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Forging a career path for undergraduates

JCU's Career Services team provides a dedicated career development programme to help students embark on their preferred careers. PHOTO: JAMES COOK UNIVERSITY
JCU's Career Services team provides a dedicated career development programme to help students embark on their preferred careers. PHOTO: JAMES COOK UNIVERSITY

The Career Services team at the Singapore campus of James Cook University engages in “career education” for future success

The process of identifying a suitable career to match one’s strengths and skillsets, and taking the requisite steps to prepare for it, can be a daunting one.

To help guide undergraduates in this process, the Singapore campus of James Cook University (JCU) has a Career Services team that provides a dedicated career development programme.

This aims to impart relevant knowledge and provide opportunities for students to embark on their preferred careers.

The team’s efforts seem to have paid off.

Based on last year’s Graduate Employment Survey (GES 2017) results, 87 per cent of JCU students secured a job within six months of graduation, with 79 per cent employed in full-time positions. Of these, 48 per cent were employed by the private sector, while 31 per cent found jobs with government or statutory boards.

To learn more about how the Career Services department empowers students to embark on successful career paths, we speak to manager Kalai Selvan Krishnan, and senior executive Norhafizah Abdul Rashid of the Student Careers department.

Q: How does the JCU Career Services team help students develop their job-hunting skills, create a positive mindset and prepare for the workplace?

A: The JCU Career Services team provides a career development programme that includes workshops that cover job search strategies, resumé, and cover letter preparation, and interview skills.

We also hold regular career talks and tours to organisations to let students have a feel of different sectors.

In addition, we hold individual and group career counselling sessions for students. These sessions help them develop a positive mindset and build their self-esteem.

Last but not least, our team advises students on job availability in the market, their career options, possible career paths and career progression.

Q: How do you advise students in picking the most appropriate career path based on their skills and aspirations, while taking into consideration the current job market?

A: We have a close working relationship with employers across all industries, which helps us to better understand their needs.

We also hold regular conversations with students to discover their areas of interest, and home in on the subjects that they excel in during the course of their study.

After a rigorous evaluation, we advise students on the career choices that are suitable for them, as well as their progression pathways.

Q: How does your team provide opportunities for students to network with potential employers?

A: Networking sessions during career fairs, talks and tours are organised at least four to six times per year, giving both our undergraduates and alumni opportunities to interact and engage with industry experts. We collaborate with different industries to cater to the diverse interests of our students and have had companies such as The St Regis Singapore, Amara Hotels & Resorts, Tuple Technologies, VISEO, Pathlight School and MindChamps Preschool joining our career fairs.

Career fairs are integral and pivotal in assisting local and international students in their pursuit for a fulfilling career. 

This also helps us to keep track of the students who have yet to secure employment, and understand the challenges they have been facing, as we do continue to assist alumni in sourcing for jobs after their graduation.

Students can also learn how to network effectively, and make good impressions on employers by attending workshops on topics like job search and effective networking.

Q: How important are internships for career development? Does the Career Services team assist students with securing internships with employers?

A: We strongly believe that all internships provide valuable work experience for our students, and our team actively promotes and supports our students who are due for an internship.

We regularly meet up with employers to explore internship opportunities, and job-match students to organisations based on their interests and skills.

Our close working relationship with various sectors enables us to offer internship opportunities for both local and international students. For our international students, we liaise with overseas companies to secure internships or employment.

During an internship, employers and students give each other regular feedback.As a result,some of our students who have done well during their internships are being offered permanent employment.

Q: Can you share some general strategies or tips for graduates looking to enter the workforce?

A: Job-hunting after graduation can be stressful. It is important for students to see this as a positive challenge.

We encourage fresh graduates to begin by drawing up realistic career goals and objectives, followed by a job search plan.

When applying for jobs, take time to research on companies and consider if the job advertised is a right fit for your unique skillsets. It is vital to understand the requirements of the job in order to craft a relevant resumé and cover letter.

Make it a point to emphasise your strengths and how they will add value to the company.

In today’s digital age, we also recommend all jobseekers to tidy up their social media accounts before applying — such as their LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Q: What gives you the biggest satisfaction in your role as a career counsellor to JCU students?

Mr Kalai Selvan: My biggest satisfaction as a career counsellor is to see as many graduates as possible become gainfully employed in the field or sector where they wish to develop their careers. I am motivated to ensure these graduates are well trained and work-ready before they complete their undergraduate programme.

In short, I’m satisfied when my students never stop learning in pursuit of their dream job.

Ms Norhafizah: My biggest job satisfaction comes from being able to advocate the wonders of lifelong learning to individuals. Having the opportunity to share with our students the knowledge and skills that I have acquired during my career gives me a great sense of achievement.

My advice to students is to always persevere, never give up.

In our quest for perfection, we will meet many challenges. We might not be successful at everything we do, but a positive mindset and long-term view makes a real difference. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Life is a journey, not a destination”.