By: Aznan Mat Piah
How would you brace yourselves to ensure that you would be readily employed by the industry upon graduating from the university? Communication and human sciences students of International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) were recently reminded that they must develop their potentials during their university days as the employers would prefer to hire graduates with “extra or plus qualities”.
The reminder came from two senior communication executives, Mr. Izad Haji Raya of Proton Holdings Berhad and Mr. Nik Effendi Jaafar of Employees Provident Fund in a forum session organized by the public relations practicum students of the university.
The practicum event was indeed a window to the internship program, prior to their attachment with the industry, aimed at giving the opportunity for the public relations students to demonstrate their professional skills and to gain practical knowledge. It was also intended to expose them to current knowledge of the industry through interactive sessions with practitioners from the field.
Students were told that employers would rather go for “the street smart” than the “book smart” per se. “You might have scored a CGPA of 3.5 or 3.6 but if you cannot prove that you have the “extra or the plus factors” that employers are looking for, you do not stand a good chance to be employed”, the speakers said.
As the industry is becoming more competitive, the employers no doubt tend to be choosy and want to hire the best graduates not only in terms of academic performance but also in terms of their ability and skills, and their personality to deliver their work efficiently. With the increase in the number of graduates entering the job market each year, employers cannot just settle for the mediocre, instead they are determined to look for the good candidates who have the potential to perform well in the market. That was the message driven by the speakers at the forum.
Some 120 students who attended the session listened attentively to the speakers when they were enlightened on the expectations of the industry. The speakers cited examples of the interview process which they conducted where they found students with good CGPA, who logically should not have problems to be hired, but failed to convince the interview panel. They seemed to be lacking in communication and thinking skills and were not able to articulate their minds as to their ability to examine issues or to solve problems.
Students were also told they should not be satisfied to learn just about communication techniques and theories. Instead, they should be well disposed to the content aspects when handling public relations in an organization.
Public relations practitioners need to know the issues that are developing within the organization. Therefore, they must have a good working knowledge about the organization especially in terms of its core business, its involvement with strategic publics and the stakeholders, and where the overall interest of the organization lie, which means they must have a strong background on relevant matters or subjects that influence the survival of the organization.
This also means they must show interest in current affairs and must be prepared to work hard to conduct their own study and research about topics related or of interest to the organization.
Apart from the two senior speakers from the industry, students also had the opportunity to learn from their seniors during the sharing moment session held in the afternoon. Ahmad Nazreen Shah from Petronas and Mohamad Rizzuan Abdul Razak from New Straits Times Press who have been in the industry for two years, had enlightened the students with a number of tips on what to expect upon graduation.
They highlighted the importance of having the right attitudes, the secret of managing bosses, the need for a conducive working environment, and to serve the organization with dedication. They also told the session about the challenges they had to go through in their first six months in their job. They mentioned the need to prove themselves of their ability to adapt and survive in the working environment which is far different from student days.
I thought the two sessions were very significant where the students were actively engaged in the discussion.
Another session by Puan Sherifah Muznizah Syed Mustafa from Carigalihess on interview skills, had also drawn considerable interest, where students were given an insight into some of the tips to enhance their appearance during job interviews which stressed on the significance of preparing resume, creating first impressions, and developing the right mindsets for the job. Puan Sharifah has vast working experience in human resources management having worked several years in multinational companies.
The practicum event was officiated by former rector Prof. Dato’ Sri Dr. Syed Arabi Idid who later gave an inspiring speech to motivate the students. Prof. Syed has always showed great interest in public relations activities. The head of Communication Department, Dr. Che Mahzan Ahmad also attended the event and delivered a speech that stressed the importance of applying theories into public relations practice.