An insider's view on landing your first job

Students must adapt, learn to stand out, from sea of graduates

Autumn often marks the return of routine, whether that means heading back to the classroom or the kick-off of new projects at work.

For many students, September can signify the beginning of a new professional opportunity with a co-op or a full-time position. A number of these graduates are part of the millennial generation (those born between 1980-2000) and this demographic is heading into the workforce in great numbers. According to the PwC report, Millennials at work – Reshaping the workplace, millennials will form 50 per cent of the global workforce by 2020.

What employees are looking for in an employer and the expectations of candidates from companies have changed throughout the years. Students looking to secure their first position must adapt and learn to stand out from a sea of graduates looking to land their first job. This can be a daunting task, but with assistance from peers and colleagues, professional initiatives, recruiters, and practice, the process can be accomplished.

With initiatives such as PwC’s Brilliant futures recruitment program, students can receive insight on how to kick-start their career in a number of fields — including human resources — or use their HR degree to join PwC’s consulting program. The initiative centres on six of its recent graduate employees who share their real-life stories and experiences with students via blogs, videos, short stories and social media on how and what to look for when trying to secure a brilliant future upon the completion of university or college.

The graduates’ personal stories highlight some of the non-financial aspects recent grads are looking for when applying to jobs (such as flexible work options, innovative training and development opportunities). This reflects the findings from the Millennials at Work study, which indicated millennials are attracted to employers who can offer more than merely good pay. That’s not to say pay isn’t important — 44 per cent of those surveyed said competitive wages made an employer more attractive. However, the biggest draw for millennials is the opportunity for progression, with 52 per cent saying they felt this made an employer an attractive prospect.

Other non-monetary factors that top the millennials wish list include training and development programs, flexible working arrangements, international opportunities, companies with a good reputation for ethical practices, and corporate values that match an applicant’s principles.

Jasmine Konsorada, a manager in the audit and assurance group at PwC and one of the firm’s Brilliant futures champions, advises students to view the recruitment process, not just at PwC but with all organizations in general, as a shopping excursion.

Employers are going to shop for students who they feel are going to be great learners, leaders, and a good fit with its company,” said Konsorada. “Likewise, students need to shop for the right fit of an employer. They need to know what they are looking for and what is going to make them happy and what type of employer is going to be able to help them develop and achieve their professional goals. It is extremely important to keep this in mind as there is a lot of work to be done in the first several years of one’s career. Therefore, students need to find an environment that suits the way they learn, or want to learn and suits the way they see themselves achieving success as they define it.

Once students know what companies they want to apply to and interviews start getting scheduled, it’s time to practice presentation skills, be it on paper or in person.

“One of the most important things in an interview is being able to show your personality through the questions that are being asked,” said Hazen Andrews, a PwC employee in the Human Capital Service Centre division in Toronto. “From an HR standpoint, professionals in this industry deal with so many people on a daily basis. Students need to ensure they present themselves as someone that everyone in the company can enjoy working with and that they can handle a variety of situations.”

Students and graduates can also think about the following when heading into interviews:

•Applicants need to be confident in who they are and their accomplishments. Confidence makes it enticing for both parties to engage in a conversation. By doing, they will find the right fit with an employer.

•Leave a great first impression with multiple people, whether in an interview or at a networking or recruiting event. That’s how a person can make an impression last!

•Genuinely smile. A smile goes a long way and it shows that the interviewee is excited to learn about a company.

Moving on up

The job process doesn’t stop once the position is secured. Graduates should look at their position as a long-term work in progress. To help achieve career advancement, access to development courses or resources, or even international opportunities, an employee needs to think about what value they can bring to the company and the interactions and relationships that needs to develop in order for this to be accomplished.

James Davidson, talent acquisition manager, campus, PwC, provides the following tips to help graduates stay on their path to a successful future:

•Build relationships and your personal brand through connections with highly talented people in the office and across regional teams if available;

•Enhance your skills and experiences through frequent coaching, job shadowing and employing a “teach-don’t-tell” approach to learning;

•Define your career by working on a wide variety of assignments that showcase your diverse skill set;

•Connect, collaborate, and create ideas as part of an everyday innovative approach to create more value for colleagues, clients and people;

•Experience hands-on involvement in the community through corporate responsibility initiatives;

•Balance personal and professional goals in order to demonstrate a wide range of skills and interests;

This article was submitted by PwC. F0r more information, visit PwC’s recruiting Facebook page at

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