In the last 10 years, the number of higher education institutions has increased worldwide, churning out high volumes of university graduates to the point where the perceived value of a bachelor’s degree has decreased. In this day and age, simply graduating from university just isn’t enough to differentiate yourself from the crowd and guarantee you a quality job.
With this in mind, we will be introducing a new column on ProspectsASEAN.com called InsideTake. In this column, we will collaborate with industry leaders who frequently engage with student leaders and top talents across the region. Through their extensive experience, they will aim to provide invaluable perspectives to enable you to better navigate an increasingly competitive job market.
Our first column piece features Ms. Sunita Kaur, Graduate Program Senior Manager for Asia Pacific at Oracle. With nearly 20 years of experience in the field, the HR leader shares with us 5 key traits that she believes will set apart successful graduates from the average job applicant. As a starting point, building on 2-3 of the following traits will already position you ahead of the curve.
1. Personal Branding
You may have heard of the phrase ‘first impressions matter’. For hiring managers like me, they do. Ultimately, personal branding comes down to how you carry yourself. For example, when attending job interviews, it’s worth taking the effort to dress to impress. We don’t expect you in a three-piece suit but going the extra mile to dress right – which can be as simple as an ironed shirt and matching tie for males and an appropriate blouse and skirt for females – can really differentiate you as a candidate and make you stand out. As recruiters, we meet many candidates, so any distinctions will keep you fresh in our minds.
When it comes to personal branding, punctuality is also key. I recall how a candidate arrived for an interview for the Oracle’s Graduate Program at 7.30am, which was supposed to start at 9.00am. Later I learned that the reason for his early arrival was to give himself some time for self-composure and mental preparation to deliver his best.
In the end, it is important to show enthusiasm, integrity, and dedication in everything that you do as a professional. The positive energy you display at the workplace will translate into how you portray yourself to others – and the way in which you represent your organisation.
2. People Skills
‘People skills’ refers to your ability to effectively communicate and engage with different groups of stakeholders. When you enter the workforce, you’ll be working with a diverse group of people from different generations and backgrounds. As you progress in your career, it is important to develop the ability to understand people. In doing so, you can then tailor your interactions with different people based on their personalities and engagement styles.
Remember the candidate I mentioned earlier? He’s a prime example of someone who is able to effectively interact with senior leaders. On top of having a great understanding of the basic principles of professional networking, what sets him apart is how he’s able to make everyone feel comfortable around him by simultaneously being confident and respectful.
3. Proactiveness & Resourcefulness
In the wake of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, many organisations are transforming their workforce to become more lean and agile. Consequently, expectations are higher for employees to be independent and take charge of their learning trajectory. While you will typically receive mentorship and coaching as a young professional, you should also be proactive and learn to take initiative.
When tackling challenges, it is always best to proceed by first exhausting all possible avenues in an attempt to at least partially solve them before consulting your superior. This demonstrates your ability to be resourceful and think outside the box to get the task completed. A good place to start would be:
- The Internet – Always a good first resource to use. Virtually everything is there in this digital age; there’s no excuse to avoid Google!
- Your colleagues – Draw from their experiences. They may have taken on a similar project or challenge in the past and can provide you with useful advice and guidance.
4. Decision-Making & Problem-Solving
The ability to continually make effective decisions in the workplace is crucial. Sometimes you will make right decisions and other times you will inevitably make wrong ones. But either way, you should not be afraid to make your own choices and chart your own path. Be confident when justifying why you are proposing and choosing a certain idea or method of execution and back it up with validated & supporting facts.
Conducting thorough analyses and proposing solutions to complex problems is a highly valued skill in the workplace today. Take the time to undertake proper research and consult relevant stakeholders when tackling a problem. Approaching your colleagues who have the relevant experience is always a right step forward, as positive team synergies can help bring new and innovative solutions to the table.
Agility is about embracing and adapting to changes in the workplace. This means staying up to date with the latest advancements to carry out your work functions in a more efficient manner. For example, a few years ago I would use Webex and Task Pigeon as my go-to applications for video conferencing and team collaborations. However, with recent technological advancements, my colleagues and I have now moved on to Zoom and Slack to optimize our work performance.
Agility is also a mindset. When you’re ready to embrace change in all its shapes and forms, you demonstrate that you are flexible and open to new ideas. The ability to “learn, unlearn, and re-learn” is crucial, because you will always need to adapt to new trends and technology. Be curious and when offered a challenge, think ‘Okay, let me see what I can do’.
Take it from Richard Branson, who said, “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you are not sure you can do it say yes – and learn how to do it later.” Go out there and take on the world!