In days gone by, you’d graduate into the big, wide world with little more than a certificate and a rabbit-caught-in-the-headlights expression. Now, with competition in the jobs market at fever pitch, you need to call in reinforcements. Say hello to Sara Caetano, one of César Ritz Colleges’ resident career coaches and all-round super human.
A chance meeting? A dazzling interview? A stroke of luck? What does it take to get your foot in the door?
Landing your first job is no picnic, and arguably even more so now, in a world attempting to pick up the pieces from a devastating pandemic. While most would consider a degree essential in the battle to stand out from the crowd, is it enough? Should you have an extra set of skills up your sleeve? Career coach Sara Caetano, based at our Brig campus and responsible, among many things, for guiding César Ritz Colleges and Culinary Arts Academy students in their search for an internship, certainly believes so.
“How to compose a professional email, how to be properly groomed, how to write a CV or a cover letter, how to network…” she lists. “All of these skills seem so small, so insignificant, but in actual fact, they are crucial, and employers expect them from our students and graduates.
“Finding that first role, and someone to take a chance on us, is one of the hardest things we’ll have to do in our lives. That’s why it’s so important that we have the careers’ office here at César Ritz Colleges and Culinary Arts Academy (and indeed at every school in Swiss Education Group), to help students navigate the market and achieve their goals. As a career coach, my role is to demystify the industry and arm students with the necessary tools to succeed.”
Finding that first role, and someone to take a chance on us, is one of the hardest things we’ll have to do in our lives. That’s why it’s so important that we have the careers’ office here to help students navigate the market and achieve their goals.
A quality education is one thing – putting it into practice is another entirely. Getting hired is a real art, as Ms. Caetano well knows.
“The minute students arrive on campus, the learning begins – and never ends,” she says. “And not just in terms of their degree. Alongside their studies, I run career management classes for master’s and final year bachelor’s students, where I teach them how to understand a contract, how to read a job description, and how to gauge if a role is right for them or not, culminating in them producing a five-year career plan. We’ll set up one-to-one meetings to really try and understand what career path they imagine for themselves.
“In these conversations, we get a sense of whether the student is an introvert or extrovert and give them advice on securing the internship positions they need as part of their course. But it’s about so much more than just getting them that initial interview: I like to give my students autonomy, to equip them with the skills to go it alone in future.”
The minute students arrive on campus, the learning begins – and never ends. Alongside their studies, I run career management classes for master’s and final year bachelor’s students, where I teach them how to understand a contract, how to read a job description, and how to gauge if a role is right for them or not, culminating in them producing a five-year career plan.
In the here and now, however, you’re very much not alone, given the enormity of the challenges you’ll likely face, entering into the global jobs market for the first time. Ms. Caetano has truly seen it all: having made her start as a receptionist and tour guide in Lisbon, she studied languages, literature and culture at undergraduate level and tourism management as a postgraduate, before launching an international career in the cruise ship industry. Her no-nonsense reality check is vital for manoeuvring yourself through the job search unscathed.
“The biggest struggle most people come up against is getting their visas,” Ms. Caetano says. “There are countries that are simply impossible for students to intern in, given that their visa procedures take too long – students in the middle of their studies frankly don’t have the luxury of time to wait for their visa to be approved. Equally, we often have to rule countries out altogether because they give priority to local students instead.
“Another barrier, is the language,” she continues. “Students sometimes arrive with the preconceived idea that here in Switzerland, and in Europe in general, everyone will speak English and they will not have a care in the world. They soon realize that that’s not the case, and just how important it is to learn the language of the country, in order to integrate into the culture. You’ll be working as part of a team, after all.”
Having said this, Ms. Caetano does feel that students are more pragmatic about their prospects, after a life-changing 18 months.
“Students’ expectations are definitely more humble now, in the context of Covid,” she recognizes. “My students are well-informed and very aware that companies may still be going through difficult times and, as such, understand that positions could be limited. Thankfully, the industry is recovering and things are starting to improve at pace.
Make sure to add all of your contact details
Personalize the letter for each employer you reach out to
Research the company as much as you can, to show that you care
Double check for grammar and spelling mistakes
“Nonetheless, my job, no matter the state of the world, is also to manage their personal expectations. For example, if a student wants to go for a finance internship in Switzerland, but doesn’t have a background in finance or the necessary language skills, I have to be able to tell them that they likely won’t be hired for that position, and point them in another direction. It’s about being honest and positive, in equal measure.”
Since Ms. Caetano lives and breathes careers, our invaluable, bi-annual International Recruitment Forum, where students and alumni alike can meet up to 100 employers, all in the one place, is the highlight of her calendar, and the focus of her work with students.
The idea that students can meet managers and potential employers right there and then, people that they probably will never have the opportunity to see again, is incredible.
“The IRF means a lot to me,” she admits. “Because it’s a private event, and open only to Swiss Education Group students, it means that they don’t have any competition from other schools – the recruiters are there solely for them. The idea that students can meet managers and potential employers right there and then, people that they probably will never have the opportunity to see again, is incredible. It’s so rewarding, preparing them for it.”
There’s no doubt that Ms. Caetano will throw the kitchen sink at readying you for employment, but what can you bring to the table in return? What’s her final advice for getting hired?
“Always be respectful, kind and compassionate,” she summarizes. “The path will never be easy but with hard work and dedication, anything is possible.”