Help your kids to find the right job

Posted on Monday, August 17, 2015

Your kids are almost grown up and ready to leave the nest. You have seen them grow from sweet smiling babies to moody high school students. Now they have completed their studies and want to enter the job market. But with South Africa's unemployment rate hovering somewhere around 24% they are going to need all the help they can get.

Unfortunately, merely holding a matric certificate or a degree in their hands is not enough to get your children through the door of a potential employer. Your young job seeker will have to think about how they present their qualifications, expertise and interests, how they look, how they appear on social media and how to balance standing out in the interview with fitting into the workplace.

We spoke to Shelagh Foster, author of Your First Year of Work A Survival Guide, about what a job seeker should do to increase their chances of getting the right job, fast.

Here's what she had to say; advice you can pass over to your son or daughter:

Get some experience
You should think about getting work experience before you start compiling a CV and searching the job pages. Holiday internships show a real commitment to and basic understanding of your chosen field. Regular charity, NGO, fundraising or committee work shows that you care about your fellow man and are prepared to get work experience without wanting anything in return.

Look for work everywhere
Obviously you should look in the job pages in the newspaper and online, but when searching for a job the adage, It's not what you know, it's who you know, is particularly true. Write a polite letter or email to anyone you know in the appropriate profession or area, tell them about your qualifications and interests and ask them to please bear you in mind. You will be surprised by how many leads you turn up.

Get your CV right
The most important thing is to find out how individual employers prefer a CV to be submitted. If they have an online template, use that. If they ask for two pages, stick to that. You are making their lives easier and you are showing that you can follow a simple instruction. You also need to bear the following in mind:

  • Your CV should have no spelling or grammar mistakes get someone to edit for you
  • There should be consistency in the use of heading styles and bold and italic text.
  • Don't waffle - be concise but not terse.
  • Don't be afraid to tweak your CV to match a particular organisation or industry. This is particularly relevant for your covering letter.
  • If you are submitting your CV by email, what you write in the subject line is all-important. Application for economics internship at Company X and your name will suffice. Remember there is no spell check for the subject line so read through your copy carefully before hitting the send button.
  • Mention your non-academic qualities as well. Employers are always interested in young people who show leadership skills, are solutions driven, strive for consistent improvement and who are team players.
  • Express your interests as long as they are appropriate. For all you know, the fact that you are a Sea Scout, or that you write music or read Proust will resonate with your prospective employer. If, however, any of your interests are at all likely to clash with those of your interviewer, leave them out. This includes political affiliations, sports teams supported or anything that might be seen as radical.

The interview: dressing for success
Find out how most people in that workplace tend to dress and go one step more formal. Your clothes need not be expensive, but they must be spotless. Cover any tattoos and remove any visible piercings (other than earrings for women), unless the industry dictates otherwise. Accept that you might need to change your hairstyle. Don't wear pants that are too tight or blouses that are too low cut. Don't teeter on stilettos. Go easy on scented deodorant and perfume. And make sure that your breath is fresh.

In the interview, be informed and confident but not cocky, humble but not too reserved and ask intelligent questions. Express an interest and basic knowledge of the organisation to which you are applying.

Fix your social media profiles
No matter what your privacy settings, long before you start looking for a job, you should clean up your social media presence. Ask friends to delete unsuitable comments and start presenting yourself in a professional light, even on fun social media platforms. Make sure you delete anything negative you may have said about any of the organisations to which you might be applying!

Final word
These tips should help your child to take their first step into the big world of work. Remember, they only get one chance to make a first impression, so help them to make the right one and start a long and happy career.

About Shelagh Foster
Shelagh Foster is the author of Your First Year of Work A Survival Guide, published by Bookstorm, and available on

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