Top tips for job seekers in 2024.

Estimated read time 5 min read

ARTICLE BY: Nhlalenhle Dlangalala.

As we eagerly usher into the new year, the promise of fresh beginnings and opportunities beckons, particularly for the dynamic and resilient cohort of unemployed youth seeking to embark on a career-transformative journey.

South Africa’s latest unemployment numbers paint a gloomy picture for the country’s youth, and navigating the job market may present its challenges. But by developing their skills in ‘future-proof’ sectors, growing numbers of youth are finding jobs and opportunities, says the Youth Employment Service (YES).

YES works with the private sector to help create jobs for youth through fully funded 12-month work experiences, giving them the critical experience and skills that they need to secure future employment. The initiative has created over 128,000 jobs, with 42% of YES Alumni employed.

From skills development to mastering networking, YES’s head of youth programmes, Aditi Lachman, has five tips for young job-seekers to secure meaningful employment and seize the possibilities that the new year brings.

Develop skills for the future

YES’s own research, “What employers want: Getting young people working”, shows that employers place the highest value on relevant work experience, education/skills and a good interview. In fact, education/skills are one of the strongest determinants of employment in the country.

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

Take former YES Youth Alumni Mawanda Faniso, who 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, which now allows him to fly drones, as well as a repair and maintenance technician licence, so he can fix and work on drones. Today, he works full-time for a security operations company, providing an eye-in-the-sky service for clients.

Work experience can replace formal qualifications

In YES’s research, managers 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 a job-seeker.

One alumnus in particular, Bryan Mposula, was hired as a business integration associate at one of the big four consulting firms after his YES programme, hosted at implementation partner IT Varsity – a position that is often won by highly educated individuals with multiple degrees, certifications, and years of experience. Bryan grabbed his chance with both hands and showed his new employer how his values mirrored their own.

Network and seek growth opportunities

Networking is crucial to getting job opportunities. 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 the first step you need to get into the mainstream economy. According to YES’s Youth Employment Survey – the biggest youth survey in the country with 38,000 respondents quarterly – at least 15% of all YES Youth (active and alumni) are engaged in entrepreneurial activities.

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.

Maintain good mental fitness

According to a UNICEF South Africa U-Report poll,  two in three (65%) young South Africans have some form of a mental health issue but do not seek help. This isn’t just damaging to them: it has knock-on effects on entire families and communities too.

To help youth deal with the pressures of finding a job and how to deal with being unemployed, YES launched YES Mindful Matters, a programme for active YES Youth to provide access to valuable online support services delivered by registered counsellors.

The path to employment may have twists and turns, but it is a collective responsibility that transcends boundaries. Both public and private sectors must unite in their commitment to education, mentorship, and creating opportunities for our future leaders.

“Let the new year be the year we redefine collaboration, where corporates come together, pulling resources, expertise, and passion to uplift the youth, grow our economy and the future generations to come.”

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