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Alumni: how we got employed

Alumni: how we got employedYoung Professionals from different regions of the world were invited to share their experience of job hunting, during the YPARD and Agrinatura Career Fair, held on 16, September 2014, on the sideline of the Tropentag at CULS (Czech University of Life Sciences), Prague.

"I didn't apply for many jobs; I wanted to keep a focus, target and apply for those jobs I was interested in." Linda, Nicaragua, says. “After you build your CV and Motivation Letter (ML) few times, you get to understand what employers want.” She carries on: “When I was writing my thesis, I didn't search for a job - I wanted and needed to focus on my thesis, whereas my fellows had started applying for opportunities. I eventually was one of the first to get a job. I started an internship with low pay for three months in the US. This was a risk as I had graduated at the spike of the crisis.”

Linda used this internship as a platform to apply for her current job, which she found through a website.  Hundreds of people had applied for the same job. She had written a strong Motivation Letter and she carries on sharing it with her friends." I became a master in marketing myself". Linda has now been in this same company for three years and uses this experience as a platform to find a new opportunity.

For Gabriele, Italy, everything happened thanks to informal networking, some months after the end of his studies. Mariola, Spain, thinks she should have applied before finishing her master’s thesis in order to find a position earlier, but at that time, she knows she wouldn't have done it differently: one is so busy writing his/her thesis. “As an ideal, it is best to start searching for a job six months before wanting to get a job. Apply, network, brand yourself online. With social media, you get to know who is who among employers. In September, you finish your masters, after December, you are getting impatient if you're not employed yet. Do a low paid job; it will enable you to stay active, gain experience and build your CV.” She suggests.

Proyuth Ly, Cambodia, got his job one month after he finished his masters because he looked for it right after giving his thesis. The main issue he faced is: employers asking for experience. He worked for less than a year and went for a PhD. After this, he searched for a job again – it was difficult because he needed practical experience.

"I was perhaps naive to think that with a master I was raising my chances to get a job. Marta, Romania, says. There are so many people with practical experience able to do the same job. Learn from the negative replies - don't be deceived and carry on being actively involved with low paid job and volunteering.”

The secret of their success?

  • Aim first at being shorlisted. How? Write a good CV and Motivation Letter with key ideas related to the ToR/tasks allocated. It has to be effectively put because employers have no time. “I knew everything about the organisation where I applied to. Other applicants didn't know.  Also, employers are searching for nice people - they must feel comfortable with you.” Linda says.  “Be specific on how you will contribute to the organization with strong arguments and concrete examples. Focus on few but strong arguments.  Give practical answers on how it would concretely happen on the field – this also applies for interviews. “ Proyuth advises. “Ask people to read your CV and ML – your friends, lectures, colleague. ” Gabrile suggests. Grasp more tips on this blog post on: how to apply for an opportunity – successfully.
  • Network: at the end we always find the same faces in our sector. Join networks like YPARD, connect with others and be active.
  • Gain experience through volunteering or low paid positions if needed – Practical experience may very often prove being an asset – even for strategic positions (you know what you are concretely dealing with).
  • Wait or don’t wait to finish your masters before starting job hunting – the decision is yours, depending on the situation you face.
  • Versatility and Inter-disciplinary approach is important – employers want people able to think, reflect and look at the “big picture”.  Also, having experience in challenging environments helps you to be more competitive: the employer will trust your ability to handle any situation.

Behavior and personal skills

  • Adopting the right attitude may not be stressed enough to young professionals. Improving public speaking is one of those skills. Use your passion and hard work to build your experience and go on the next platform.
  • Bureaucracy and politics isn't something you learn in educational programs. It may be frustrating when you are active and want "action now". Learn to adapt to the context.

PhD versus Master

What is the added value of a PhD over a Master? It may all depend on your professional projects and context.

“A PhD in Spain may be more for your personal enrichment than for making yourself more employable because of the economic situation ( - in the extent that you like the topic!)”, Mariola says. In some other countries, a Phd may open more opportunities for research positions, with higher salary. The main disadvantage of a Phd is that it is not counted as professional experience. In any case, be passionate about your topic - it is four years of your life!

“Know what you want. I want to be researcher, to be teacher, and I know I need a PhD. We are all different; you need to assess if it is important for your own plans. You may not need a PhD to be director of my department, for example”. Linda says.

Did you know? Universities send general offer for students to submit their topic. To apply, one must send a CV, a cover letter, and a concept note. The calls for proposals generally propose broad topics; it lets quite a freedom to tailor your own specific topic.

What are the compromises / the dark side of your success stories

Leaving home and family, certainly, isn’t something easy, such as leaving all the relationships built on the way. It may be also hard sometimes to find a balance with personal time. However, one will always have to make choices. For Linda, this experience is a mean for a bigger end: she prepares herself to be able to get back in Nicaragua and do something of it – as a researcher and lecturer. 

Young Professionals’ main weaknesses:

The main weaknesses expressed by the alumni were their lack of communications skills, particularly on communicating ideas; networking; knowing the cloud of acronyms; self-confidence (particularly as a woman); writing skills; facilitation skills/coordinating a group discussions or some team work.

Do you agree with these Young Professionals’ point of view? Do you share the same experience, or at the opposite, have you faced complete different situations? Please do share your insights and experience with us,  by commenting below.

Read also:

Students, Young Professionals, Universities and Employers get together – YPARD and Agrinatura Career Fair

Are you employable? - TIPS from YPARD members

Employers tell what they want from you(th)

Be entrepreneur; Create Opportunities!

Picture credit: Hansjurg Jager – YPARD Europe.