Fresh Graduate: What Goes Through Our Mind?

Have you found work yet?” The dreaded question that gives me anxiety whenever I meet up with friends and relatives. I hide my embarrassment with a smile in hopes that they don’t ask more about that subject, “Not yet, but I’m sure I will hear from some soon.” It felt stressful to not have a job but what’s worse was feeling embarrassed about it. Should a fresh graduate feel this way?

Fresh Graduate: Writer Atiqah holding up her 3D physical model of her final design
My final architecture design presentation on 9 July 2019 at Taylor’s University.

I grew up mostly outside of Malaysia due to my father’s work. My family and I have lived in Saudi Arabia since 2007. Over there, I experienced many different cultures in an international community. After finishing high school in 2015, I made the decision to return to Malaysia alone and continue my studies here. My dream was to one day design and build my parents’ home. It became a motivation for me to study architecture in Taylor’s University. Being an architecture student was definitely a struggle. But I got through those four years with the support of my family, friends and lecturers. In July 2019, I graduated with a degree in architecture and was ready to achieve that dream… or so I thought.

How Long Can Freedom Last For A Fresh Graduate?

I remember the day I presented my final design in the month of July 2019, ending it off with a smile. The next thing on my mind was how I can finally make up for all the sleep I sacrificed. Freedom hit me like a splash of water, surprising but refreshing. After four years of full-time studies, not doing anything all of a sudden was unusual. But all I could think of was how I needed to relax and enjoy my freedom. And so I took advantage of that time and went on trips with my family.

Fresh Graduate: Writer Atiqah's vacation at a desert in Saudi Arabia
Photograph of a sunset view in the desert of Saudi Arabia taken by me in August 2019, after graduation.

Time passes by so quickly to the point that I didn’t realise that it has been two months since I became a fresh graduate. It was September and I had zero applications sent out. I was embarrassed with myself when my father asked me, “Why do you have to wait two months to apply? You could have applied immediately after you graduated.” Frustration came upon me that I made my parents worry for me. My thoughts were filled with how can I repay my parents for what they have given me since young. I remember saying to myself, “Atiqah, holiday is over. Quit lazing around and get a job because you need to make your parents proud!”

Fresh Graduate’s Curriculum Vitæ And Portfolio

In order to apply for a job, we need a curriculum vitæ (CV) and portfolio. Both of these for me were not up to date and I struggled quite a bit on how to create an eye catching CV and portfolio. So I went on a search for curriculum vitæ samples and templates that could help me get started. I came across this website called Zety, that provides different types of samples and templates for different jobs that you might be applying to. I’ve heard from friends and family that when employers look at your CV, they would take no more than a minute to look over it. So how do we capture their attention for a fresh graduate’s CV?

It warrants the same expectation of my portfolio. I wanted to have all my works showcased in one website so that my future employers can see what my other interests are other than architecture. Wix became my platform of choice to create my portfolio, where I spent days editing and updating.

Fresh Graduate: Writer Atiqah's portfolio for job application
My portfolio that I created using Wix. From the left box : Architecture tab, Photography tab and Art tab.
Portfolio link: atiqahdh.wixsite.com/portfolio/portfolio

Fresh Graduate’s Job Hunt

Searching for a job as a fresh graduate is not the hard part, but finding the suitable one is. I went through many jobsites such as, JobStreet, Indeed, Jora, and even Facebook! I never knew that you can search for jobs on Facebook! But what’s more interesting is that there are even groups where you can join in Facebook to keep up to date with job vacancies.

Fresh Graduate: Indeed job application with the search phrase: fresh graduate architect in Kuala Lumpur
Job hunting on Indeed for fresh graduate architect job in Kuala Lumpur.

“This position requires two to three years’ experience.” Every single time I see these type of requirements, it just makes me question, “How do they expect a fresh graduate with no experience to apply for this position?” In my mind, I knew that I was not suitable. Hence, my applications were mostly towards “fresh graduates are encouraged to apply” ads, and unfortunately, there weren’t many of them. My choices became limited, and staying in that safe zone wasn’t getting me anywhere.

I tried different things, even started to be more confident of myself, even if their requirements were a little above par from what I have. I got so ambitious that I started applying to firms that were far from home. However, as my priority is the work experience over passion in this first job, I was somewhat worried how it would impact me.

