A meme making its rounds on the internet states that fresh graduates have "experienced four years of hard battle to find a job, but then succumbed to pneumonia."
Hong Kong fresh graduates have struggled as joblessness worsened to 7 percent in January - close to a 17-year high - 0.4 percent higher than for the three months ending last year. The latest figures from the Census and Statistics Department show that 7,500 more people were out of work as of January 31, bringing the total to 253,300, the highest since October 2004.
At a luncheon for employers and fresh graduates held at Hong Kong Baptist University last month, one graduate shared her experience of sending out her resume 10 times and getting only one or two replies.
An employer from Ernst & Young responded that although the company has not reduced its number of employees in the past year, recruitment activities have moved to online job fairs and taken other forms.
However, the new formats require students to show "positive, creative and passionate" traits.
"Creativity can also be found in the employee's outfit," said Rosa Tang, head of HKBU's career center, who points out that this detail is not always appreciated.
At Suit Switcher, an annual event involving the recycling and referral of officewear at HKBU, students can choose from clothes and accessories that have been donated by university faculty and a collaborating company. They are also encouraged to create their own styles to fit their professional outlook.
Apart from raising students' awareness of officewear, fulfilling students' needs for job-hunting clothes and giving the donated clothes a second life, the career center also hopes to encourage jobseekers to stay positive during these difficult times.
A fashion show featuring clothes picked from the Suit Switcher stock at the campus was also developed.
Themed "Make your workplace a runway," the February 19 fashion show, supported by the career center, was organized by a team of six students who are public relations and advertising majors at the school of communication and are part of the student-run public relations agency The Young Agency at HKBU.
The 10 models, all HKBU students from different fields, dressed up formally and in smart casual during two sessions to meet the needs of different occasions.
There are more than just black, white and gray suits at the fashion show, which was held both on-site and online via YouTube. For example, top female looks include a silver silk blouse paired with oat-colored flare pants and a khaki asymmetric vest dress with a ribbon laid over the right shoulder.
"Different styles can fit different body shapes and heights," said Jeanie Yuen, a student organizer. "We hope that students can jump out of a more rigid style of dressing and highlight their professionalism and creativity through mixing and matching."
Suit Switcher, which has been popular since its launch in 2017, was canceled last year due to the pandemic, leaving a backlog of more than 1,000 donated items. More than half of these are suits and 40 percent accessories.
Held solely offline for two days in the past, career center staff created an online store and opened it to students for three days this year. "Each student can choose only three items and they are first come, first served," said Tang. "Just like finding a job, the opportunity is always there for those who are prepared."
Tang also gave tips to graduates regarding job-hunting outfits. "Fit and neatness are the most important things for everyone, especially neatness, which is often overlooked; don't wear heavy makeup and use perfume carefully," she said. "The greatest asset of fresh graduates is always enthusiasm and every detail of your outfit should serve this image."