Unemployment is high, the economy is in a slump – it’s not an easy time to be on the job hunt in South Africa. Read ahead for tips on how to land that job.
Make a job search plan
Before you start trawling the job sites, make some clear decisions for yourself about why you’re looking for a (new) job. Decide what kind of position you’d really like, what other kind of position you could accept if you need to, and what salary you’re able to accept. Decide what kind of environment you’d ideally like to work in, what hours you’d ideally like to work. Are you looking for somewhere to stay for ten years, or are you looking for somewhere that you can learn and move on from after two? Full-time or part-time? Be honest with yourself about what’s important. And then decide how much time you want to spend on job searching, and allocate a specific time to it.
Spend some time thinking about your skills, your strengths and the unique combination that makes you you. Think about the areas where you want to develop further. Prepare for the fact that you’ll probably get rejections along the way, so that when you get them, you don’t let that paralyse you. Staying positive is crucial.
Make a list of places where you’ll look for jobs. Look at general job sites, as well as job sites for specific industries. Check newspapers and industry-specific publications. Search for relevant groups on LinkedIn and Facebook, and look at the job ads on LinkedIn. Do a Google search with ‘job’ and key words related to your skills or industry. Look at the websites of organisations that interest you, check for a recruitment section of the website or call them to find out where to send your CV.
Use your network
It’s no secret that people feel better employing someone who’s been recommended by someone they trust. Tell your friends what you’re looking for, in case they can give you a contact. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, now’s the time to get one.
Keep developing your skills
Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for, think about how you can offer even more to a potential employer. Whether you’re an old hand at your trade or new in the job market, it always makes a good impression if you’re making the effort to keep learning. Is there a course you can easily do (maybe a free online course on Coursera) that will give you more skills and confidence? Try some voluntary work (e.g. Lifeline) to keep yourself busy and add some sparkle to your CV.
Select the jobs that deserve your time
Sending hundreds of generic letters and CVs into the ether is unlikely to be successful. Choose the jobs you really want, and that you have a good chance of actually getting, and spend time on making them really superb.
Polish that application
Research the company/organisation and write down questions about it. Read the job description and requirements, read them again, and write down the questions that occur to you. Make notes about what you can offer the employer, why this position is suited to you, and what you really like about it.
Then sit down and write that cover letter, making a crystal clear link between the job requirements and your skills, experience and qualifications. Find a healthy balance between enthusiasm (I want the job!) and confidence (you want me!) – you need some of each, but too much of either is off-putting. And do keep it short, keeping focussed on why you are the perfect fit for this job. That cover letter is your first contact with a potential employer – it needs to catch the employer’s eye within the first couple of minutes.
If they’re asking for a CV, rather than an online form, adjust your CV for each job, including detail only where it’s relevant for that specific job. Then polish the cover letter and CV, and get someone to look over it with a fresh eye. If there’s an online form, check that well before you submit it – particularly if it’s one of those automated systems that uses your CV to fill in the form for you.
Prepare to be yourself … and to listen.
So you got past the computer, and you’ve been invited to meet an actual person!
The key now is to get rid of any anxiety so that at the interview you can communicate in a genuine, professional and effective way … and so that you can really listen. If you can communicate well at the interview – listen, think, engage – then you’re nearly there.
So do whatever it takes to keep calm and confident during the interview. In preparation, you could find out who will be interviewing you, visualise a successful interview, practice with a friend, decide on an appropriate outfit that will make you feel comfortable and confident. Before the interview, you could go for a walk, do breathing exercises and remind yourself why you fit this job perfectly.
When the time comes, make eye-contact with a warm smile, shake hands with confidence, and get ready to listen. The rest will come.
Be flexible with your job search plan
It’s just not happening? Have another look at your plan and see where it needs adjusting. What’s really important to you, and where are you now prepared to compromise? Is it time to look into freelance work, part-time work or temporary contracts? Is it time to start your own business?
It may take some time, but with perseverance, flexibility and creativity, you’ll find whatever’s right for you at this stage in your career.