Smart Living Tip: Dear new graduate

Monday, November 23, 2015

It might not be the case everywhere, but in New Zealand the school year follows the calendar year. Unis have finished another semester and rolled out a bunch of fresh graduates, hopefully radiating and optimistic about their futures with their first real jobs in the line in the next few weeks or months. Others may be suffering from lack of sleep from the recent exams preparations, and some may even feel a bit daunted about what the following months or years hold for them. 

Just because you've studied for three or four years, it doesn't necessarily make you an expert on that subject, and it definitely doesn't mean that you have your career sorted out. 

For the still very confused and lost, here are a bunch of questions to help find themselves:

Step one.

  • What do you like to do? What are you good at? What do you want to be better at? 
Assess your strengths and weaknesses. They could be knowledge you hold or skills you have gained over the years.

  • Who do you want to become? 
Let's daydream for a while. What kind of person would you like to be? What kind of titles would you like to hold? Maybe you already have brands you'd like to work for, or dream or being your own boss. Do you see yourself in jeans friendly environment or would you prefer to be more in corporate business attires? Freelancer or team member? How would you like to be seen, in one, five, ten, twenty years? If you see yourself as a manager and/or director one day, what kind of a leader would you like to be, and how do you think you could get there? This links to a preview question, 'What do you want to be better at,' so you have a rough idea of what skills you need to build up on to get to there.

  • Where do you want to live/work?
We live in a mobile world where it is not unusual for the young to move cities and even countries, even multiple times, during their lives. Now that you have an idea or what you would like to do and how you could get there, it is time to think about where to start making it happen. For example, in New Zealand, if you'd like to work as a diplomat, Wellington would be a good bet, since most embassies are situated there. If you just need the Internet, then perhaps a co-shared office or a network of cafes or even a comfortable home office could do the trick. It's also important to think about the commute distance from home to work. You don't want to be stuck in traffic for over an hour each morning/evening!

  • Why? What is the value in this?
Just because we are here to try to analyse ourselves, let's ask, 'Why?' to each of the questions we've asked so far. Why do we want to be better at this? Why do we want to hold this and that position?

Step two.

Job search is about timing, as with everything in life, I find. You want to be the right person for the right position at the right time. There are so many possibilities out there, that if you don't know what it is you want, the search can be overwhelming. When you are ready to find a job, the above questions should help in narrowing the hunting parameters.

  •  Job search sites
There are heaps of job search sites out there. In New Zealand, and are good places to start. You also have in Australia, and is one I like to use for positions in the UK. These are big sites, so if you already know which industry you want to go for, you may want to look at your industry-specific sites, as well. Set alerts to be sent to your inbox. If you don't think these are personalised enough, you could also try seeking a recruiter to find your perfect positions for you.

  • CV & Cover Letter
Hopefully you don't come across a position you really want, only to find that your CV is not ready. But your CV should also be customised for the role for which you're applying. For a recent graduate with little professional experience, your education should be at the top of the page. In France, 1 page is the norm, whereas in NZ, 2-3 is more acceptable. In Korea, profile photos taken in studios are mandatory. For the general help on the format and word suggestions, try those same big job search sites above.


Your first job does not dictate the company or industry you will be stuck with for the rest of your life. It's only the starting point, where you will gain valuable experience, and will serve as the stepping stone or bridge to your next professional adventure. Your professional life is not your entire life, either, so make sure there's always time for your loved ones along the way.

Happy job searching, young graduate!

Click to download a simple checklist for a job hunter.

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