By the SMU Social Media Team
For someone who’s just starting on their university journey, working life and adulthood may feel like an eternity away. But ask anyone who’s been there and done that, and chances are they’ll agree that the four years it takes to complete a degree actually flies by in just the blink of an eye.
So instead of making your maiden trip to the Career Centre days before graduation, know this: Career services provided by universities prep students from various years and majors—not just grads-to-be. After all, one of the main aims of gaining a university degree is to ensure a good career trajectory, so planning early can’t hurt.
At Singapore Management University (SMU), these job-seeking skills are administered through the compulsory Finishing Touch (FT) Programme conducted by the Dato’ Kho Hui Meng Career Centre(DKHMCC), involving seven compulsory workshops and four optional ones. They cover a range of topics including Career Planning, Resume and Cover Letter Writing, and Interviewing Skills.
Aaron Lim, third-year undergraduate at the SMU School of Economics, shares his personal experience with the workshops and career coaches at the DKHMCC, and how students like himself stand to benefit.
Q: What are some things that students like yourself are most concerned about when it comes to your future careers?
A: Students tend to worry about other students, as we face fierce competition for limited numbers of both internships and full-time positions and feel the need to differentiate ourselves. This is particularly prevalent in industries such as Finance and Consulting, where most students vie for a spot in the same top firms. Consequently, most resumes converge towards a textbook norm, yet students are afraid to deviate from it and risk being uncompetitive.
Q: How was the FT Programme useful to you as a student?
A: The seven courses cover a wide array of topics, such as job search strategies, personal branding and interviewing skills. I personally found the courses useful in getting me into the right frame of mind, and establishing a basic standard for the various facets of my career planning.
Q: What was it like working with SMU’s career coach?
A: I believe everyone’s process will be slightly different, as different career coaches may prefer different approaches, and it depends a lot on each student’s preparedness level.
The first time I met my career coach, my resume was a mess and I had little knowledge of the various industries out there. Unfazed, she sat down with me and patiently walked me through the common job roles in each industry. When I finally decided on a target industry, she suggested several companies for me.
Q: How early on do you think students should start planning their careers?
A: The earlier one starts, the better. If a student is unsure of his target industry and role, he may make uninformed and isolated decisions regarding his modules and internships, without considering how it will affect his resume in entirety. Come Year 3 or 4, he might then find that he doesn’t have a strong value proposition for the companies he wants to apply to.
At the same time, there’s no need to soup up resumes from day one. Companies also value students who actively pursue their own passions, be it in sports, community service, student clubs, or even external activities.
Q: How should they even get started?
A: Here’s my rough guide:
In Year 1, keep your eyes and options open to what interests you, and find clubs/societies/majors that pursue them. Do things that make you interesting as a person, while also drafting and scoping out your resume.
In Year 2, concentrate on a few key domains/industries. Work with a career coach or mentor to refine your resume and explore summer internship, as well as Leave of Absence (LOA) opportunities where appropriate.
In Year 3, specialise in one or two domains or industries. Familiarise yourself with the local ecosystem and future prospects of the industry while also hunting for your penultimate internship early.
In Year 4, apply for jobs early.
Q: What are your top 3 tips you’d like to share with juniors?
A: 1. Be aware of the impact each module/major/internship choice makes on your entire journey, and make them wisely. For example, an attractive LOA internship could add experience but it could also detract valuable time used to complete a second major. Also, be aware of your own value proposition so you can be confident in what you have to offer to employers.
2. Surround yourself with an ecosystem of support. The Mentoring Circle has helped me extensively in this regard. I have seniors and peers who can spend hours preparing me for case interviews and final presentations without expecting anything in return. It’s important for everyone to have a community like that to lean on.
3. Last, but certainly not least, remember to have fun! Your career will be a direct result of your efforts and decisions. Take your time, don’t stress over it, and enjoy each step of the learning and exploration process. Forge and maintain relationships with the people who help you, and pay it forward to juniors in the future.
Find out more about the SMU’s Career Services here.
Keen to take the next step with SMU? Learn more about our undergraduate programme today.