With years of hard work and the exhilaration of graduation behind them, the real effort now starts for new graduates to get their foot in the door of the world of work.
With SA’s high unemployment rate and many candidates competing for limited opportunities, the job search can be a daunting task.
But two education experts say that with the right approach, a search can lead to success sooner rather than later.
“There are a number of things you need to consider when launching your job search to ensure that you stand a better chance,” says Sifiso Mnisi, the head of the Independent Institute of Education’s humanities faculty programme.
Change your mindset and get positive
“Looking for a job is a full-time job on its own,” says Mr Mnisi.
“Therefore, to start on a positive note, tell yourself that you already have a job. This step requires you to position yourself socially, chronologically, and professionally so that you can start thinking like an employed person.”
He advises graduates to be patient but consistent.
“Create a schedule with a set number of hours a day to search for your dream position, sending out applications and making enquiries about job opportunities.
“Take nothing at a personal level, and try to enjoy the process, which is also an important opportunity to learn and grow.”
Update your CV and tailor it to each position
Your first point of departure is your CV and the cover letter, says Fathima Razack, head of the IIE’s faculty of commerce programme.
“These are the first documents that potential employers will see and should show who you are and why you are suitable for their vacancy. Employers need to know that you are a good fit for their company, so your focus should be on convincing them of that.”
CVs should be tailored to the requirements of each position and relevant to the field of work.
“At the end of the day, it is not just about the employer finding you, but also about you finding the employer and position that are right for you. Carefully read the job specifications, for example, the requirements in terms of qualifications, experience and skills”, she says.
Create a strong online presence and professional personal brand
A strong online presence is crucial and graduates should actively manage theirs, says Mr Mnisi.
“Create Google alerts for specific vacancies and register your CV with reputable recruitment agencies and jobs portals,” he says.
“These days, employers often scour social media in search of suitable candidates.”
Do your homework
Ms Razack says the most important part of the job hunt starts when a company signals interest.
Before an interview, it’s important to research the company, the position, and the industry in general, to thoroughly understand:
What the company does to make money and what need it is trying to address in the market.
The organisational culture and leadership of the company.
How the company positions itself in the mainstream and on social media.
When the company was started, its history, vision and mission.
How your contribution can make a positive difference in the company.
Don’t stand still
Keep learning, keep abreast of developments in the industry and make a real effort to network and make contacts, says Mr Mnisi.
“Constantly update your skills, do a short course to widen your knowledge and qualifications base, work with a mentor or volunteer. All these things grow you as a person and increase your competitiveness in the job market.”