience may make you eligible to apply for a job, to be successful on the job, you will need to exhibit a mix of abilities called the employability skills. This means that the specialist, technical skills associated with different roles may be less important than the 'soft skills' that can be transferred between different jobs and different employment sectors. For employers, getting the right people means identifying people with the right skills and qualities to fulfill the role and contribute to the success of theorganisation’s. Candidates may have the qualifications otherwise known as the 'hard skills' needed to be able to manage the job role but without a well-honed set of 'soft skills', employers are less inclined to hire.
What are employability skills?
There are two career skills expected of every skilled labour; these are hard skills (technical competences) and soft skills (transferable attributes). Employability skills are skills necessary for getting, keeping and being successful on a job. They are the skills and attitudes that enable employees to get along with their colleagues, to make critical decisions, solve problems, develop respect and ultimately become strong ambassadors of the organisation. Employability or ‘soft skills’ are the foundation of individual career building blocks which are frequently referred to in the media as lacking in school-leavers, graduates and those already in employment. Organisations spend a lot of time and money training staff in technical or job-specific areas as well as in employability or basic competences. With high unemployment rate, employers have more choice of applicants and will favour those with employability skills. Some of these skills include:
a. Interpersonal Skills
They are life skills used every day to communicate and interact with other people. People who have worked on developing strong interpersonal skills are usually more successful in their professional and personal lives. Good interpersonal skills allow you to participate effectively as a member of a team, satisfy customers and clients' expectations, negotiate, make decisions, manage your time efficiently, take responsibility, and work effectively with other employees. Employers often seek to hire staff with 'strong interpersonal skills' as they will work well in a team and communicate effectively with colleagues, customers and clients. People with good interpersonal skills are usually seen as optimistic, calm, confident and charismatic. A list of interpersonal skills includes:
1. Verbal communication - what we say and how we say it.
2. Non-verbal communication - what we communicate without words, body language is an example.
3. Listening skills - how we interpret both the verbal and non-verbal messages sent by others.
4. Negotiation - working with others to find a mutually agreeable outcome.
5. Problem solving - working with others to identify, define and solve problems.
6. Decision making - exploring and analysing options to make sound decisions.
7. Assertiveness - communicating our values, ideas, beliefs, opinions, needs and wants freely.
b. Communication Skills
Employers look for people who communicate well; both in speaking and in writing. The ability to communicate effectively both orally and in writing is an asset of unimaginable extent. Effective communication entails writing clearly, demonstrating good command of vocabulary and choosing plain language that would be audience-specific for maximum comprehension. Information could be presented in the form of notes, reports, research findings, business plans, scenario planning, risk assessments and strategic documents. You may be asked to give a presentation as part of your initial interview.
Leadership is the ability to influence others towards the achievement of a goal. Leaders are team players who take initiatives and are able to convince others to cooperate. They allow subordinates to work in a group to achieve the best results through cooperative engagements. Leaders show high level of emotional intelligence thereby gaining credibility and respect of others.No doubt, possessing leadership skills could help secure a vantage position in the workplace and may also attractrapid promotion within an organisation. However, the ability to lead effectively is based on a number of key skills. These skills are highly sought after by employers as they involve dealing with people in such a way as to motivate, enthuse and build respect.
Some successful leaders do not have any formal training other than the leadership traits. There are lots of personal qualities that earn one a leadership status; not all leaders are the same because these qualities are not in the same measure in all leaders. Consequently, there are different styles of leadership. Different leadership styles are appropriate for different people and different circumstances, and the best leaders are those who learn to use the styles proportionately.
Numeracy skills involve the understanding of numerical values, data, statistics and graphsfrom which verifiable information are derivable. It is vitalin decision-making and reasoning. Competence and confidence in working with numbers is a skill that can be used to a great advantage in a wide range of employment settings; knowing how profitable a company is is understanding the value of money when purchasing and ordering supplies, following a budget or just calculating your holiday time. The labour world today is highly competitive and being able to make simple calculations and data analysis in different formats are considered an essential skill in many organisations. Luckily, many software packages are available for installation on computer system to aid anyone in this exploit and the advantages can be very rewarding.
