August 8, 2015

“I am a graduate with Masters’ Degree but I have yet to find a permanent job for the past 2 years.”

“Our director is a scholarship holder…but he doesn’t know what he is doing.”

We have all heard such comments before, be it through the news, through conversations, etc. Evidently, schools have prepared students insufficiently for the working world ahead.

If you have the vision:

  • to set up your own company, or
  • to rise up the ranks in your desired company
  • and command the respect of those working below you,

Read on to find out what skills you should acquire to distinguish yourself from other university graduates.

1) Marketing

Ever wondered why someone with similar or lower credentials is selected over you for a coveted post?

Yes, substance is important, but how you package yourself is fundamental to success too.

Whether or not you are a salesman, everything you do is about marketing. First, you need to know how to sell yourself to your interviewers. When you are on the job, you need to present yourself in the best light to both your clients and your boss. Even if you are not working in the private sector, as civil servants, you would still have to sell your policy to businesses and the common man on street.

Communication: Many jobs require you to work with clients and colleagues. You need to exude an aura of confidence in your day to day interactions. Be certain about what your/your organisation’s abilities are and how you can contribute. Know your value and self-worth. Of course, back it up with relevant examples. The most effective way to persuade your audience is to show testimonials written by people whom you have worked with before. You may even consider preparing a series of video testimonials which you can readily show to your clients!

Presentation: Marketing becomes all the more important in formal presentations. Instead of delivering information and ideas in conventional bullet point format, think of how you can design your slides to make your presentation memorable. Refer to 5 Ted Talks that all PW students should watch to learn powerful presentation skills.

Written: As much as we would like to communicate in person, we cannot deny the power of Internet in helping us to spread our message fast, far and wide. Communicating through words, henceforth, is a skill you should master to stand out from the rest of your peers.  This includes structuring your CV to highlight key achievements, writing effective e-mails and crafting summaries that would entice people to read on. You can even create your own personal brand by writing interest-specific articles. Your employer will also thank you for bringing the company into the limelight. Look out for the next article to discover how to write like a copywriter.

While you sharpen your set of marketing armoury, you will come across as a person with great substance and charisma.

2) Effective communication and teamwork

The importance of communication and teamwork has been a much belaboured point in society. Yet, few people have addressed this very fundamental question of, how exactly should we go about building these skills? The key is to understand how you work and how others work. This is at the core of personality tests such as MBTI and Enneagram. In knowing our personality types, we become aware of our communication preference styles and can consciously avoid what we tend to do that irks others.  Through observing, you would also be able to identify the preferred working styles of your boss and co-workers.

For example, if you know that the person whom you work with dislike ambiguity but prefer to work with specifics, it would be good to send him a detailed to-do-list when you are working with him on a project.

Don’t be afraid to seek feedback from others regarding your working style. People will credit you when they see that you are genuinely trying to establish good working relationships.

Of course, you need to hone your observational skills to understand which category/type of personality your co-workers fall into. This comes with experience, so while you are in school, grab the chance to attend as many group-based activities as you can! Staying in a hostel would be a great way to learn about making accommodations and living with people of different personalities.

“Ultimately, the key is not about judging people based on their differences but understanding them” – Coen Tan

3) Creativity, critical thinking skills

Memorising theories, drilling on past exam papers and scoring perfect GPAs may be your greatest challenge and achievement in university. Yet, this is not even the tip of the iceberg. In the real world, you need to be able to turn your knowledge into practical application. Employers often lament that fresh graduates lack creativity, flexibility and critical thinking skills on the job.

When you learn about new theories, don’t be constrained by what your lecturers tell you. Be able to connect the dots by thinking about how this knowledge can be used to address a gap in society or within the industry. You would have to do internships and attend job attachments before you truly see the relevance of it all.

While on the job, if you are observant, you can identify a “pain” that is gripping your department, your company or your society, and thus come up with new initiatives to address these issues.


“Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Similarly, these critical skills come only with experience and relentless practice. Eventually, everyone who enters the workforce will come to realise the importance of these skills. Nevertheless, if you can gain a head start while in school, why not?

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