Graduates & First Job



Are you joining the job stampede of graduates this year?

Fresh out of college or university, graduates are overjoyed and panicking about landing their first permanent job. One that brings moolah into your bank account. Graduates that have not built their career before they graduated, should expect a difficult time to secure permanent employment.

Graduates lack Experience

Notwithstanding that graduates have a diploma or degree, or even postgraduate qualification, the biggest obstacle to getting the first job is that graduates do not have work experience.  Graduates don’t appreciate that text book knowledge and piece of paper will only take you so far in the job market. Employers are seeking graduates that have relevant experience for the job or experience-ready.  Being experience-ready, means that you have some experience – part time job while studying,  trainee during a vacation programme,  volunteer at a NGO, university tutor, sports club co-ordinator and similar roles.  Staying at home with your folks and watching Isidingo does not count as experience.  And chilling with your friends on Friday evening won’t qualify either on your CV.

Graduates should start from scratch

Upfront, graduates are disappointed when they apply for job after job after job….without reply or endless, “I regret to info you” responses. It is incredibly difficult to secure permanent employment, in a junior, let alone a senior positon.  So cast aside your expectations of occupying a corner office as the general or senior manager, supervising the department.  If you are the one-in-a-million exception, that is great.

Starting from scratch, graduates should be willing to start from the bottom in an entry-level position then in time move to the top. Sure you may not be satisfied to be making tea and photocopies day after day. But in the early days, you have to soak up the experience and use the opportunities to advance your career.  (And yes, there are opportunities in making tean and photocopies, that is another story)

Graduates Everywhere

In the current economic environment, there are simply too many graduates competing for the same (dwindling) pool of jobs. Multiply that by a factor of 10 for entry-level jobs.  You are competing with:

1.  Graduates from your university or other institutions in the current year – for example, UCT and UKZN graduates competing with WITS and UJ graduates for the same jobs in Gauteng

2. Prior year graduates with/without experience – these graduates have been job hunting for more than a year. They are hungry for the position and have a lot more job hunting experience.

3. Retrenched employees that are willing to accept any job, even an entry level job to earn their livelihood in the short term.

Graduates – Reality Check

To succeed in a market where the cards are stacked, requires graduates to go back to the drawing board:

1. Why are you job hunting?  What are the alternatives? (e.g start a business)  Most graduates don’t investigate the alternatives.

2. What do you expect?  (e.g entry level or senior position)

3. What positions are you going after?   (e.g trainee accountant, finance clerk, financial manager)

4. How are you managing the job hunt.  (e.g strategy, networking, CV, interview)


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