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Reflecting on the job fair presentation I have recently attended I have drawn some important conclusions regarding the labor market in general and the various forces that contribute to making it complex, yet fascinating.
In the first place, I could not help but realize that most job seekers, especially when young and inexperienced, tend to make a huge mistake by thinking focusing on their needs, expectations, and goals without putting themselves into the employer’s shoes. To able to impress the employer, it is crucial that a candidate should know what the employer needs and prepare accordingly as to increase their “employability”.
Once understood this fact, I was no longer surprised at discovering that half of the businesses declared that, when they look for graduates to hire, they do not receive enough applications from candidates with the right skills. This “datum” is indeed illuminating.
That means that when our application is declined, it is highly likely that our curricula vitae do not match the skills and experience the employer is looking for in an employee.
Practically speaking, most job seekers attempt to enter the labor market without being truly ready for it.
Furthermore, it struck me that what candidates lack in professional experience they do not make up for in technical skills and knowledge. Poor grammar and spelling, inability to communicate with employers and colleagues, incapability to relay messages and ideas through presentations: these are the most critical points companies complain about. (Brown P. and Hesketh A, 2004)
Now, all of the above statements should not be taken personally by job seekers, for they are actually meant to help us improve ourselves and become more employable.
How can that be done? All we have to do is reflect on what employers seek and try to meet those standards to the best of our ability.
It doesn’t matter what sector one wishes to work in, there is a number of basic requirements that all employers list in job ads. These requirements include effective communication, willingness to be part of a team, time management, both professional and technical knowledge, critical thinking and analytical skills combined with specific personal qualities. (Barry N., 2007)
However, we should observe that competition is growing as more graduates enter the job market every year, but this should not be seen as a threat or a demotivating fact. On the contrary, it should represent a stimulus for us to make ourselves more visible and more interesting in the employer’s eyes.
One could start by developing their soft skills, which, most of the time, people underestimate just because not all companies mention them in their job ads. That doesn’t mean, however, that such skills are not required; on the contrary, they are considered essential by most employers. To better understand this fact, we might meditate on Herzberg’s two-factor theory, according to which motivators contribute to employee satisfaction, whilst hygiene conditions don’t, yet, shouldn’t company guarantee them, such lack would result into remarkable dissatisfaction, thus potential failure. (Herzberg, F. et al., 1959)
Such soft skills include, apart from the aforementioned ones, relationship development, problem-solving, listening and, last but not least, ability to influence others, which is to be considered essential especially if one aims at a managerial position. (Carnagie, D., 1990)
The job fair presentation I attended made me realize the importance of extra-curricular activities, as they play a very important role in turning a curriculum vitae from banal to interesting. Apart from being dedicated to their studies and taking part in as many projects as they can, especially if they imply presentations and simulations, students should invest a share of their time in extra-curricular activities such as voluntary or part-time work and international placement, which has been proved to be highly appreciated by most employers.
Most graduates who opt for international placement find the first few weeks very hard, as working abroad can be a traumatic experience. However, by doing so, they prove to be bold, mature, flexible and motivated: all qualities that employers value greatly.
As far as I am concerned, I have always found the world of business very fascinating and if there is one thing that I have learned, that is that business is not all about theory. Back in China, I used to work as a lawyer assistant, helping him organize his daily tasks and translating from Chinese to English and vice versa for him.
Afterward, I helped a friend of mine who ran a store in Da Shang Hai and learned how to approach customers and improved my sales skills. That experience made me realize that I have a potential for sales jobs, as I happen to be a very sociable person who loves to interact with people.
Having worked with a number of small businessmen throughout my life, I have developed a strong interest in small businesses as, unlike multinational companies, they are easily manageable, due to their structure which allows for quick decisions, strategic moves and, in my opinion, greater satisfaction.
Moreover, small businesses are very likely to be run by families or groups of friends, and it is the strong relationship between these people that gives strength to the business itself.
Moreover, because I am specializing in value chain management and strategic management, I appreciate the quality of the services and products offered by small businesses, which usually aim at specific target groups.
When it comes to small businesses, the relationship between employer and employee is close and, at times, familiar and I believe this factor plays a very important role in a company’s success, especially considering that small businessmen know how to achieve employee satisfaction for the simple fact that they can easily manage their human resources and track every employee’s progress in order to either reward or penalise them.
These are the reasons why I am interested in small business development and would like to gain experience within a medium-size organization, in order to better understand the dynamics of small businesses.
Personally, I would like to enter the UK labor market by finding a sales job, perhaps in a clothing shop, so that I can gain more professional experience during my studies.
I reckon the best way to find a job is by attending job fairs and recruitment fairs, as many companies willing to recruit new employees are usually represented in them.8)
In light of the above reflections, I am going to put my findings into practice in order to become more employable.
In the first place, an analysis of the sector I am interested in is required. Selling (sales) is considered to be a branch of marketing and it is the act of giving someone a product or a service in return for money. A deep understanding of the human psyche is not a must-have in this sector, yet it would certainly help any salesperson achieve better results and advance in their career.
Salespeople are not usually required to possess a degree unless they wish to access managerial positions. In that case, an understanding of marketing, operations management, and business would certainly help.
Sales, however, is a broad concept that can be applied to many different industries. The one I am mainly interested in is the fashion and clothing industry, the way clothes are designed, manufactured, promoted and, of course, sold to customers.
When we go to a clothing shop all we see are piles of clothes with price tags attached. However, analyzing the various stages of the value chain every piece of clothing passes through is what I have always found truly fascinating, more than the clothes themselves.
As explained by Michael Porter (1985), value chain management analyses all the stages that add some value to a certain product.
Salespeople are an important part of the value chain, as they have to enhance the positive features of products and services to give them additional value and persuade other people to finalize the purchase.
In terms of employability, someone who knows about value chain management and/or marketing will obviously stand better chances to get a sales job than someone with different qualifications.
Some may think that finding a job is all about preparing a CV and sending it to numerous companies. That is wrong. Self-assessment, research, preparation, and analysis are aspects that can make the difference between success and failure.
According to William R. Holland (2011), gathering information on what the employer you wish to contact seeks is the starting point.
So what can an employer possibly seek in a salesperson?
If I were to select a salesperson I would hire someone who will help me increase sales, thus someone who is persuasive knows how to relate to customers, knows how to communicate properly and is determinate.
When I worked as a salesman in China, I helped my employer and dear friend increase sales, thus profits, by 30%. I reckon this piece of information would certainly have any employer lean towards “you’re hired”, but still, that might not be enough.
Researching job ads in the category of sales and marketing would certainly give me an idea of what employers seek in a salesperson. Time management, communication skills, friendliness and a number of soft skills that might help me advance in my career.
After analyzing my SWOTs, I reckon I possess some of those skills, while some others I definitely lack. Professional and technical knowledge and experience are what I need to acquire, which is why I would like to work as a salesperson for a certain timeframe. (Christie I., 2011)
Considering my CV, knowledge and personal qualities, such as charisma, enthusiasm, optimism, and friendliness, I am confident I will find a sales job that will allow me to make up for the skills I lack and enter the English labor market.
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