Testimony of a graduate:
”Last year, I was destined to join the labour force as one of these ill-favoured youths, and with full knowledge of the mass of disillusioned young people that I was competing with – this appeared a daunting prospect. Nonetheless, I had an Honours Degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. My academic qualifications would surge to the top of the pool of prospective employees. Several lukewarm responses from employers later brought my hopes back to earth.
The explanation for this poor reception rested in one line that marred my chances with most employers: ‘no work experience’. The Catch-22 of ‘you cannot get work experience without work experience’ became a dismal reality for me. I eventually emerged from the job-searching doldrums when I received positive feedback from a small but growing Enterprise Development firm. In January of this year, I was employed as a business intern.
After a few weeks of working at the firm, it became apparent that there was cause for most firms’ reluctance to hire graduates, namely that we need more workplace skills. As a business graduate, I was fortunate enough to be proficient in various computer programmes and could add value in this area; however, this differs from many other graduates who still need to learn these skills during their studies. These skills deficiencies and poor communication and presentation skills make it difficult for many graduates to provide genuine and productive value to their employers. Consequently, this fuels the growing stigma towards graduates as needed to prepare for the realities of working life.
For a graduate, the first weeks of work are a baptism of fire. One is confronted with responsibilities that can make a tangible change in the real world; failure to manage these responsibilities can have ripple effects that extend far beyond the confines of a report card. This is far removed from the world of malleable essay deadlines that graduates are used to. In short, work experience is where real-world learning takes place. Working at the firm has taught me the value of effective communication and administrative skills and a work ethic that formal education could seldom instil. This experience is essential for graduates to succeed in the business world.”
Top Skills and attitudes employers look for
These are the skills & attitudes top graduate recruiters look for:
• Teamwork, communication, customer care, emotional intelligence
• Problem-solving, creativity, enterprise, and commercial awareness
• Leadership, time management, IT and digital literacy skills.
• Passion, energy, can-do approach, flexibility, resilience
• Self-reliance, respect for others, focus on personal development.
Make sure you can demonstrate them in applications and interviews.
How to make yourself more employable as a graduate.
Work on your CV
Keep it short and straightforward. This has two aspects.
First, you need to improve the CV document, so focus on how you present the information to an employer.
- Is the layout correct?
- Does the most important information stand out? Are your qualifications and experience evident to those who don’t know you?
- Consider improving the document’s appearance to make it more eye-catching, but don’t let it become gimmicky.
- Try to show your CV to people in your workplace or on your course to get feedback on the impression it produces.
It would help if you also considered developing your CV by improving the content.
- You could focus on your teaching, research/publication or administration record for a year.
- Where do you fall short, and how could you boost that area?
- Is there anything you can offer to do in your current job that would get you more experience?
A cover letter is where you can stand out from everyone else. HR might have seen your resume, and you might have the same experience as another candidate, but lucky for you, you’ve added a cover letter. Here are some further tips:
• Keep it short and simple; keep it under a page.
• In the first paragraph, introduce yourself and show how you heard of the company and how they might know you.
• In the second paragraph, write about the personal and professional qualities you could bring to the job. Entice the reader and explain why they should consider you for this position. Avoid re-writing your resume in this paragraph – be creative and professional.
• In the closing paragraph, add your contact information and say, “I’d like to thank you for allowing me to apply for this position”. Show them that you appreciate their time in considering you.
Do you use social media? The age of social media is upon us, and hiring managers realise that. Many will look at their pile of applicants and fill in a Google search to see what comes up. Job seekers can use social media to follow prospective employers on sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube or Google+. They can use this extra knowledge to gain more information about their company, see which qualities they desire and put together a more practical application. Following a company on Twitter might score you an interview!
Designing a website is one of the best things you can do in developing your application. In a study done by Forbes Magazine, they found that the majority of hiring managers:
They were more impressed by a candidate’s website than any other personal branding tool.
The fact that very few people have a personal website can boost you up in the candidate pool.
Use your website to showcase your skills and knowledge related to your desired career field. Take your time with the site. Take your time adding half-baked content. First, attempt to add one quality piece of work (i.e., art piece, article, blog post, lines of code, etc.) once a week to build up your site slowly.
