The Job market today is a fickle and unforgiving mistress.
The job market isn't as it used to be. Your career isn't determined by ability, talent, skill or even the qualifications you spent years and hours of your life attaining.
Instead, your Career is determined by a simple word. Politics.
You need a few things to establish yourself in a forgiving career. You need to tick a few boxes in order to establish yourself as a worthwhile employee.
Amidst the variable minefield in career politics. Among the plethora of requirements. There are fundamentals that exist in every job ad, every interview, every opportunity. These fundamentals are essential when you seek employment but at the same time, they are next to impossible and often contradictory. What this means is that the job market is not equal, it is not fair, and it is not the fairy tale fed to us throughout our education or by our parents. It ensures that a low yield percentage and fraction of job seekers are ever selected.
So what are these fundamentals? The requirements often seem unreasonable.
1. You need a Matric qualification.
This is not difficult. The majority of us get one and we are told that a Matric or High School Diploma will be enough to get us in the door. Well unless you fall for a learnership or you are opting for a companies brownie point scheme, a Matric or high school diploma essentially guarantees nothing.
2. You need a Qualification in the field.
Whether IT, property, Admin, HR, or some other field. You need a qualification in that field to be considered for an entry-level position. To be clear, the qualification gives you the consideration of an opportunity in an entry-level position. Yes, entry. So, you could very well study for 7 years, 8 years, even 10 years but coming from school to the job market. Seen as fresh off the boat you are only guaranteed a consideration at a starting point. Just like a Medical student studying for 7 years is offered an intern position. An entry-level position to grow.
Now unless your qualification is in high demand and even if it is, depending on your qualification that simple consideration might not even be enough to get you a seat in an office chair working for a minimum income.
Experience is a huge factor. Often and I am sure you have seen this before. A position needs experience. Anything from 2+ to 10+ years of experience.
If you are smart you could argue that the years spent in study are the same years you have in experience practicing your skills learned from your qualification. However, this is not always possible. These days companies want real working experience with a previous employer.
4. Political skill
Corporates and any business. Any environment dealing with people, superiors, colleagues becomes a political chess match that requires social graces, a bit of lying and the ability to manipulate or adapt to the various personalities you will face. If you are a deadly honest, serious, or emotional person then corporate careers and intense environments will be difficult for you. If you manage to sit in that chair you need the ability to always maneuver your way to the better side of a person's manner. Unless you’re the boss you need to know how to give all the right people the things they want, the way they want it without being obvious when you do.
Looking at these fundamentals it is clear that it may seem unreasonable.
A few questions such as how do I gain experience when I can’t get hired to gain it? How do I suck up without sucking up? How do I build a portfolio or contacts when I can’t get in the door?
Well, the simple truth is that unless you immediately fit the profile of the company. The BBBEE quota, the culture, the profile need, the answer is simple. You won’t get the opportunity to gain experience. You won’t get the entry-level. You won’t learn. You could have 50 skills in all the right things and the experience but unless you have a beneficial profile i.e they like your face. You won’t get a seat.
So the game is rigged. Or is it?
Imagine for a second that you were allowed to intern and gain experience while you studied? What would that mean? Well, it would mean you would earn very little to start off with. But it would also mean you gained the experience you needed to move forward in your industry. This is why training programs and the training industry specialised in internships and learnerships are taking off. However, profiling is still a factor. While most of the time you only need a high school completion. You never really learn anything worthwhile. This is because the training company and the sponsoring company only care about the points and write off, they get in providing it. Since the government is paying and the sponsoring company is paying, they essentially select based on a profile. Now I understand why these profiling mechanisms and selections exist but are they fair? What happens to the millions who don’t have the right face?
Well, there are a few things that might give you hope if you’re reading this out of the frustration from not finding what you need.
A. If you are above a certain age and need the experience, training and income. You can get in if you find a smaller business, and generally local business as they barely focus on the profile. You also stand a higher chance if you are willing to accept less or offer that you accept less in exchange for a fair upskilling program.
B. If you are fresh out of school or still in school. Don’t be proud. Train yourself, eat and swallow the brown stool and accept the low pay because the 1 year to 3 years of experience you get working will push you past the entry-level point and if you upskill, and learn enough with the focus on what you are aiming to do then you will only grow.
C. If you don’t have the face, then legally you can’t work for free, but you can work part-time, reach out to people, look for connections, mentors, and market yourself. Build a visible portfolio that shows your use. A portfolio, the right opportunity however small and a willing mentor in your current company or a start-up is still the experience you need.
D. Experience trumps qualifications. If you know your field, and I mean truly know your field the only thing that can beat you is a candidate who knows it as well with a qualification.
E. Never stop learning.
F. When all else fails seek out those that need you as much as you need them. Startups often can’t afford the same employee base as more established businesses and companies. You might need to start with earning less but if you swallow your pride it is worthwhile and writes your train ticket for the rest of your career. Whether you are responsible for a product's implementation, sale, or the success of a business start-up or otherwise that demonstrates real value.
G. When you do start anywhere, make yourself invaluable. Create a situation, learn and understand in such a way that the business can’t afford to lose you as a resource.
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