Many of the current generation of organisations, though, with expanded operations, have deployed compact mechanisms to carry out their daily operations using information technology (IT) meaning that prospective workers would need adequate IT skills to function in the workplace today. Acquiring basic IT skills and being familiar with using a computer and allied tools may open up a wide range of employment opportunities and increase graduates’ marketability in the workplace.It is likely that a modern job will require workers to be familiar with some computer applicationsto send and receive emails, use the internet effectively, use word processor and spreadsheet software, etc.
Employers look for people who will learn to improve self with little or no supervision. Lifelong learners are always valued in organisations. In order to stay ahead of the competition of the workplace, organisations need people to continually learn and develop better ways of doing things. The employee who is open to learning and embraces change will be more resourceful and successful than the person who is afraid of learning and resistant to changes in the organisation. Employers would prefer people who are adaptable, flexible and patient. Personal development includes learning to avoid potentially negative emotions such as anger and stress while developing assertiveness and effective negotiation skills.
g. Creativity skills
It is a process or practice that expresses an acute sense of ingenuity resulting in unusual concepts, ideas or products and yet attracts values. Creativity cannot be over-emphasised in an organisation as it is needed for novel ideas and performance efficiency. It offers the workers and the organisation a lead to overcome competition. Creativity is aimed at solving problems, designing alternatives as well as setting and accomplishing some valuable goals. Similarly, creativity could also involve sustaining and elaborating original or existing items and developing same to the fullest.
h. Emotional intelligence
Goleman (2001) defined emotional intelligence (EQ) as the ability to understand personal emotions as well as those emotions of other people and using such emotional information to guide actions and thoughts.Though, coined by Michel Beldoch,the concept was made popular by Goleman in 1995 in his bookEmotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than Intelligence Quotient (IQ). It helps people to identify a hidden personal potential lying in everyone. EQ is important to every prospective graduate because it is required to make success of every opportunity before, during and after labour engagement. This is so because it helps in identity discovery, communication, decision making, and leads to a successful professional life. It is established that once people are able to effectively manage their emotions, it will help greatly in several spheres of life relationships. People with high EQ usually attract goodwill and commendation because they are largely disposed to making rational decisions and contributions.
i. Entrepreneurial orientation
Strategic management of organisations (whether manufacturing or service-oriented) involves the use of deep inclination to entrepreneurship to ensure constant relevance.The term entrepreneurial orientation has been used to refer to the strategy making processes and styles employed by individuals that engage in opportunity search. Dess (1998) identifies the following five dimensions of entrepreneurial orientation:
a. Autonomy: Independent action by an individual or team aimed at bringing forth a business concept and carrying it through to completion; profit making and sustenance.
b. Innovativeness: A willingness to employ creativity and experimentation in introducing new ideas, products, services and novelty, technological leadership and landmark research in developing new processes.
c. Risk Taking: A tendency to take bold actions such as venturing into unknown new markets.
d. Proactiveness:This is a quality of being forward-looking with apt readiness towards proffering solutions to problems before hand. Through such a trait, entrepreneurial person could envision the future and decide to design initiatives, new ideas, products or services to exploit up-coming opportunities.
e. Competitive aggressiveness: This refers to extra assertiveness and intensive efforts at outperforming individuals, groups or market rivals. To survive and grow, businesses must adopt entrepreneurial initiatives as part oftheir strategies; which means implementing a dynamic process that stimulates a continuous flow of ideas and providing the potential forcompetitive advantage.
Prospective employees are expected to possess the mindset to challenge the status quo and be motivated to exploit opportunities that abound. An entrepreneurial mindset is a viable asset any employee could have to lead self and his organisation to the platinum position enviable by all and since this is the desire of every management, they look out for applicants with such mindset. Other employability skillsinclude ability to work in a team, problem-solving skills, strong work ethics andtactfulness to mention a few.
Curriculum vitae (CV)
Writing a CV or Résumé
Your CV or résumé sets out your skills and experience. It should demonstrate to any potential employer why you should be hired and not any other skilled candidate who equally presentshimself or herself for employment. It is a detailed document outlining all of your identies, address, qualifications,achievements, associations, awards and skills.
Things you should do when writing a CV
- Start with your name, address, phone number and email address. If your CV runs to more than one page, make sure you include an identifier on every page, probably as a header or footer and page numbers.