Develop new skills
It is closely linked to point one. Once you have worked out how to enhance your CV, you may need to develop new skills or areas of expertise to achieve your goals. It could mean going on training or professional development courses. There are many different courses on offer. Choose something you will enjoy that will be useful in the future.
Change your job application pattern
Perhaps you have got into a rut with your job applications. You may send out so many applications that they blur after a while. While you might change your application slightly for each job to tailor it to the job specification, you might still rely on a cover letter and personal statement written months ago. Try starting again from scratch. How would you sell your experience and skills now?
Broaden your horizons!
Although it is easy to become single-minded when looking for a job, it is vital to reassess the situation constantly. Do you want to work in the field for which you are applying? If you have any doubts, let’s devise an alternative plan. There are many other ways of finding fulfilling work besides a permanent job. Many scholars have portfolio careers where they work for several universities, perhaps doing freelance tutoring or exam marking.
TVET: Technical Vocational Education and Training courses are vocational or occupational by nature, meaning that the student receives education and training with a view towards a specific range of jobs or employment possibilities. Under certain conditions, some students may qualify for admission to a University of Technology to continue their studies at a higher level in the same field of study as they were studying at the TVET College.
There are fifty registered and accredited public TVET Colleges in South Africa, which operate on more than 264 campuses spread across the rural and urban areas of the country. Public TVET Colleges are established and operated under the authority of the Continuing Education and Training Act 16 of 2006 and resort under the Department of Higher Education and Training. The state subsidises public TVET Colleges with approximately R6 billion annually.
Public TVET Colleges offer a wide range of courses/programmes that have been developed to respond to the scarce skills needed by employers. Courses vary from a short span of a few hours to formal diploma courses of three years. Naturally, the costs of the studies also differ considerably. Still, it is essential to remember that Department of Higher Education and Training courses are subsidised by 80% of the delivery cost. Many full bursaries are available for the remaining 20% that the student would pay.
List of Courses
- Accounting Courses
- Administration Courses
- Beauty Therapy Courses
- Bookkeeping Courses
- Business Courses
- Child Care Courses
- CIMA Courses
- Computer Courses
- Creative Courses
- Events Management Courses
- Financial Management Courses
- Forensic Science Courses
- Graphic Design Courses
- Hospitality Courses
- HR Management Courses
- Interior Decorating & Design Courses
- Investigations Courses
- Journalism Courses
- Management Courses
- Photography Courses
- Police Training Courses
- Project Management Courses
- Radio & Sound Engineering Courses
- Secretarial Courses
- Small Business Management Courses
- Sports and Fitness Courses
- Technical Courses
- Tourism Courses
- Web Design Courses
- Wedding Planning Courses
- Writing Courses
Department of Higher Education and Training offers bursaries for National Certificate Vocational courses and Report 191 (NATED or ‘N’) courses at public TVET Colleges to students who meet the criteria. These bursaries are not loans. The National Student Financial Aid Service (NSFAS) administers the bursaries. Other bursaries are also available, which will vary from college to college. Prospective students should enquire about the college at which they plan to enrol and what bursaries are available for the course they would like to study. During 2015 approximately 200 000 students at TVET Colleges will benefit from DHET bursaries administered by NSFAS.
Department of Higher Education and Training, TVET College bursaries that the NSFAS administers are readily available but are subject to two essential criteria. Namely, the prospective student will be required to undergo a ‘means test’ that will indicate that the student does need financial assistance and, secondly, that the student has an excellent academic performance record. Prospective students who believe they may meet these criteria should contact their nearest public TVET College. The college will provide the application forms and oversee the application process.
Modes of Delivery
Various modes of delivery exist at the colleges, depending on the nature of the course. Some colleges also offer blended learning (e-learning) facilities for some course content. A number of the larger campuses have Open Learning Centres. Further information can be given by the college on this aspect when applying or enrolling for course admission.
For employers. https://www.qcto.org.za/for-employers.html
List of Universities, Colleges and Schools In South Africa – VCS College. https://vcscollege.com/
TVET colleges – tutapply.com. https://tutapply.com/tvet-colleges/