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Nailing your job hunt: A guide for school leavers

In this article, we share vital tips for school leavers entering the job market, emphasising the importance of soft skills, resilience, digital literacy, and a schmick resume.

Every January, countless school leavers across Australia embark on their job-hunting journey.

A NSW Government survey conducted in 2021 found that of 42,388 secondary school leavers, approximately 50% continued to higher education, while the remaining 50% chose to seek employment (14% apprenticeship; 13% part-time work; 8% full-time work; 7% looking for work; 5% traineeship; 3% other).

That’s roughly 21,000 job-seekers – in NSW alone – hitting the employment market all at once! Extrapolate that across all of Australia, and you see where this is going.

Given that a single job advertisement might attract scores of applicants, how can you stand out from the crowd?

Drawing attention to your resume is easily achieved with little effort. Consider these points:

Soft skills

Don’t think you have experience? Think again!

Perhaps you’ve done volunteer work, played a team sport, performed in a school play or fed the neighbour’s cat while they travelled.

A positive attitude, ability to articulate an idea, reliability, problem solve or work in a team are considered soft skills – and they’re highly prized.

Your activities and hobbies tell employers a lot about you. Showcase them on your resume and talk about them during interviews.

Resilience and EI

Employers value candidates demonstrating emotional intelligence (EI) and resilience.

EI behaviours include: taking constructive criticism, displaying empathy and patience with others, resolving conflicts, awareness of cultural sensitivities, etc.

Characteristics of resilience include: bouncing-back from setbacks, willingness to change, etc.

When you provide examples of these attributes, potential employers gain an insight into how you communicate, develop relationships, support others and motivate yourself and those around you.

Digital literacy

Get familiar with the corporate software and tools specific to your chosen industry. Study advertised position descriptions to understand what companies are using and their expectations of candidates.

Resources like LinkedInLearning have literally thousands of online courses. There may be a subscription fee but – huge tip – many local libraries include free LinkedInLearning access as part of your library membership.

Prospective employers will be impressed with your effort to upskill yourself and your commitment to ongoing learning.

Your brand

Conduct a self-audit of your digital presence. Employers often check social media profiles so it’s important your online views and attitudes align with your professional image.

Get active on business platforms like LinkedIn, and share and comment on industry content. Build a network by connecting with professionals in your chosen field and attending business events or workshops.

Don’t be afraid to reach out for guidance – most people will be pleased to help.

Write a schmick resume

Check out the government’s Job Jumpstart website (www.jobjumpstart.gov.au) for hints and a whole lot more on writing effective resumes and cover letters.

And here’s another big tip: never underestimate the value of correct spelling and punctuation. If you don’t know the difference between their, there and they’re, or your, you’re and yore, polish your grammar skills and don’t rely on spell-check.

And finally…

Get interview ready. Anticipate questions and practise responding. Remember that there are very few opportunities in life where you’ll be encouraged to talk about yourself and your achievements. So, without being arrogant or braggy, relax and enjoy the moment.

If you’re not successful in securing the job, handle it with professionalism and think about where you might improve. Consider it a learning experience rather than failure!

Entering the workforce, applying and interviewing for jobs, can be daunting. But when you do land that gig, there’s no buzz to compare with earning your own money.

You’ve made it and you’re announcing to the world: I’m on my way, just try and stop me!

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