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So, you’ve just graduated – congratulations! You are probably excited to find that dream job, earn an income and put your skills and education to use. While landing your first job may feel overwhelming, don’t despair. Jake Willis, CEO of entry level recruitment company, Lulaway, provides some proven strategies on how to tackle the various challenges and succeed.
1. Create a winning CV
Don’t underestimate the importance of a great CV. Your CV is a representation of you and your achievements and presents an ideal opportunity to make a lasting impression. It is the first – and possibly last – encounter a potential employer has with you, so you need to make it count. Spend time on your CV to make it an excellent summary of who you are, highlighting your strengths and talents and what you are able offer the employer.
Your CV should be concise and not more than two pages long. While you may not have tons of work experience, be sure to showcase your successes. Promote your achievements in different contexts such as study, work or leisure, as well as any volunteer work or community projects you were involved in.
Ask an experienced friend or relative to help you and make sure that your spelling and grammar are absolute pitch-perfect. If you are planning to hand-deliver your CV, print out several copies, bind and place them in a plastic folder. Also remember to save an electronic version, ready to email as and when opportunities arise.
2. Ace that interview
If you are invited to attend a job interview, you need to ensure that you take it seriously. You are competing with dozens of other candidates and this is your one chance to make a lasting impact, emphasising your suitability for the role, your talents and potential. By arriving on time, you will demonstrate that you are reliable and committed. Dress professionally and remember to make – and keep – eye contact. It is advisable that you conduct in-depth research on the company to really stand out, especially when you ask intelligent, informed questions about the job at hand.
3. Research, research, research
The internet is your best friend. There are dozens of websites devoted to helping graduates like you find a job. Try some of the popular online job portals and classifieds sites, also consider recruiters like Lulaway who specialise in entry-level positions. Keep a look out for graduate programmes, learnerships and internships that are on offer. Register your CV and create an employment profile on every available website - it costs nothing and gives you maximum exposure. Sign up for alerts and updates and ensure you check the web every few days as new opportunities arise all the time.
4. Spread the word
Many people say that their jobs – especially first jobs – were found using personal connections. Now is not the time to be shy. Reach out to everyone and anyone you know who can connect you to employment opportunities.
This includes your friends, relatives, parents’ friends, classmates, church members and youth groups. If you have a connection, use it. Does your mom shop regularly at the store where you'd like to work? If so, have her mention that you'd be open to working there.
A great place to start is in your own community. Local stores and businesses often prefer to hire from within the community. Also keep in touch with your school or tertiary institution regularly as they are sometimes contacted by recruiters, training companies and employers looking for candidates with specific qualifications.
5. Have realistic expectations
Breaking into the job market in South Africa is challenging, especially given its high rate of youth unemployment, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
While you may have studied for a specific career, it may be hard to find a job that is perfectly aligned with your training. Market demands are often different from what many young people are qualified to do, so look around, but don’t be too selective about your first job. Your first job may not be your dream job, dream pay, or dream conditions, but try keep in mind that A job is better than NO job.
It is ill-advised to reject a job offer because you feel it is ‘beneath your qualification’. All job seekers started at the bottom – as packers or crew members – and quickly progressed in the company when they showed how capable they were. Your way up is by getting your foot in the door – so take that job, especially if there is room for growth.
6. You can’t put a price on experience
Employers place tremendous value on experience, sometimes even more than formal training. Experienced employees require less training, take less time to get used to a working environment and quickly become efficient and productive employees.
Experience shows an employer that you are willing to work hard and that you have the aptitude to get the job done. Even if the role turns out not be what you want long term, we recommend sticking it out at least six months or even a year. Get a great reference from your manager and you will come out much more employable, with valuable skills and one step closer to finding your dream job.
7. Keep trying
It can be frustrating to feel you are doing all the right things and still not be able to secure a job. Don't give up if you can't find a job immediately. Searching for a job takes persistence and patience. It's important to keep trying, because a potential employer will notice if you have the determination and drive to find a job. It can take several months to find a suitable job – economic times are tough, but if you persevere, your efforts will be rewarded. In the meantime, look at ways you can make yourself more employable through volunteer or temporary work and by learning new a skill.