Congratulations, college graduate! You're now a bonafide adult and are probably anxious to be a part of the labor force. But you should also be aware that in the Philippines, being a college graduate does not guarantee employment right after you get your diploma.
Every year, 1.1 million Filipino workers join the labor force. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the country’s unemployment rate is at 6.4% in April 2015. According to the World Bank’s World Economic Report, the Philippines has the highest unemployment rate at 7.3%. The youth (15-24 years old) unemployment rate in the Philippines at 16.3% is the second most serious among our ASEAN-5 neighbors. By educational attainment, 20.4% of the unemployed were college graduates, 13% were college undergraduates, and 34.4% were high school graduates.
While your job prospects might seem bleak at the outset, it doesn't mean you should despair and stop job hunting. That scenario is true not just locally, but on a global scale. In the U.S. alone, the unemployment rate for Americans aged 20-29 who received a four-year or advanced degree last year rose to 12.4% from 10.9% percent in 2013. While the economic and government factors that contribute to this situation are beyond your control, one thing you can control is your own personal situation. If you haven't found jobs for fresh graduates that are perfect for your skills yet, use this time to beef up your skills and make your talents more marketable.
Here are a few suggestions you can try to make the most of your time as a fresh grad to land your dream first job:
1. Scour job sites
Continue sending your resume to as many job openings as you can. Submit your profile on job sites like Kalibrr. Keep track of the companies you contacted and take the time to find out more about them by reading their websites. Get to know reasons why you'd want to work for those companies, and try to find out if you your skill set matches that of the company's, including their culture.
You can also find other temporary work opportunities like work from home jobs or even find jobs abroad. As long as you have a reliable internet connection, make an effort to put your name and resume out there.
RELATED: FIND YOUR FIRST JOB NOW AT KALIBRR
2. Improve your soft skills
According to the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP), "four of ten fresh graduates and young jobseekers are not hired because they lack three key qualities—critical thinking, initiative, and effective communication skills."
If you think you have some room for improvement, make an effort to focus on those three characteristics. Be mindful of how you can apply, say, effective communication skills to your day to day life. If you think writing is a weak spot, try practicing your skills by keeping a blog or journal.
Read the latest news and form an opinion about it to improve your critical thinking skills. Initiative is something you need to be aware of when you're in a work setting - do you wait for your boss to tell you what to do, or do you try to be a step ahead and do what needs to be done without being told? Focus on those three skills to make yourself more marketable.
3. Work for free (for now)
[caption id="attachment_4406" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Many companies, like Rappler, accept internships on a regular basis. (Source: Rappler)[/caption]
In your first few months after graduating, if you can't find a salaried job, work anyway. Be a volunteer. Find a cause or NGO that you believe in. For example, if you believe in sustainable, mindful living, you can sign up with Muni and be an event volunteer, article contributor, or even a design or video contributor. Find a local NGO where you can contribute for free while beefing up your skill set.
You can also opt to get into an OJT or internship program for a company that's not offering a paid position right now. Get your foot through the door, and form good relationships with the people around you. Once a new opening comes up, you'll be top of mind because they already know you, and if you do a good job, they'll be more than willing to get you onboard.
4. Update your online portfolio
If you still don't have an online portfolio, it’s time to ask yourself why. Join online job platforms like LinkedIn and Kalibrr and include all your skills there. Include keywords in the type of job or position you want so that recruiters can easily find you.
Whether you like it or not, recruiters look at your digital footprint to find out more about you. Take control of your online identity by being proactive about it. Start a blog with your byline on it. Give you opinion about topics you believe in. If you're an artist, put your best work out there; if you're a writer, add your work in your online portfolio. Include your unpaid work when you volunteered or interned for a company.
Continue to keep in touch with your college buddies, teachers, mentors, and other significant people in your life. With so many online channels at your disposal, there are plenty of ways you can connect and discover more about the industry that you want to get into. Join online forums, communities, and attend seminars where you can meet more mentors. Increasing your network increases your chances of getting hired. The next person you meet might just be the head of company you'll be working for.
As the song lyric goes, every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end. Graduating from college is a time to finally stretch your wings as a bonafide adult, but it can also be fraught with fear and uncertainty, especially in the current job market. The best way to increase your chances of landing your dream job is to continue learning. I hope that the suggestions I've outlined above will make you more marketable and increase your chances of becoming employed. Good luck on your job hunting!