Unemployed graduates: How to go from zero to employed hero


Being an unemployed graduate is enormously stressful, and an active strategy is required to turn the situation around, an education expert says.

“Not only does being qualified yet unable to land a job erode your confidence, but you are likely to also have financial concerns and pressure from family and friends,” says Nola Payne, Head of Faculty: Information Technology at The Independent Institute of Education.

She says a key strategy to avoid becoming trapped by the negative experience is to treat the process of looking for work as a job in itself, by dedicating time and energy to it, and doing something every day to take you closer to your dream.

“It could be small tasks such as fixing up your CV or registering on new job site, or larger ones such as going to an interview. Make finding a job a routine and be disciplined about it. Spend at least two hours a day actively working on your job search,” she says.

Payne says it is also common for unemployed graduates to start doubting their abilities.

“Many young, inexperienced jobseekers feel this way, but it can also affect others such as those returning to work after a period of staying at home looking after children or those needing to change jobs due to retrenchment.”

But Payne says there are a few things individuals can do to improve their chances of securing a job.

  • Keep building your skills and ensure that your existing skills stay current and relevant. Keep up to date with the latest developments in your sector, as well as the most desired and popular skills at any given time. Is there new technology that you need to acquaint yourself with? Is there something you keep getting asked about in interviews that you don’t know but it seems that you should? You can take a short course or certification to supplement your existing qualifications. These are often offered in the evenings and Saturdays which would also give you a good opportunity to network with employed people who may have inside information on vacancies in the industry.
  • Work on your work preparedness by improving your soft skills and making the internet your friend. The internet has great, often free, resources to help prepare you for the workplace. You can access a free Work Readiness Programme at https://www.coursesites.com/webapps/Bb-sites-signup-BBLEARN/moocSignup.form, for instance. It offers you the opportunity to work through 9 learning units covering the key aspects of personal development essential for success within the world of work. The topics covered include intrinsic skills such emotional intelligence (EQ), goal setting, time management, self-esteem and communication. The remaining learning units cover extrinsic skills such as business etiquette, conflict resolution, personal branding, and finally citizenship and civic literacy.  You can also visit sites such as www.theworldofwork.co.za for great advice on landing a job and progressing in your career.
  • Register for a formal qualification. Distance education is a good way to keep yourself positively occupied, upskill yourself and assist in networking with like-minded people. A distance qualification would enable you to continue with your studies even when you find a job.  It will also look good when you are applying for work as employers want people who are willing to keep learning.
  • Fix up your CV. Make it professional looking and if making printed copies ensure they’re kept in a good condition. Ensure all the spelling is correct. Pay attention to all the details.  Get someone else to proofread and comment on your CV.  Never submit a CV without a covering letter that links your skills directly to the position – recruiters often ignore CVs that do not show the effort to make that link.
  • Don’t rely on only using the internet or newspapers to apply for jobs. It’s a good place to start to find out what is available and what salary you can expect, but it is not enough.  Often the HR officers receive hundreds of CVs off the internet and most are discarded. Keep your options open, chat to friends and see if they can introduce you to someone or assist you in your search. Many companies now have a jobs/vacancies link on their websites. If there are any companies you’d like to work for, take this option. Apply directly through the link provided on their webpage. Don’t become discouraged. You will be rejected over and over again but eventually you’ll get a contact number or person that may lead you to your perfect job.
  • Don’t be fussy. Take whatever job you can find. A foot in the door is often the start to greater things. You can work your way up in the organisation or use it as a platform to launch yourself into a more suitable career. In the meantime it gives you experience, something to put on your CV so there isn’t a large gap between jobs as well as some money in the bank.  It may well be that you need to do something that is not really part of your career plan – just as temporary work in a restaurant or working as an au pair – all of these options are better than letting big gaps develop on your CV.  It may also be the ideal time to consider if you have any skills or talents that allow you to employ yourself and start a small business?

“It is really tough out there, but skills are also scarce so don’t give up,” says Payne. “The right opportunity may be waiting just beyond the next rejection.”