How to land your first job

The joy of passing exams will soon be replaced by the stress of the job hunt for some of these Durban matrics. / Jackie Clausen
The joy of passing exams will soon be replaced by the stress of the job hunt for some of these Durban matrics. / Jackie Clausen

With years of hard work and the exhilaration of graduation behind them, the real effort now starts for new graduates, to get their foot in the door of the world of work. With SA's high unemployment rate and many candidates competing for limited opportunities, the job search can be a daunting task.

But two education experts say that with the right approach, a search can result in success sooner rather than later.

"There are a number of things you need to consider when launching your job search to ensure that you stand a better chance," says Sifiso Mnisi, head of programme for faculty of humanities at The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest private higher education provider.

Consideration 1: Change your mindset and get positive

"Looking for a job is a full-time job on its own," says Mnisi. "Therefore, to start on a positive note, tell yourself that you already have a job. This step requires you to position yourself socially, chronologically and professionally so that you can start thinking like an employed person."

Mnisi advises graduates to be patient but consistent.

"Create a schedule with a set number of hours a day to search for your dream position, sending out applications and making enquiries about job opportunities."

Consideration 2: Update your CV and tailor it to each position

Your first point of departure is your curriculum vitae (CV) and the cover letter, says Fathima Razack, The IIE's Head of Programme: Faculty of Commerce.

"These are the first documents that potential employers will see and should show who you are and why you are suitable for their vacancy. Employers need to know that you are a good fit for their company, so your focus should be on convincing them that you are the best candidate for the job."

Razack says CVs must be tailored to the requirements of each position. Additionally, CVs should be relevant to the field of work. A CV for a creative or advertising position will look different to a more traditional CV in the field of finance, for instance.

"At the end of the day it is not just about the employer finding you, but also about you finding the employer and position that are right for you."

Consideration 3: Create a strong online presence and professional personal brand

A strong online presence is crucial and graduates should actively manage theirs, says Mnisi.

"Create Google alerts for specific vacancies and register your CV with reputable recruitment agencies and jobs portals such as PNet and Bizcommunity

"These days, employers often scour social media in search of suitable candidates. A good LinkedIn profile is very important here as it allows you to be seen by professionals and as a professional. Follow companies and professionals on social media to see what is happening in their world, and to stay abreast of developments in your industry."

Consideration 4: Do your homework

Razack says the most important part of the job hunt starts when a company signals interest.

She says that prior to an interview, graduates should do their research on the company, the position and the industry in general, to thoroughly understand:

 What the company does to make money and what need it is trying to address in the market;

  •  The organisational culture and leadership of the company;
  •  How the company positions itself in the mainstream and on social media;
  •  When the company was started, its history, vision and mission;
  •  How your contribution can make a positive difference in the company.

Consideration 5: Don't stand still

Mnisi says it is imperative that graduates keep learning, keep abreast of developments in their industry, and make a real effort to network and make contacts.

"Make yourself a promise and commit to an attitude of lifelong learning. Constantly update your skills," he says.

Additionally, graduates should approach the career centres of their higher education institutions.

"The best institutions have fantastic graduate employability programmes, and could help you with preparing for interviews, identifying vacancies, or reviewing your CV if it doesn't seem to be making the cut."

Razack says that for each application, graduates must take their time and be thorough. "Every effort that you put in will help you to either refine your skills or develop your resilience or focus."

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