- Decide whether you want to start with a personal statement: This is optional, although many CV-writing companies recommend it. It needs to say something real about you; it should not be just a general statement that is applicable to anyone.
- When discussing achievements, focus on what you have actually done and the end result achieved.
- Include everything relevant in ‘Work Experience’ and ‘Education’: Check the essential requirements for the job, and make sure you have included everything mentioned.
- Ensure your spellings and grammars are correct:Proof-read it yourself and get someone else with a good knowledge of spelling and grammar to take another look at it before you send it.
- Work on your presentation: Use a standard and professional-looking font such as Arial or Calibri, which is easy to read. It should not be smaller than 10 point for body text; it may be larger for headings. Do not, under any circumstances, be tempted to use Comic Sans Serif. Include 2 or 3 referees that are familiar with your work: their names, address, phone numbers and email address in your CV.
Mistakes and pitfalls to avoid
- Do not be tempted to lie, you will be found out sooner or later and, if a lie has got you a job, it will lose you one too.
- Avoid leaving gaps in your career history: Large gaps in your CV gives the impression that you have been around doing nothing instead of having the initiative to go out and get a temporary job. If you do not have much work experience, every bit of experience you have is useful and you should show what you learned from it be it teamwork or otherwise.
Do not start your CV with the dull bits
Many people make the mistake of starting with their education and qualifications. That is really dull. Start with your key skills, and what you have actually achieved in life. If potential employers like your key skills then they will read on to your qualifications.
Do not include irrelevances
Hobbies and interests that have not developed your skills or relevant to the job should not be added to your CV.
Do not exaggerate or lie in your CV- Be sure your ‘sins’ (exaggerations) will find you out. Illustrated below is a scenario:
As a very junior in her first graduate job, Lizzy was astonished to pick up her phone one day to find the company CEO on the other end of the line. “Hello,” he said. “You know about canoeing, don’t you?” “Yes, absolutely,” she replied. She had relied heavily on the experience gained from running a university canoe club on her CV. It was one of the few subjects she still felt certain about six weeks into the job.“Good,” he said. “I’ve got a CV here from someone who says he’s got a One Star award in canoeing. What does that mean?”“It’s the most basic canoeing qualification available. You can get it after a day’s course.”“Hmm, Not very impressive then,” grunted the CEO. “Have you got one?” “Oh yes. I’m qualified to teach it.”The candidate in question did not receive an interview. He probably never knew quite why.
Do not make your CV too long
Do not let your CV be more than two pages.The font can be smaller, you can widen the margins and shorten the gaps between paragraphs; it should not be more than two pages.
Do not use an unprofessional email address
Get a professionallooking email address with your name and not a nickname. Instead of email@example.com, you can use firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com depending on the availability of the domain name you want. Be careful if you use the email address that is linked to your Facebook page or other social media accounts. It is very easy for potential employers to search social media sites for email addresses, which could mean they find out a lot more about you than you would like. You may however want potential employers to find your LinkedIn account.
The golden rule of CV writing
Put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes and think about what they need to know about you. Use your CV to tell them what they need to know upfront and clearly. Your CV will not get you the job but, if done well, should give you at least a foot in the door.
Writing a cover letter
A cover letter is the most essential part of your application. It is far more than just a note saying ‘Please find enclosed my CV’. This is the part of your application that really sells you to your potential employer and shouts out Me! Me! You want me!’ louder than anyone else’s letter. Without a good cover letter, your résumé is unlikely to be read.
The precise form of your letter will vary from sector to sector, but there are certain principles that are common to all and one absolutely fundamental rule.
Rule Number One
Your cover letter must be tailored to the sector, to the employer and to the job. You cannot cut and paste successfully from a previous application, so do not try. Your cover letter needs to demonstrate that you understand the needs of the company and the particular post, so it has to be written with the job in mind.The only possible exception is if you are making a number of speculative applications to very similar organisations in the same sector, wanting the same kind of work. But even then, it is best to tailor your cover letter, at least slightly.
Guidelines for writing a cover letter
- Check whether you are going to apply by post or email, and whether the company wants a letter created as a separate document, a statement of suitability or a covering email. Sending the wrong format could be enough to get your application binned.
