The latest youth unemployment figures released by StatsSA again illustrate the dire position in which young jobseekers find themselves, with little indication that the situation will ease in the near future. And, while the negative impact of youth unemployment on the country as a whole is significant, at an individual level it can be catastrophic.
Therefore, it is important for young people stay motivated to continue working on their careers and prospects, and not give in to despondency when their job search fails to deliver, an expert says.
"Gaining a qualification is one of the proudest days in a young person's life, but disillusionment can quickly set in when you keep getting turned down when applying for vacancies," says Nomawabo May, Team Leader: Student Advisor Department at Oxbridge Academy.
She says that young people should not let the unemployment statistics intimidate them into thinking that there is no hope, because there are ways in which jobseekers can, firstly, stand out from other applicants and, secondly, continue to work on their employability, in the process building invaluable skills, experience and resilience.
"The traditional job market has changed, and a single qualification no longer means automatic access to full-time employment. This is where you need to start getting creative in the way you approach your career, because companies will always be in need of skilled and experienced contributors.
"You should find a way in which you can match what you have to offer to that which companies seek," she says.
May advises young professionals struggling to land their first position to do the following:
Highlight your hot in-demand (soft) skills
"Have a look at your CV. Does it make you stand out from others with the same qualifications and similar experience? By highlighting the skills that employers look for to distinguish between candidates who are technically on par, you stand a better chance of landing an interview.
"Look at your history and find examples - at school, at college, or in previous positions - which demonstrate a strong work ethic, leadership, emotional intelligence, communication skills and the ability to work well in a team," says May.
Keep your skills up to date while searching
Unfortunately, sometimes young people can search so long to find a position in their field, that their skills become rusty or the material they studied become out of date, particularly in IT-related fields.
"Make sure that you continue sharpening your skills and staying current with what is happening in your industry - by reading online, watching YouTube tutorials, and so forth - while looking for work," May advises.
"If possible, attend networking events so that you stay in touch with your peers. You have to maintain an approach of being a professional in your field even while searching for employment. The more you stay immersed in your industry, the better your chances of noticing opportunities and being able to grab them successfully when they do arise."
While a full-time position is first prize for many jobseekers, many new companies and entrepreneurs are not in a position to hire full-time staff, so they increase their capacity to service client contracts by hiring freelancers or consultants.
"See how you can match your skills and qualifications to the kinds of projects that require freelancers, and find companies online that specialise in matching consultants with those seeking your skills. For instance, if you did a secretarial course you could be well placed to freelance as a typist or transcriber. Or, if you have a social media management qualification, you can offer your freelancing services to literally hundreds, if not thousands, of companies specialising in this field," says May.
"It is important to keep busy, engaged and motivated while looking for work," says May.
"Regardless of your existing qualification, you can do an additional qualification in your own time at your own pace, pursuing a field where there is high demand in the workplace, for instance sales, financial management, business management, IT or software development. All these skills will complement your original qualification, provide you with an edge over other applicants, and widen the field of options when applying for positions," she says.
"At the end of the day, you must guard against resigning yourself to this idea that you will never be successful in your job search. Keep reaching for your dream, and remain active and positive in both your search and the honing of your skills and experience, in whichever way you can. Don't hesitate to ask the help of a mentor or a student advisor, who will be able to guide you in the right direction, and help you present yourself optimally in future applications."
For further information or comment, please contact Sanet at Oxbridge Academy: 021 883 2454 or email .
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