While employment prospects may appear bleak for the Class of 2015, with only one in four likely to find employment, all is not lost for the young South Africans, who matriculated last year.
Matriculants need to be proactive; they also need to think out of the box. They should look for opportunities to build their skills. If they want to be marketable in a job market, awash with CVs, they need to build CVs that stands out.
The first step is to obtain some work experience, admittedly, this is a ‘catch 22,’ as employers are looking for experience, and learners need an opportunity to work, in order to gain work experience. Metaphorically speaking, there are, however, many ways to kill a cat. Matriculants may be surprised to learn that only 40% of the global workforce is employed full-time. While matriculants generally look for full-time employment, they may be overlooking part-time or temporary positions. By so doing, they are allowing valuable work opportunities to slip through their fingers.
Where matriculants do not have any work experience, I advise them to list any leadership positions at school, on the sports field, or place of worship and the incumbent responsibilities. This will demonstrate leadership, commitment and the ability to be a team player. These are attributes that employers look for. Where possible, attach testimonials from your school, church or sports club.
In sharp contrast to countries such as the US, or the UK, South Africa has never established a strong tradition of volunteering. Volunteering is one of the best kept secrets. Ideally, learners should start volunteering while still at school. Volunteering provides a wonderful opportunity to acquire both hard and soft skills at no financial cost. Often overlooked is the fact that prospective employers are likely to be very impressed by a candidate’s willingness to give back. Social responsibility is part of the business fabric today. Candidates should approach hospitals, old age homes, NGOs or animal shelters. They should volunteer their services, in exchange for the opportunity to learn.
When it comes to job hunting school leavers should not be fussy. Accept any opportunity, providing it is legal. Waitressing, filing, answering the telephone, running errands, promotions, child minding or selling widgets, may not be aligned to your career aspirations, but each of these activities, provides an opportunity to learn about customer service, team work, negotiation skills, and how business operates.
It is also very important to have realistic expectations. Ambition and self-confidence are commendable attributes, but they need to be accompanied, by skills, knowledge, competence and experience. Matriculants must accept that as junior employees, they will be required to undertake some menial tasks, and tasks which they will not necessarily enjoy. Their earnings will also be modest. They have to accept that even the CEO, started at the bottom. If they want to succeed, a good work ethic, a positive attitude, and a willingness to learn will take them far.
When considering one’s options, it is best to take a long term view. An entry level position, with a reputable company, offering solid training and proper career pathing, always trumps more money and a fancy job title, as the latter is not necessarily sustainable.
It goes without saying that your CV should be typed, well set out, easy to follow, truthful, brief and error free.