The struggles of untrained job seekers

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We often hear that life after university is the best time of life. When you’re graduating, this will sound like the most natural thing you’ve ever heard as you dance around like Gene Kelly in “Singing in the Rain” on cloud nine. You’re too busy saying goodbye to your desk and kissing that diploma you worked hard for practically your whole life. But soon, reality will slam in your face as you realize that you have to start an independent life, which means hunting for a job. Without a doubt, there’ll be many exciting and fun adventures waiting for you in the unforeseen future, but to be able to tick off your bucket list and enjoy life to the fullest, you need to make money – that is unless you are a very fortunate person who just happens to have a huge inheritance or wealthy parents. For most of us, this is not the case. We have no choice but to find a regular job, preferably a permanent employment, and fend for ourselves because nothing is given on a silver platter in real life. Most university graduates in Mongolia start looking for jobs after graduation because they aren’t taught ways to find jobs and tackle interviews while they are still in schools, like in Japan and other developed countries around the globe. A survey conducted by the Employment Research Institute of Ministry of Labor in 2014 showed that 17.5 percent of graduates in Mongolia were actively seeking jobs, while the rest, specifically 37,200 out of 45,100 survey takers, were not. In Japan, students are encouraged to hunt for jobs before graduating from university or high school. Japanese universities start training their students for job hunting from junior year and provide information about job openings, hold career seminars, and operate career centers where students can receive individual guidance about finding a job. During senior year, students begin submitting applications for jobs and seek “informal” offers of employment a year before graduation, which will hopefully lead to a "formal” offer of employment later and secure them the promise of a stable job upon graduation. In Mongolia, university students don’t get this type of training or career counseling for mastering job hunting skills. Because of this, the majority of students are unsuccessful in attracting a job offer by the time they graduate and some remain unemployed for a long time. These untrained job seekers also miss out good job opportunities because they can’t access information about job openings or because they flunk an interview with corporate recruiters due to lack of preperation. The Employment Research Institute’s 2014 survey included statistics on ways recent graduates search for jobs. The report read that 30 percent or 2,400 graduates look through job ads, 27.5 percent or 2,200 graduates ask around from acquaintances, 17.5 percent or 1,400 graduates search for jobs through employment agencies, and the remaining 200 graduates who participated in the survey look for jobs by other means. Even a job seeker with an honors GPA and the best internships are having a hard time landing a job because the job market is full of recent graduates who have similar or better qualifications than them as well as seasoned professionals who’ve been laid off due to difficult economic conditions in the country in recent years. The National Statistics Office of Mongolia's Social and Economic Report for May 2017 showed that nearly 30 percent of job seekers have graduated with a diploma or have a bachelor’s degree. It was also shocking to discover that 58.1 percent of the unemployed are between the ages of 15 and 34, the prime working age. However, there may be a silver lining for recent graduates and job seekers because the job market is showing signs of improvement. More local and foreign companies are becoming interested in recruiting talented first-time job seekers as they are cheaper to hire than experienced professionals, and the key economic indicators of Mongolia have been improving. The Ministry of Labor and employment agencies have also been stimulating their activities, managing to decrease the unemployment rate by 15.4 percent since May 2016. It seems that the Mongolian education system pales in comparison to other countries in the area of motivating students to actively search for jobs before graduation and preparing them for the real world out there. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Sports definitely needs to focus on improving career consultation services and accessibility to information about job openings for job seekers, but this doesn’t mean job seekers should idly sit around waiting for others to find them a job. The job market is cutthroat and job seekers need to be at the top of their game to get ahead so it’s best for them to try to improve their qualifications, get more certifications, enhance their interview skills and search for jobs as early as possible. There are plenty of guides for university graduates on the job hunt all over the internet that will help fresh graduates land a full-time gig. The most mentioned recommendations are: to visit career service centers for advice and job openings, join the school alumni group as successful networking is a major part of finding a job, expand the scope and criteria for jobs, be willing to accept low-level jobs, and rehearse for interviews. Job hunting itself is very tough, so young job seekers shouldn’t lose hope after failing a couple of job interviews. Job seekers, especially new graduates, need to keep a positive attitude and have determination and patience to persevere in the competitive job market. After all, nothing can be achieved without hard work and perseverance.

Dulguun Bayarsaikhan