My brother is in university now and he came to me few months back asking about some career advice and internships that he should apply for. I gave him some tips, and yes, he secured that job for summer. So therefore, this piece. I wanted to title this article – ‘What I did as a student to get the job I want‘. Then, I thought it sounded strange, and my mind shifted to drama serials where young employees sleep their way to the top. No no, this piece is not about that.
As someone who graduated from one of the three local universities in Singapore (barely got in lol), I have met some really motivated students. There were some who started with their entrepreneurship journey right during school, some who knew what they wanted to do with an undying passion, and those that went for 6 rounds of interview to score that high paying internship job. My route though, was a little more chill and this was what I did.
Here’s some advice for students in boosting your CV. A disclaimer though, this worked for me as a communications graduate / professional, if you are looking at things like an engineering or finance route, I guess only the general rules apply.
- Determine what you want to do, or at least have a general field that you want to pursue
I chose my first major through an article that I wrote to Cleo Magazine. It was a ‘Free Speech’ section where I submitted my thoughts to a lifestyle topic. I thought to myself at that time that if that article was published, I would choose Communications as my first major. My second major would then be Geography or maybe I would become an environmental journalist (very rare combination in 2009 though pretty common now).
Though this might sound very trivial, many people do not end up working in the field of what they studied. With a bachelor’s degree in the field that I want to work in, I now have at least the first ‘pass’ into the industry, or the ‘minimum requirements’.
2. Secure internships
I know, holidays are important, especially when you get 3-4 months off during the summer break! Well, I would say, take a break, but don’t waste your holidays slacking at home. How did I get my internships? Firstly, always check your university career office. I understand that some actually have bad reps in terms of their effectiveness but it is always somewhere to start. The next step will be to google these internships – you never know what you will find because there are things out there that you do not know exist!
For me, as I was saying, Geography and communications have always been my interests so I checked out Asian Geographic Magazine. There were no job vacancies at that time so I emailed them directly. Guess what, I secured one! Dream internship alert! That was my first experience in communications – editorial, covering events, social media management, I even published my first few articles there!
My other internships came from the Career Office (through email) and another one through their listings. Though I was not selected for a job but they called me back for another – Mediacorp Market Research! It was cool working there and having lunch stargazing. Oh, I loved their fashion sales too where they had yard sales to sell clothes that celebrities wore for shows. I was lucky I was really skinny then (haha).
3. Build your network and portfolio
Through my internships I met all kinds of people from different nationalities. This exposed me to different cultures and also my first freelance writing jobs that I could add to my growing portfolio of work. Never ever treat anyone badly and always be sincere to others because you never know when you will cross paths with them again. It wouldn’t hurt too if these ex-colleagues / friends you make write testimonials for your first real job.
4. Go for exchange if you can
Although not easy in this COVID-19 climate, go for an international exchange if you can. It is an experience where you grow up (I am partially ashamed and also amused that I first learnt how to iron my clothes at the age of 22 and I can remember my friend who taught me that!), build stories of your own that you can share with future friends or colleagues, and understand how other countries work. For a communications person – it means easier understanding for intercultural communications, for an editorial person it means broadening your horizons to stories and ideas. For me, I did an exchange programme in Hong Kong and Copenhagen. It was in Copenhagen that I understood that life is not only about working, shopping but so much more (okay I also attended a talk by a nobel prize IPCC person and also their parliament so very impressed)! In Hong Kong, I built the best long-lasting friendships and probably had the most fun partying experience in Lan Kwai Fong.
5. Capture this in your CV
All this stuff that you did, and all for nothing if you can’t capture it in a proper CV. I guess it depends on your industry – whether formal, creative, there are many tutorials and examples that you can look for online. Best of all, though I didn’t do that, make full use of your career services in school (you’re paying for it anyway through your school fees) to run through your CV and even interviews with you.
Hope this helps and all the best for your job search!