Job-hunting: the skills you need

Finishing school not only represents the end of a chapter in your life but also the beginning of a world of possibilities.

Some learners start their tertiary studies immediately while others take gap years to gain life experiences before having to make career and study choices. But not all matriculants can enter higher education immediately or go travelling. Many have to find employment right away.

If you have just completed school and are faced with the daunting task of finding a job it can be an overwhelming experience. Only between 5% and 7% of successful Grade 12 candidates in the country find employment in the formal sector, according to an article by Gideon Horn published in the South Africa Journal of Education in 2006. One of the biggest challenges in finding a job is that most companies require experience in addition to a qualification.

According to Horn’s research, “It is argued that learners are ill-prepared for the modern world of work, putting the blame on teachers and the schooling system for not preparing learners adequately in terms of the specific job skills required. “Other arguments are that the South African economy simply does not create a sufficient number of job opportunities; while affirmative action and other reasons such as increased mechanisation are also mentioned.”

Horn says matriculants must be able to adjust quickly to changing circumstances. They need to be proficient in mathematics, computing, reading, writing and reasoning and have the ability to use resources and information constructively. Furthermore, they need to master technology and have the flexibility to cope with change in the workplace.

According to counselling psychologist Anne Newman at La Rouge, a careers services company, “If you are applying for a job straight out of matric with neither qualifications nor experience you need to think about what you have to offer in terms of work skills and sell yourself to the company.”

She counsels job seekers to research the company on the internet with regard to what it does, what products are offered and present a proposition to the company. “If you’ve had school successes which could translate into work skills you need to present these as well. Don’t forget that life is an experience so identify the skills you already have and present these.”

Newman says it is important not to be picky when you are looking for your first job. “Get anything you can and then work yourself up,” she says. While you are working, you can also take up part-time studies and short courses that can be presented as credentials during a job interview.

“Some of the most common problems matriculants face when they have found their first jobs is that they find it very difficult to work a full ‘commercial’ day in terms of energy and perseverance. They often have no idea of the world of work and some develop stress symptoms — burnout — which results in poor performance through lack of energy, tendency to get sick, problems making decisions and so on,” Newman says.

When hiring, companies look for good work ethic, being on time, being diligent, the ability to pay attention to detail and to relate well to colleagues and customers. Newman says schools could prepare learners for the workplace by:

  • Arranging for job shadowing such as the Cell C “take a girl child to work” campaign;
  • Getting former pupils or parents to come in and talk about the workplace;
  • Showing examples of successful people who started out with no further education but got ahead through diligence, good ideas and new work concepts;
  • Organising life orientation lessons during which learners go through newspapers to look at what jobs are on offer; and
  • Organising career assessments so learners can identify their interests and jobs in these areas, including those who do not need tertiary education.

A good place to look for jobs is in local or national newspapers, recruitment agencies, job vacancy websites and word of mouth. You could also look for jobs in developing or new fields — such as working as a call centre agent. Newman advises anyone just entering the job market to use all the sources you have, including parents, friends’ parents, peers, educators and the media.

“Present your best self so you are a good proposition to consider. Prepare for rejection and keep going — find out why you were rejected and work on these points. Also remember that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme will pay for students who need financial support — so you can work on raising first-year fees and if you are successful in your studies get aid after that,” says Newman.

Tips for job seekers
Preparing a CV
The typical CV is often long and boring. Try to produce a two- to three-pager with the first page giving three key skills areas such as building relationships with people (useful for a sales job), good computer skills which can be used for administration work and good work ethic. You also need to give concrete examples of proven skills and how these would be of advantage to an employer. Give biographical details briefly. Remember to list key experiences such as being a prefect, leading a project, heading the chess team, sports roles and organising events such as the matric dance.

Preparing for a job interview

  • Research the company and who is who and what they do;
  • Think about what you have to offer and rehearse saying it with confidence;
  • Identify key skills of value to the company; and
  • Show ambition.

Advice on what to do in the interview

  • Know who you are going to talk to and what they do;
  • Practice introducing yourself and what you want to say;
  • Listen to questions and answer clearly without unnecessary detail;
  • Be observant about who you are talking to, bearing in mind cultural diversity;
  • Check your body language;
  • Think about what you want to achieve during the interview and how to achieve it;
  • Make sure you can be heard — do not let stress turn your voice into a “mouse” voice;
  • Be on time, preferably early;
  • Look alert in the waiting room and do not slouch; and
  • Dress neatly.

Information provided by Anne Newman

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