Job-Hunting as a Postgraduate Student

Job-hunting as a postgraduate student in Malaysia is a dynamic process that requires self-assessment, preparation, and persistence.
Jevitha Muthusamy
Editorial Writer
Job-Hunting as a Postgraduate Student

If you've successfully completed your postgraduate studies in Malaysia and are now looking to enter (or re-enter) the workforce, you may be wondering how to best factor in your postgraduate qualifications into your job search.  

Job-hunting as a postgraduate student does require a bit more nuance and planning given your advanced academic qualifications and knowledge. Here are some tips on how you can navigate this process and find the job that’s the right fit for you. 

Start with Self-Assessment and Research

Begin by thinking about your career goals, skills, and interests. As a postgraduate degree holder, you have the option to either specialise in a specific career field or apply for a more generalist line of work. Some basic questions to consider at this stage include: 

  • What are my career goals and aspirations?
  • What skills and knowledge have I gained during my postgraduate studies?
  • What industries or sectors best align with my academic background?
  • What type of work environment and company culture do I prefer?

If you were working previously and are now re-entering the workforce after completing your postgraduate studies, it may be helpful to reflect on how the marketplace has changed since your last job. 

Reach out to friends, peers, former co-workers, or anyone else you know who is still working in the industry you hope to enter (or re-enter). Speak to them to find out firsthand how things may have changed while you were gone. Read up on local industry news and speak to potential employers at events when possible. Having up-to-date information will help you better map out your job search.

How to Improve Your Chances of Getting a Job

A key component is understanding what makes a postgraduate degree marketable. In short, a postgraduate degree either increases your depth of knowledge in your chosen field well past that of an undergraduate; or extends your existing area of expertise (e.g. having a master’s in business psychology to complement your undergraduate marketing degree).

Throughout the job search and application process, pay particular attention to demonstrating the extra value of your postgraduate studies and how your skills can transfer value to the employer. This could be in terms of advanced technical knowledge, or soft skills you picked up during your postgraduate studies, such as:

  • Communication skills
  • Research abilities
  • Planning and organisation skills
  • Critical thinking and data analysis
  • Teamwork and coordinating with others

Arts, humanities, and business postgraduates often find that it’s these types of skills that are of most interest to employers – rather than their academic discipline.

If your postgraduate discipline is directly in the same field as the employer(s) you intend to apply to, make sure you stress the depth of knowledge and any industry placements/research initiatives you have undertaken in the course of your studies. Employers are typically less concerned about what you researched than how your research was applied (or could be applied) in the marketplace. 

If you feel that you have any particular skills gaps or a lack of experience, try to address these either with the help of your university careers service or by arranging additional industry placements before embarking on a full-time job search.

Where to Find Jobs

In many industries, it is relatively unusual to find a job vacancy advertised that specifies postgraduate qualifications as a requirement. This is because employers in Malaysia usually try to cast as wide a net as possible when filling positions. 

This isn’t to say that there aren’t any such jobs out there, though! It just means you’ll have to put in a bit more legwork because it is generally assumed that postgraduate degree holders are slightly more advanced in their career and should have some degree of industry experience to leverage on.

Regardless of whether this is your first job or you are re-entering the marketplace, the same rules apply: you’ll have to engage with employers a bit more actively than just applying for job postings online. Here are some tips:

  • Connect with fellow alumni, industry professionals, or past industry contacts on platforms like LinkedIn or your university alumni network. Establishing connections with people from various backgrounds can introduce you to different career perspectives and opportunities.
  • Take part in industry-related events, conferences, and workshops wherever you can. These events usually attract people looking into the latest trends and developments in your field, increasing your chances of finding someone looking to hire a recent postgraduate.
  • Find and speak to prospective employers at recruitment events. This could be public career fairs, networking sessions organised by your university, or industry-specific recruitment drives. Because employers often don’t explicitly look for postgraduate hires, you’re better off speaking to them in person to find out what opportunities they can potentially fit you into.

For research-based jobs, you may want to consider engaging the services of a specialist recruitment firm in addition to the above tips. Such jobs are usually very rare in Malaysia and are typically only filled by people with insider industry information. 

You may also consider applying for such opportunities in other countries as well, especially if your university has given you the option to do an overseas industry placement as part of your postgraduate programme.  

Should you consider further vocational, professional or postgrad study?

Some postgraduate degree holders may need to undertake additional study – whether on a full-time basis or part-time. There are a few reasons for this:

  • To be eligible to enter a specific profession requiring additional vocational qualifications (e.g. teaching in higher education, architecture, healthcare, counselling, etc.)
  • To become a specialist in a particular subject area, or to enhance your knowledge in an industry with fast-paced technological changes
  • To become a chartered professional with a recognised professional body or association (e.g. chartered engineer, chartered corporate recovery professional, certified financial advisor, etc.) 

Make sure you study the qualification requirements for your chosen profession carefully before planning out your next course of action. It is entirely likely that you may opt to work in a less demanding job while you work towards additional vocational or professional qualifications. 

If you are a master’s degree holder considering further study to a doctorate degree, make sure that you have thoroughly researched how such a degree can benefit you in the future before making this commitment. Doctorate degrees are typically only required for high-level technical research jobs, or tenured teaching positions in higher education – both of which are very rare in the Malaysian marketplace.

If you are opting for part-time study, make sure to discuss study leave allowances with potential employers. Larger employers typically offer such allowances especially if they are hiring you for a role that requires additional vocational qualifications in order to advance as a professional.