Stand out from the rest and get the job
In a competitive job market, it is important to try and stand out from the crowd. In the last two months, we have witnessed graduate job seekers employing creative methods to catch the eye of potential employers. I am referring to the two graduates whose photos have circulated in the social media showing them carrying placards along the busy Nairobi roads looking for employment.
In a saturated job market like Kenya, a candidate needs much more than a certificate. At Corporate Staffing Services where I head the recruitment department, I am a witness as to how competitive the market is. For example, last week we were recruiting an accountant for our client and we got over 2,500 candidates. The sad part is we only required to forward five best candidates for the final interviews with the employer. You can imagine out of 2,500 candidates we were only able to meet 12 candidates and out the 12, five qualified for the next stage. This is replicated across the board. They are too many qualified candidates chasing very few job openings, and the economy is not creating as many jobs.
If you are a job seeking, how can you stand out from the competition?
For those in campus, I’d advise you start familiarising yourself with the job market while still in school. Go for an internship during your break. Take some part-time jobs whenever free. If possible opt for evening classes so that you can be busy during the day.
When you start early you able to build on important soft skills like time management, communication and interpersonal skills. The career world will also expose you to what employers look for in a candidate. You also have a chance to build networks which will come in handy after graduating.
The job market will look at you favourably if you have a second upper degree and some experience as opposed to getting a first class degree and no work exposure.
For those already employed, the important thing is to understand that job search takes time. I know of candidates who have taken up to two years to get a job of their dream. Starting early helps you evaluate job offers as opposed to accepting a job because you are desperate.
I know you’ve heard of this term but what exactly is networking? Networking is positioning yourself in such a way that when opportunities are available people think of you first.
You can network with family members, your immediate community i.e. at church, current and past professional colleagues etc. Networking is becoming visible and people getting to know your skills and area of expertise; and you become visible by showcasing your skills by volunteering, attending professional seminars and making a point of reaching out to others through coffee dates or lunches. Do not be the type of friend who only seeks others when in trouble. Make a point of engaging with others without expecting anything from them. More importantly, differentiate professional and social networking.
Remember, over 50% of jobs are never advertised. People get to know them through trusted networks. If you want to stand out from the crowd build a professional network.
It is a paradox out there. On one hand, candidates are busy going back to school for more “certificates” that will make them “competitive”. On the other hand, employers are asking for skilled professionals. Employers are interested in individuals who can get the job done as opposed to a highly educated person with no skills.
If you are in the job market I’d recommend you take the time to figure out your tasks well. Understand how things work. Devote time to learning your job as much as possible. Understand your sector and industry. Analyse the competitive forces shaping your industry. This way you will get the right skills and become attractive to potential employers.
Candidates out there are interested in pursuing MBA’s thinking that this gives them an edge. Sometimes it does but largely employers are interested in your skills and area of expertise. In a lot of cases and you can confirm this by going through job adverts, an MBA is an added advantage.
You might be the most skilled person, well networked and yet miss opportunities. This is where branding comes in. How do others perceive you? Do people take you seriously? Do you dress professionally? What about your CV? Is it a good representation of your skills and expertise? Do you come off as timid and shy or as a confident professional who knows their stuff?
How you package yourself is important. Remember people make judgment all the time. It is your duty to ensure that they judge you positively all the time. If you would like tips on personal branding there are tonnes of materials online.
Write a winning CV:
CVs have become too many and any advertised position attracts thousands if not hundreds of CVs. It is your duty to make yours stand out from the pile by ensuring that it communicates what the employer is looking for.
Do not fall into the lazy cycle of submitting a standard CV for every job that you apply for. Taking a few minutes to customise your CV to every job will attract the recruiter’s attention. Scrutinise what the employer is looking for and highlight these points in your CV.
There are many other ways that a candidate can brand themselves to stand out from the crowd but I believe the five I have highlighted are among the most important. It is a competitive market and only those who know how to market themselves will stand out.
Too many times, I have received CVs where candidates do not take the time to highlight their uniqueness and show how their skills are relevant to the advertised position. A recruiter will hardly have the time read through your CV looking for relevant information. Remove the ‘noise’ and let your CV speak of your skills and experience at a glance. Ensure that you stand out from the crowd by being relevant.