Finding opportunities among the challenges of South Africa’s current crisis

The  journey to employment can be one of the most nerve-racking and frustrating experiences for any South African to go through. Looking for a job can be filled with stress and disappointment. It can leave you feeling lost and uncertain because it affects your livelihood and also because your career is likely closely linked to your self identity. 

Unemployment hit a record high, with 32.6% of South Africans jobless in the first quarter of 2021, according to Stats SA data. For young people, the situation is worse, with  nearly half of the country’s youth unable to find work despite their eligibility to join the labour force.

These sobering statistics, coupled with the anticipated aftershocks from recent social unrest, show just how crucial it is to make sure that the journey to employment and personal upskilling is as easy and accessible as possible for everyone.

Finding the right job opportunities

The internet must become the first port of call when looking for job openings. Not only is there a greater volume of job listings available online but there are filters to refine your searches by job title, location, salary range, date of posting and even company size. This can be overwhelming but luckily, there are online tools that can make the search easier. 

For Omphemetse Motene, 26, who has been unemployed for the past three months, online tools have been the most helpful in linking her to new openings. She notes that even with increased access to available job opportunities online, looking for a job can be daunting, especially when you don’t know where to start. 

“Trust me, this is one of the most emotional journeys of your life, having to spend almost five hours daily searching for jobs online, filling in those applications, uploading documents and composing cover letters for every position you’re interested in,” says Motene. “Being rejected and, at times, not even getting any responses, is not easy. I get so frustrated sometimes that I even want to quit hunting for jobs.”

Director of BossJansen Executive Search, Jeremy Bossenger understands that not finding work can be frustrating to deal with but encourages people not to give up the search. 

“Simply applying to job adverts is not enough,” he says. “If you are an active job seeker, it’s probably best to approach the right decision-makers at various brands you would like to work for. It’s also a good idea to keep your professional social media profiles up-to-date and be reasonably active on them.”

Obtaining the right skills for the job you want

Social media co-ordinator, Kauthar Slemang, 25, found that her biggest obstacle in landing a job was the chicken-and-egg conundrum. When searching for entry-level opportunities, many graduates often find that those jobs have a requirement of at least two years of experience. But how can you gain experience when you don’t meet the requirements of an entry-level position?

Bossenger notes that there’s one key way you can differentiate yourself from other job seekers despite not having the relevant experience in the field, and that’s your skillset. 

“Specialise! Specialise! Specialise! It is becoming increasingly difficult to find a job if you have the same generic skill sets as everyone else in your industry. No matter what field you have chosen, you need to become an absolute specialist or expert in it or in a particular part of it.”

He adds that prospective recruits should also be working on a range of softer skills when looking for new opportunities such as learning to network: “Learn to build your network and put time and energy into constantly growing it.”

There are a number of resources available to job seekers looking to upskill for an increasingly competitive, digital, and ever-changing jobs marketplace. Online learning tools such as Google Digital Skills for Africa offer more than 152 courses covering career development, digital marketing, as well as data and technology. Through the platform, you can enhance your skill set at your own pace with flexible and personalised training courses that can prepare you for the career you want.

“These courses are very helpful because they teach you a lot and you get exposed to many new things. It helps to boost your image as an individual and helps you improve your career prospects,” says Motene. 

Prepping for the interview

After the laborious process of applying for available job positions comes the often nail-biting experience of the interview. Sitting in front of people who will decide something so important to your future can be quite intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.

By making sure you’re fully prepared for an interview, you can move past those nerves and focus on your excitement for the job. Although you can’t anticipate every question you’ll be asked, you can research and practice your responses to the most common questions asked by recruiters, as well as any interview dos and don’ts. 

YouTube has thousands of videos that can help job seekers get ready for job interviews, which can be particularly helpful to those who have never gone through the process before. 

“Videos help job seekers better prepare for any unexpected questions pertaining to a certain job, giving them tips on what to wear, how to display confidence, and help keep the interviewee calm,” says Slemang. 

While the search for a job can often be one of the most discouraging experiences to go through, there are many resources out there that can help to alleviate the stress and difficulty of finding the right job. From using the right search tools so you have access to every opportunity, to interview preparation playbooks that can help you stand out, and upskilling resources that can accelerate your career journey — the pathway to finding a job becomes much easier to navigate with online tools.

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Alistair Mokoena
Alistair Mokoena is the country director of Google South Africa

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