Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Matric not go the way you planned? There is hope beyond that certificate

An expert says it is nonsense that everything depends on a matric certificate, although alternatives require hard work and a can-do attitude.

A matric certificate is not everything and with the right attitude and work ethic, the world can still be your oyster, even if you failed to get one.

Now that the 2022 matric results have been released, there is inevitably a lot of disappointment and handwringing mixed with euphoria and relief.

Much emphasis is now placed on the fact that only around a third of matrics obtained university entrance and, therefore, supposedly have limited prospects to study or work, says Kathy Knott, counselling psychologist and programme manager of Good Work Foundation’s Bridging Year Academy.

The Good Work Foundation (GWF) is a non-profit bringing wonder-filled education and digital learning opportunities to rural communities in Mpumalanga and the Free State. The Bridging Year Academy bridges the gap for school-leavers and prepares them to face the 21st century job market or a university or college campus with confidence.

“From first-hand experience, I can honestly reassure parents that if their child has less-than-perfect matric results, they need not despair. Having witnessed the heart-warming success stories of so many of our graduates who have pushed themselves and gained the self-belief to find their niche, I have seen that anything is possible.”

Knott says matrics can find the motivation to seize their future with drive and intention by being kind to themselves, changing their attitudes, deciding what they want, doing their homework and just keep going.

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Being kind to yourself

You may be disappointed or even devastated by your exam results, but Knott says it is completely understandable.

“Allow yourself to process those feelings but do not let them linger and do not beat yourself up. Numbers on a matric certificate do not define who you are as a person.”

She says you should see this as an opportunity to dig into your reserves of resilience, grit and determination and banish any notions of self-criticism. “Get up, dust yourself off and realise this is just part of your journey.”

As Nelson Mandela once said, “The greatest glory of living lies not in never falling but in rising every time you fall.” Do not be afraid to fall – or fail.

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Your attitude is everything

Adopt a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset, Knott says.

“Do not close the door and give up. Draw inspiration from ‘the power of yet’, a notion popularised by motivational expert Dr Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, to say, ‘I am not good at that – yet’, instead of saying, ‘I cannot do that’.

Think of yourself as a work in progress, a masterpiece in development. Having a positive attitude to yourself, your learning trajectory and your growth, coupled with emotional intelligence, is the key to a successful life, she says.

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Decide what you want

We spend so much time focusing on getting a job – any job – that we do not always pause to ask ourselves what we would like to do to add meaning to our lives, she says.

“Let’s face it: every job has its pain points and grudge areas, but if you do something you are passionate about, you are more likely to be secure and productive in your job and enjoy upward mobility.”

How do you then find out what you are good at and what kind of career you would flourish in? She says there are some fantastic free online resources out there to set you on the right path. For example, the South African careers website offers a free career assessment questionnaire that will suggest a selection of suitable careers and bursaries available in your field of interest.

Knott says it is also vital to get some form of career guidance to assess your values, skills and who you are as a person and determine how this bouquet of attributes would best fit together in the world of work.

“At GWF, we already weave this into our Bridging Year Academy curriculum, but our aim is to also establish a job centre at each of our six campuses soon where anyone, not just our students, can come in and do research for jobs, bursaries and academic opportunities, without having to worry about data.”

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Doing your homework

You may be surprised to learn that once you identified what you would like to do with your life, you might not even need a matric certificate for it – or a degree, for that matter, Knott says.

University is not for everyone and there are many opportunities if you cannot or do not want to go that route.

A number of skills-based courses are available through TVET colleges, or you could enrol in a distance-learning course (from bookkeeping and design to beauty therapy and tourism) through an accredited college, such as Skills Academy, with or without a matric certificate.

“You can also opt to upgrade your matric part-time while you work and take care of family commitments, while there are often excellent opportunities to learn on the job in certain professions.”

She says you must not believe those who tell you there would be no opportunities without a matric pass in Maths because there are hundreds of alternative career options available. “Do your research and find out what skills are in demand in artisanal fields, for example and what career paths your matric pass (national senior certificate, higher certificate, diploma or bachelor’s pass) gives you access to.”

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Just keep going

Get into the driver’s seat and start moving as you are the CEO of your own life and it is up to you to take charge of it, Knott says. “Cultivate a love of lifelong learning and you will never be bored or unfulfilled. Keep growing and learning, whether it is on the job or through free online courses.”

She also encourages young people to cultivate networks and develop a 30-second “elevator pitch” should they happen to meet a potential employer. Keep updating your CV with new competencies and skills to ensure you get into the ‘yes’ pile.

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