Reported by Chin Jing Xuan and Gan Pei Zoe
Edited by: Wu Wen Qi
With most second-year students worrying about their job and internship opportunities in this pandemic, Sunway Actuarial and Financial Excellence (SAFE) organised a special webinar in collaboration with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Malaysia to give students tips on securing their first jobs in uncertain times like these. The webinar was held on Zoom on Friday (19th of June 2020) and Sunway students could join for free. So of course, Echo had to participate to get some valuable insights from the industry giants themselves.
To kickstart the webinar, the emcees of the night introduced the key speakers, Mr. Kent Tan and Ms. Natalie Ho. They then had a polling session on Slido to get to know the audience better. Most attendees that mainly consisted of undergrad students agreed that they were worried about their future outlook on employability and wanted to gain insights from related companies during this economic downturn.
The first speaker for this webinar was Mr. Kent Tan, a recruiter for PwC Malaysia’s Consulting Line of Service and Risk Assurance Services (RAS). With a bright smile across his face, Mr. Kent was ready to share some insights on how their recruitment process was during this pandemic, and how students can stand out among the crowd to capture their employers’ attention.
First and foremost, Mr. Kent explained how the business landscape is shifting online. For example, how taxis are slowly being replaced by Grab, and how online dating is growingly more popular than ‘actual’ dating thanks to apps like Tinder.
Given the rise of technological platforms, students are expected to equip themselves with digital skills that are mandatory in today’s world. He shared how during the pandemic, the unemployment rate in Malaysia had risen to 5%, the highest it has been in 30 years. ‘Wawasan 2020’ plans are also crumbling because of the economic downturn, making employment a pressing issue for fresh grads and university students searching for internships.
In uncertain times like these, Mr. Kent prepared for the audience a ‘survival guide’ to being more employable in the business landscape today.
Kent Tan’s Employability Survival Guide:
1) Be an Agile Learner
Learning Agility is described as the ‘organisational x-factor’, encompassing the ability and willingness to learn from experiences and apply that learning to perform new tasks in new situations. In other words, being an agile learner means knowing what to do when one doesn’t know what to do. According to Mr. Kent, “change is the only constant right now” thus learning agility helps graduates to adapt to the ever-changing working demands they may face. This includes being open-minded when learning new skills from their co-workers and employers, and to not be shy in seeking help. As technology skills have an average lifespan of two years, having the openness in learning ensures that graduates keep up with these trends which will increase employability. (Time to start on those excel skills guys)
2) Have ‘Future Skills’
Artificial Intelligence, Cyber Security and Data Analysis are hot skills in the market now, but this may change. The worry of getting replaced by robots was already a concern before the whole pandemic but Mr. Kent emphasized on how Human Skills are equally as important if not more important. Leadership, collaboration, persuasion and time management are all essential skills recruiters look for in a candidate.
3) Build your online presence
“So now I have the skills on paper, will I be able to secure a job immediately?” In short, the answer is no. Mr. Kent mentioned that recruiters (including PwC) usually look through a candidate’s social media, Google results and LinkedIn accounts before they make their decision. He encouraged the audience to Google themselves and see what pops up. When he did it, he was shocked to find some personal content on the results page and had to take them down before his bosses and colleagues saw them. The lesson learnt is to ‘spring clean’ social media pages before future employers see them.
Other than that, he suggested giving resumes a ‘facelift’ to showcase one’s digital and human skills on online platforms, and fully utilise company websites to get more information on possible employers.
4) Use PwC’s Digital Fitness App
Mr. Kent shared that being ‘digitally fit’ is an attribute that employers seek for. This means having adequate knowledge of digital platforms and tools to navigate the digital space. PwC recently launched a Digital Fitness App which provides assessments on digital fitness. It also has content on digital trends and insights that can help improve digital fitness levels. The app is currently available on Apple Store and Google Play now for free. It will only be free of charge for a limited time, so do check it out!
After the insightful session from Mr. Kent, Ms. Natalie Ho, who is a consultant in Risk Assurance Services in PwC Malaysia began sharing about her experiences in the workforce.
Ms. Natalie has been working in PwC Malaysia for 3 years and her main job scope is to work with regulators such as Bank Negara and Perbadanan Insurans Deposit Malaysia (PIDM) to give advice to her clients. Initially, she joined PwC as she heard about the steep learning curve working in PwC would provide. This proved to be right as working in PwC challenges her in all areas such as her skills set and her mental health. All of these challenges have shaped her into a stronger person with better communication skills. Another thing that really stood out to her was the fact that she had the privilege to go into board meetings and to deal with different levels of management. Being able to attend board meetings have also given her the opportunity to watch how C level executives(CEO, COO, CFO, etc) present their ideas.
In accordance with Mr. Kent’s first tip in his ‘Employability Survival Guide’, Ms. Natalie highlighted the importance of being agile in her workplace. She also managed to pick up digital skills such as Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Power BI. Besides, PwC Malaysia provided many training courses relevant to her job scope. Therefore, she advised the audience that having the agility mindset is what matters and not to worry about not having enough skills.
With the end of Ms. Natalie’s sharing session, the event proceeded with a Q&A session where Mr. Kent and Ms. Natalie answered several questions from the audience:
1) Is job availability greatly affected by COVID-19? To what extent are employers cutting down job openings and employment of fresh grads?
Mr. Kent: The market has been impacted therefore job opportunities are definitely impacted too. The skills set sought for would be different and it is not going to be just about traditional skills anymore. The additional skills one can bring to the table are even more important at times like this.
2) Will a lack of experience affect the employability of students as compared to candidates who have more internship experiences?
Mr. Kent: The experiences companies are looking for are not restricted to only internship experiences. But rather it is any kind of experience such as traveling overseas, joining a student body, organising events, part-time work experience, etc. Companies are interested in knowing how those experiences have shaped you as a person.
3) Based on Natalie’s experience, is PwC generally pretty open with switching between departments internally after a few years within that department/line of work?
Ms. Natalie: Transfers between departments are generally quite fluid. It depends on the skillsets you have picked up in your previous department and if it can be used in the department you are applying for. If your department does not lack people, you will be released to the department of your choice.
4) What preparations must be made in order to be fully equipped for interviews in this period of time? Are there higher expectations due to less demand for workers?
Mr. Kent: Practice. Practice. Practice. Practice makes perfect. Practice in front of a mirror, check your facial expressions, and record yourself. All of these will help in managing the nervousness that comes with interviews.
5) In the midst of this pandemic, what are the interview procedures that PwC will have currently?
Mr. Kent: The method of sourcing talent will be different as they used to receive applications from people at career fairs, however, this is not possible anymore. Hence, if you are interested you can go to the PwC Careers Website, create an account, and submit your application. Interviews will be conducted online through platforms such as Google Meet.
The event came to an end with a photography session which proved to be quite challenging as most people were too shy to turn on their webcam (most probably because they were wearing their PJs). Nevertheless, the SAFE webinar accumulated a whopping amount of 106 participants who are now ready to get that first job! For more insightful webinars, follow SAFE’s Facebook Page and Instagram to keep updated on their future events.