Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Graduates trade job market scrum for the world of micro-business

More youngsters are turning to social media and the internet to launch their own businesses.

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Stiff competition for a shrinking job pool is causing some fresh graduates to rethink a conventional career in their field of study, pushing them instead to consider other options including launching their own micro-business in the increasingly borderless world of e-commerce.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the economy, many companies have postponed student internships and slammed the brakes on recruitment, derailing the plans of graduates who had planned to enter the workforce this year.

Hana Mira, 20, still has a year to go at law school but she is all too aware of how the pandemic has affected the job market.

“I wouldn’t say that I am pessimistic, but I would say that I’d be at a disadvantage in trying to secure a job during this pandemic,” she told MalaysiaNow.

“This is because I have no work experience, and it’s evident that most companies prefer those who do.”

It’s also tough for fresh graduates to meet the requirements of companies looking to fill specialised positions, she said – their chances of being hired for such posts are slim.

In a nutshell, she believes the likelihood of her embarking on a so-called regular job is small.

“I feel like I’d be able to secure odd jobs better than a 9-5 job.”

Not for everyone

But leaving the well-trod path of conventional careers and diving into the world of micro-businesses is easier said than done.

Wei Pen, 25, graduated with a degree in psychology last year. Seeing the success of a friend who launched her own micro-business, she too decided to give it a try.

“But in order to do that, you need money as well, so that fell.”

“I feel like I’d be able to secure odd jobs better than a 9-5 job.”

She now works in a retail position and while she loves her job, she sometimes wonders how life would be if her micro-business had not failed.

Hana, meanwhile, has had more luck with hers. Like many other young Malaysians, she utilises social media platforms to sell her products.

She began her business in June, selling K-pop albums. She initially meant to buy them for herself but realised that they were cheaper on one particular Korean website.

That was the beginning of her career as a “group order manager” (GOM). Essentially, she buys the albums online, marks up the price and then sells them.

“I advertised the marked-up albums on Twitter and received around 10 orders, which was surprising to me as strangers on the internet trusted me to buy them,” she said.

She does the math for shipping fees and market prices and makes payments using either her PayPal account or her dad’s credit card.

For now it’s a small venture even by micro-business standards, but she hopes to expand one day.

“I have envisioned myself starting or owning another business in the future, most likely when I am able to get a stable income,” she said.

And she is not alone. She told MalaysiaNow that others like her have saturated the market.

“There are already existing GOM accounts that have over 800 to 4,000 followers or accumulated buyers.”

‘Exciting’

Because she has no experience in business or marketing, Hana’s expectations are still low. However, she is keen to continue.

“I felt like it was an exciting project,” she said. “I thought I would only do it once, but I have had the opportunity to continue my business until this day.”

More than just exciting, micro-businesses could be the answer for thousands of entrepreneurs struggling to survive the economic fallout of Covid-19.

According to Hana, there has been a surge in local business on social media platform TikTok.

“Most of them sell handmade items such as scrunchies, jewellery, paintings and customised tote bags,” she said.

“I have seen some videos where business owners earn three times the amount they would normally get, even though some of them were on the verge of closing down prior to the pandemic.”

Another positive outcome she sees is the rise in support for local businesses.

“Even though this pandemic has been rough for most of us, I am glad to see aspiring entrepreneurs who may have started doing it as a hobby but have the opportunity to grow their own business from home.

“Seeing the amount of support they get from other Malaysians and sometimes people overseas – it’s heart-warming.”

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