I’m a Graduate – I need a job!

need a job

You’ve completed your degree, but now you really need a job. Being a graduate is awesome, but often this also means being unemployed – at least until you find that first job. Janine gives you some advice on the job-hunting spree.

Graduation is a funny thing. On the one hand it symbolises freedom, accomplishment, and recognition…and on the other hand it’s the end of a phase that still provided you with some structure. But after graduation, you’re out there, in the big world… and it doesn’t always feel so structured anymore. If you’re very curious, read this article that talks about the high unemployment rate among graduates. 

The time between graduation and your first job can be tough and full of anxiety. Will you be employed? Do you have what it takes? What about all the competitors? How do you get that first break?

Well, ideally your job search shouldn’t only be starting after graduation. Your best chances at finding something soon after graduation is if you can already bring some experience and skills with you. However, entering the working world is tough, so have a read at how you can make this process a little easier.

Which degree will get me a job?

When you decide on what to study, you should do some homework. You ideally want to consider both the kind of jobs you would enjoy, and the kind of the jobs that are in demand. Overall, your choice of degree or certification needs to be holistic: Can I get a job with this degree? Do I enjoy this field? Is the industry stable? Do I have the skills?

To have a greater sense of guarantee for future jobs, consider careers in the STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), because they have quoted clear-cut paths and qualify you for specific positions. But don’t forget to place it all in context. For example, due to South African politics, economics, etc., our petrochemical industry has taken a dive, so if you study Chemical Engineering, you will have to keep a broader eye on the field and explore things like working in industrial paint companies, pharmaceuticals, water treatment, or plastics industry. You get the picture.

For those who do not think pragmatically about jobs at the outset of your tertiary education, and for those who choose to follow your passion (which may well be an alternative career path) – be prepared to work and fight hard to get and keep a job. More importantly, don’t be surprised to find yourself without a job if you have done a less obviously employable degree, for example studying History or Classics. For you guys it can be even harder, but by no means impossible. All it means is it’s time to be a bit creative in your job search.

How You Job Search

The manner in which you are job searching can have a great influence on whether or not you are successful. Here are three important approaches to include for your job hunt:

  • Referrals and Connections

Referrals and connections are so important, as lots of people get jobs from networking and through ‘someone who knows someone.’ As the saying goes, it’s WHO you know, not WHAT you know.

  • Recruitment and Job Agencies

These agencies work for various companies and are well networked. They get you up to speed as to what skills are required for which positions, and help get you job interviews or placements.

  • Online Platforms

Social Media, online companies, BizzCommunity, OLX/Gumtree… you know those gems. Be proactive and make people aware of your skills and who you are through online platforms. Don’t just send out a CV or put up your profile on LinkedIn and wait for people to magically come to you. You need to spread the word, persistently, and keep going and going until someone notices and listens to you. This might mean that you send out your CV to 100 different companies – maybe you’ll get a few interviews, and you might just hit the jackpot with one of them.

Need tips on how to write a CV? Check this out.

Prepare for Your Job Interview

Never ever go into a job interview without having at least done a minimal amount of reading and research about the potential employer. You need to research and identify who you want to address your CV to, for example the senior managers or HR people. Reach out to them and have a compelling story on why you want to work at that company. Moreover, try to write a short but potent cover letter or Email explaining why they should be hiring you. Basically, tell them what you’re bringing to the party to contribute to their team and revenue.

Make sure you communicate your soft skills – the cluster of personality traits, interpersonal skills, management styles, etc. that characterise your relationships. The right soft skills can enhance your employability skills, like working in a team, following instructions, adaptability, or conflict resolution. HR departments of corporates are more aware than ever before about the importance of soft skills over hard-core intellect.

Overcome your shyness and follow up your on your application or interview – make those phone calls. Be persistent. It’s not about bugging people and being a nuisance, but about being proactive by keeping your name in the top of their minds. You can even consider going to the employer in person to introduce yourself, if this is possible. By introducing yourself face-to-face and making a friendly, enthusiastic impression, you can begin to form a relationship with the people – and be seen. Employment is not about some random piece of paper or a contract. It’s about people – and in this case you are ‘people.’

Here are more tips on how to conduct yourself in the interview.

Work Experience

“Yay I got my interview, they like me, I like them… but… I have no work experience.”

Yes, we all know that dilemma. To avoid this moment of agony, ensure you are doing some volunteer or vocational work during your holidays. This will help to get your name out there and for you to get valuable work experience under your belt, even if it doesn’t relate directly to the industry you see yourself in for the future.

If you have graduated and cannot find a job because of a lack of work experience, then get up, and get out there. It’s not too late to start. Do internships, learnerships, or volunteering in order to gain some experience. Sometimes it’s a good idea to start small, with smaller companies, because you are less likely to be pigeonholed into doing one specific job, but rather your work experience will be broader.

Just because you spent a fortune on your education does not mean that you don’t need to work for free… at least when you start out. Often, that first job that you do for free can end up being the push that gets you the work experience for a great future job.

Check out this article for some ideas for jobs during your vac.

A Crappy First Job is Better than No Job

The first job you get might not be what you imagine, or what you consider appropriate for your qualification. However, it’s good to at least have something and be out there in the marketplace, networking, and getting yourself experience, even if you feel superior to the job. The alternative is for you not to find a job at all, and unemployment can lead to a negative cycle very quickly.

The refrain we hear all the time from recruitment agencies is that graduates in particular are unrealistic in their expectations of income and job description. For example, a student who has an Honours in filmmaking and directing will probably still start out in the film industry as an office PA. Likewise, just because you did Civil Engineering does not mean your first job will have you in charge of a bridge building project.

It’s about working your way up. In fact, be happy to start right at the bottom – it’s still a start. Take your ego out of the equation. There are countless success stories of people starting in the lowest of jobs but ending up in high senior management positions further down the line. A company wants to get to know you, your capabilities and contribution to the business before taking you on permanently – but once you’re in, you can move up quite quickly at times, both in terms of salary and position.

General Job-Hunting Tips

  • Be positive.

Any negativity about your degree, people, positions, lack of jobs etc. will only re-bound on you.

  • Identify your uniqueness.

If there are 20 Civil Engineering graduates, what makes you special for this company? Your passion? Your knowledge of the industry? Your commitment to be part of a winning team?

  • Present yourself to the right person.

Identify 3-5 companies that you would like to work for, research who you should be seeing in senior management or HR, and call them up asking for 5 minutes of their time (no matter if a job is being advertised or not).

  • Stay involved.

Keep yourself in the work environment, even accepting jobs ‘below’ your qualification status. This will allow you to stay in an ‘I am employable’ frame of mind.

  • Don’t be scared to start small.

Ignore naysayers. Small businesses will often be more willing to give a hard worker a shot.

EduConnect 2Cents

It’s true that there is nothing wrong with starting small and gradually filling your backpack with jobs and work experiences. However, unless you can’t financially afford it, try not to accept a job that makes you feel like a sell-out. For example, if you want to be an advocate for the banning of animal testing, and someone offers you a research position in a company that does animal testing… you would be completely untrue to yourself if you took the job. Not good. Not good at all. If possible, keep looking – for example, you could work at an animal shelter until a better opportunity presents itself.

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