The Long And Agonising Wait For Replies

I became more insecure every time I went on Instagram and saw my friends posting about their work life. And then there I was sitting at home, waiting for replies. Checking my emails everyday, refreshing the page every hour… I could not sit still. I needed to get out of the house and get my mind off being unemployed. So I decided to get a part-time job near home. I became a helper at a gift product design firm, CTW Enterprise, where I assisted in making the actual products. It became a way for me to stop overthinking things.

Plywood laid out to dry after staining work in the garage at writer Atiqah's part time job.
Wood working at my part-time job at CTW Enterprise.

Days turned into weeks, and my applications got a few replies, specifically rejections. It was in bold font and straight to the point – not suitable. I applied to a few architecture firms on JobStreet and the only way for me to check the status was to log in the website everyday and hope for good news. Finding out you got rejected isn’t the best feeling but it’s the reality. A friend two years my senior told me, “Apply to as many jobs as you can, a hundred if possible, because you will get rejected.” It just became a game of odds.

Interviews For Fresh Graduates Are Just The Beginning

We are interested to have you come over for an interview, when will you be available?” I gave a silent scream of joy and smiled non-stop when a potential employer gave me a call. Then the butterflies and nervousness started to kick in. The first impression is important during that day. Your attire, your smile, your speech, and even your eye contact will be scrutinised. For my first interview, I remember wearing an all black outfit except for a white blouse, leading to one of the interviewers commenting “I thought you were a lawyer”. I chuckled every time I think of that moment.

I had an interview that lasted about two hours, where they asked me many questions regarding my life. It started off with the formal questions (education, family, skills, etc.) but then it led to a more casual topic (strengths, weaknesses, interests, etc.) where the interviewer wanted to know you more as a person. The nerves and butterflies in your stomach would slowly disappear and you wouldn’t even realise it. Next thing you know, you were already shaking hands and saying “Thank you, and hope to hear from you soon.”

Landing That Job: Fresh Graduate No More

After five months without a full-time job, I had so much time to ponder about my career. I slowly accepted the idea that timing is crucial and patience is key. I continued my part-time job for two months, and at the same time, gaining exposure in photography and art.

Several interviews later, I came across a job position that I had set my mind on for a while – interior design. It was a little different from what I studied in university but it was also what I became passionate in. In January 2020, I received an email from Ark Studio, for an interview session. The office was about an hour’s drive from my house, but somehow it didn’t affect me in wanting this job. During the interview, all I could think of was “I will not hesitate to say yes to this company if they offered me a job right now.”

Two days later, I got a call from the admin of the office saying “Congratulations, you got the job! We are happy to offer you the position of Project Designer at Ark Studio.” You had no idea how crazy I looked at the time. This time I was literally screaming and smiling non-stop.

Writer Atiqah's first company dinner with her colleagues after being a fresh graduate for 5 months
New Year’s dinner with my new colleagues from Ark Studio. I’m seated, third from left.
Source: Ark Studio Facebook Page

Tip For Every Fresh Graduate: Go With Your Own Flow

No matter what people say, don’t let it get to you. Everyone has their own pace so everyone will reach that finish line at different times. Always bear in mind that the chances of rejection are usually high. And it’s definitely okay to not accept a job offer when your instinct says no! Keep applying for jobs, take part in freelancing or working part time, volunteer your time accordingly, and just get lots of experience! Being a fresh graduate is just the beginning to getting that dream job, so enjoy it to the fullest!

There are so many platforms for job hunting, such as JobStreet, Indeed, Jora, and Facebook. These jobsites can get any fresh graduate a head start to finding their first job!

Worried about your curriculum vitæ and portfolio? Don’t worry because there are tons of sites that can get you started. Zety helps by providing CV samples and templates that aims to catch the employers eye. And Wix is a platform where you can unleash your creativity into making your own personal portfolio. This is where you showcase your talent, skills and interests.

If you love to express yourself through writing, and are currently seeking part-time or freelance job, Espoletta can be the perfect platform for you.

Atiqah GHAZALI

About Atiqah GHAZALI

Grew up overseas in a melting pot of global culture to expat parents, Atiqah is well read, and expresses herself best through writing, art and photography. Architect by qualification, but makes a living as an interior designer.

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