Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Five tips for young jobseekers

Young people have no work experience and this can often be a challenge when they apply for jobs.

Young jobseekers have a tough time finding work and South Africa’s latest unemployment numbers paint a gloomy picture for them but by developing their skills in ‘future-proof’ sectors, growing numbers of youth are finding jobs and opportunities.

The Youth Employment Service (YES) works with the private sector to create jobs for young people through fully funded 12-month work experiences, giving them the critical experience and skills that they need to secure future employment. So far, the initiative created 113 000 jobs, with 42% of YES alumni employed.

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How can young jobseekers give themselves the best chance of getting a job? YES’s youth stream lead, Aditi Lachman, has these five tips for young jobseekers:

  • Develop skills for the future;
  • Work experience can replace formal qualifications;
  • Network and seek growth opportunities;
  • Get a side hustle or start your own business;
  • Maintain good mental fitness.

Developing skills for the future

According to YES’s 2021 research on “What employers want: Getting young people working”, employers place the highest value on relevant work experience, education status and a good interview. Education status is one of the strongest determinants of employment in the country and a quarter of all employed YES alumni are currently pursuing some kind of education or skills training. If you want to build a career, invest in lifelong learning, Lachman says.

The jobs of the future are in areas such as information technology, solar panel installation, tourism, creative, drones and even baristas. To get into one of these industries, you must identify the skills required for the job you want and find a way get them. This may involve pursuing formal education, attending training programmes, gaining online free or paid-for certifications, or seeking internships to build practical skills.

YES alumni Mawanda Faniso took his career into his own hands when he enrolled in the first YES Drones Academy programme at the Genesis Hub in Saldanha in 2021. He left the academy with a remote pilot’s licence that allows him to fly drones, as well as a repair and maintenance technician licence, which allows him to fix and work on drones. Today, he works fulltime for a security operations company, providing an eye in the sky service for clients.

Replacing formal qualifications with work experience

Managers who participated in the research indicated that two or more years of related work experience would compensate for having only a high school certificate. This means that even without formal qualifications, practical work experience can be just as valuable for young jobseekers.

However, make sure you get your matric, as 95% of all YES youth have at least matric, as do 30% of the employed YES Alumni population.

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Bryan Mposula was hired as a business integration associate at a big four consulting firm after his YES programme, hosted at implementation partner, IT Varsity, a position that is often won by highly educated individuals with degrees, certifications and years of experience. Bryan grabbed his chance with both hands and was able to show his new employer how his values mirrored their own.

Networking and finding growth opportunities

Networking is crucial to getting job opportunities. Lachman says it is a good idea to attend industry events, join professional associations and connect with as many people as possible in your field of interest. Building relationships can lead to job referrals and mentorship opportunities.

“If you already have a job, engage with colleagues, build relationships and seek opportunities for growth within your organisation. Express your career aspirations to supervisors and explore possibilities for advancement or taking on additional responsibilities,” says Lachman.

Get a side hustle or start your own business

Starting a micro-business can be your first step into the mainstream economy. According to YES’s Youth Employment Survey, at least 13% of all YES youth are engaged in entrepreneurial activities, such as side hustles, which is almost double the national average of 7%. Side-hustles not only bolster your income, but also provide fantastic work experience on your CV.

Asanda Nqoko used his experience through the YES programme to turn his side hustle into a full-blown business. Before joining YES, he was a freelance photographer, supporting himself with ad hoc events photography and shoots. Since learning to run a business through the YES entrepreneurship modules, his business, 39 Pictures, now employs four people.

Maintaining mental fitness

According to a Unicef South Africa U-Report poll, two in three young South Africans have some form of mental health issue, but do not seek help. This is not just damaging to them: it has knock-on effects on entire families and communities.

ALSO READ: Mental health is important in the workplace

Lachman says to help young jobseekers deal with the pressures of finding a job and being unemployed, YES is launching YES Mindful Matters, a programme for active YES Youth to provide access to valuable online support services delivered by registered counsellors.

“77% of all YES Youth indicated that when it comes to career guidance, they rely on themselves as opposed to family, friends or mentors. With this new initiative, YES is hoping to provide the emotional support required when balancing work, mental health and home life.”

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