So, you’ve got your degree and are ready to get into the workforce, make money, become successful and take over the world. Right!? Well…ummm…let’s chat about this some more.
While I can appreciate the gung-ho and energy, let’s look at the facts:
In 2017, there were an estimated 9.3 million unemployed citizens in South Africa, of which 6 million are those are under the age of 35 An estimated 7% of these unemployed people are graduates.
This is a staggering figure, especially as for decades, young people have been told that education will set them free, unlocking many doors in the world of work leading to guaranteed success. Of course, it is true Education is the key to success, but more recently a tertiary qualification is just a ticket to the door.
Employers are looking for experience and skill and the rising unemployment statistics cast many questions as to whether universities prepare students for the job market. There seems to be a large variance in what and how universities teach and the experience of working in the job market. University degrees tend to be theoretically driven, with very little practical experience provided. Furthermore, the structure of exams focuses more on a person’s ability to memorise the textbooks rather than their ability to apply or implement the information and learning.
So, Graduates face a classic Catch-22 scenario where they can’t find work because they have no experience and they cannot get experience without a job.
Because having a degree is no longer enough, I strongly suggest you take the opportunities you are given, gain work experience, gain the skills to independently add value to a company, and improve your CV and your chances of landing your next job as you move along to your desired career path.
It seems for one reason or another that many South African graduates have unrealistic expectations of their first jobs, misconceptions which mostly revolve around what exactly they’ll be doing and how much they’ll be paid. Accepting the first job you are offered, even though it is for less pay; a junior role; or seems to undermine your degree – you should still take it, be teachable, and LEARN. Learn how things are done. Learn the correct protocols. Learn the proper business etiquette.
In an ideal (but clearly unrealistic of me to even think) scenario, what we should be hearing from graduates is “I don’t know everything,… in fact, I know very little about the world of work, but please give me a chance to start at the bottom and learn, and I promise I won’t let you down, I won’t demand, I won’t strike, I won’t steal, I won’t be dishonest, I don’t expect to be paid what other experienced even if less qualified than me people earn”
Your first year of work must be seen as an extension of your studies, you’re not worth much in terms of return on investment to a company until you have gained experience, so don’t be fussy!