- If you have been asked for a letter, include your address, email at the top right hand corner. The name and address of the person you are sending it to should be to the left. If you are sending it by email, then it is not essential to have the full postal address, but you should at least have the full name and job title, with email underneath.
- It is not necessary to include your phone number, especially if it is already in your CV.
- If you know the name of the person you are writing to, then write use their title when you address them: ‘Dear Mr/Ms/Mrs/Miss X’. Do not write ‘Dear John Smith’. If you really cannot find a name, write ‘Dear Sir’. If their name is ‘Sir John Smith’, write ‘Dear Sir John’.
- If there is a job reference number, or a given job title, make sure that you include it underneath the ‘Dear X’. For example, “Administrative Assistant Post (Ref AdAsst)”.
- Use a standard, easy-to-read font, and do not make it too small. As a general rule, Times New Roman should be no smaller than 11 point, and Arial no smaller than 10 point for readability on screen.
- Keep your letter to two pages of A4 or less.
The content of the cover Letter or statement of suitability
The introductory paragraphThis needs to strike the right note to introduce you in a way that fits the job, the company and you. Its tone will depend on the job and the sector. It might, for instance, say something like:Please find enclosed my CV in application for the job of [insert job title], advertised in/on [publication or website]. I believe that my combination of skills and experience [and particularly my experience at x, or my ability to do y] make me the ideal candidate for this post.
Alternatively, if you are applying for a very unlikely career change, then you might want to make more of a ‘splash’ with your first paragraph, and say something like:You may be wondering why I am applying for this job when, on the face of it, my skills and experience are likely to be very different from most other candidates. However, I believe that this would be a great job for me, and my unique approach to it, bringing as it does [skill x] and [experience y] would be a great benefit to your company.Do not be afraid to be bold but, just as with your CV or resume, do not lie about your skills or experience.
The main section
The main section of your cover letter should be structured around the job description and person specification. You may want to structure the main section of your covering letter into sub-sections, with headings, to make it easier for the recruiter to see how you meet each requirement. Phrases such as ‘I demonstrated my ability to do x’, or ‘This also demonstrates my experience at y’, ’My ability to manage/run/achieve [x] speaks for itself: I have [list of achievements in x].’.’I hope it goes without saying from my list of previous jobs that I am [extremely flexible/good at timekeeping/whatever you want to demonstrate].’“I first developed [skill y] in [job x], but have honed it since in [mention jobs].’ can be used to show what you have achieved in the past.
Ensure that you have mentioned every skill or piece of experience that is described as ‘essential’ on the person specification, and as many as possible of the ‘desirable’ ones. If you have not, your application will probably be rejected automatically.Also, edit and polish your write up within two pages (whether it is being sent as a separate document) or as a covering email. Potential employers or recruitment panels may have many cover letters to read in a limited time.
The closing paragraph
This needs to wrap up your letter or statement neatly, and make clear what action the reader will be taking as a result of reading it, but without sounding arrogant.So it might be for example: “I hope this convinces you that I have the necessary skills and experience to achieve as [insert job title]. I look forward to hearing from you.’If this is a letter, sign off with ’Yours sincerely’ if you have addressed it to someone by name, and ’Yours faithfully’ if you started with ’Dear Sir/Madam’.
Check and send
Go over your letter to ensure that there is no error. Then get someone you trust, who has a good eye for detail, to read it over for you, looking for typographical errors, grammatical errors and inconsistencies. It is also helpful if you can get somebody who knows something about the sector and/or job, to check your letter. They may spot potential problems or suggest ways that you could tweak your letter for maximum effect. Lastly, make sure you submit it in the required format, whether letter, attachment to an email, or in the text of the email.
On a final note, remember that the more applications you send, the more interviews you are likely to get, do not be disheartened if your first few applications are unsuccessful. You may not even get feedback from many organisations, but just keeping sending off targeted applications, and seeking feedback on them wherever possible to improve the next one, and you will hopefully start to get interview.
If you are going to impress at interview, you need to prepare thoroughly. This section sets out what to do to prepare, how to behave and react in the interview and what you might expect at an interview. The most important thing to remember about any interview is that it is a two-way process. It is as much about you finding out whether you want to work for the company as them finding out whether they want you. This means it is important to present yourself as you really are, not pretend to be something you are not.
Preparing for the interview
Two main fronts to prepare for are:
Research the organisation: You must find out as much as you can about the company by looking at their website, and any information that they have sent you, and see if you can find their mission, objectives, any value statements and the like. It is helpful to be familiar with the organisation’s guiding principles. Also try to find out how the job that you have applied for fits into the organisation.
Make a list of the questions about the organisation: Your list should include questions such as the team you will be working with, the work that you will be doing on a daily basis. It is probably not a great idea to ask whether you will be able to work part-time at this stage. Either you should already have done that before applying, or you need to be prepared to work the hours stated.It is also helpful to prepare answers for some of the standard icebreakers, such as ‘Tell me a bit about your current job’, or ‘Tell me why you’ve applied for this job’. Your answers should focus on your skills, and how you can use them in the new job, again based around the person specification. Do not learn them off by heart, but have a good idea of what you want to say.
Tests and presentations
Some interviews require you to make a short presentation, or to take a test. The details will always be included in the letter inviting you to interview, so you will have time to prepare. If you have been asked to make a presentation, do not assume that there will be PowerPoint, or that you will be standing in front of a group.
You may be invited to bring a handout. It is worth spending a bit of time making a one-page handout that fully summarises your presentation, whether it is a mind-map, a picture of some sort, or your five key take-home messages. Think about what you want them to remember from your presentation, and make sure that is clear from your handout.
Attending the interview
Some General Dos and Don’ts
Arrive in good time. The interview panel may be interviewing a lot of candidates so do not keep them waiting.
Dress appropriately. Some organisations, especially technology companies, have a very casual dress code but, for most, a suit will be appropriate interview wear. Remember that you are being judged on the appearance that you present.
Act appropriately, which usually means following the interviewer’s lead. If you are offered a hand to shake, then shake it, but donot offer your own hand if nobody else seems interested.
Engage with the interviewers. Smile, make eye contact, and answer the questions that are asked using relevant examples where at all possible.
What to expect in the interview
How many interviewers?
The letter inviting you to interview will probably state who will be interviewing you. It is often three to five people, because that removes any individual bias, so do not be surprised to walk in and find a roomful of people. One will probably take the lead, and explain who will be asking questions as well as the role of the others. When you are asked a question, reply to the person who asked the question. The others may intervene, either during or after your answer, in which case you need to reply to the intervention. Again, reply to that person and not to the group generally.
The chapter views career readiness and employability skills from a holistic perspective. Career readiness and employability skills are considered as very vital indices of success in the labour market to secure due advantage. The chapter emphasises the importance of these two cardinal concerns in the life of would-be graduates and admonishes that adequate preparation (with the two in focus) is a prerequisite to overall success in their job search after graduation. It specifically clarifies that aptitude of a person should be a determinant of the job type one undertakes and such must align with the requirements of a given vocation to ensure a perfect skills-job match. The chapter further highlights specific steps to be noted in order to get ready for certain vocations and professions. It is warned that conscious effort must be taken to acquire employability skills; technical skills and soft skills in particular while a comprehensive guide on how to prepare a résumé concludes the chapter.
a. Explain in details the term ’Employability skill’.
b. Highlight 5 employability skills and indicate their places in graduate recruitment process.
c. Define the term ’Career’ and highlight the steps required of a prospective graduate towards career readiness.
d. Is entrepreneurship skill required of a prospective graduate who is not hoping to start a business but seeking for a white collar job?
e. Illustrate career search processes using the Holland theory of career development
f. Discuss briefly the steps involved in writing a CV or Resume.
g. What are the general guidelines involved in writing a cover letter?
h. List 5 ’dos’ and ‘don’ts’ in attending an interview.
i. A student in his final year was in total dilemma and despaired about the future when he considered that there are so many unemployed graduates out there still looking for job. He decided to meet with a counsellor and a recruitment agency on what steps to take to ensure he will get employment after the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). As an experienced agent in the recruiting firm and a good counsellor, he was directed to meet with you. What are the advice you would give to him to ensure he is employable after his youth service?
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