Now that the exams have come and gone, matriculants face the daunting task of choosing and working towards their future career. While many students would prefer to put off job seeking until after they have achieved their qualification, with more graduates battling to find work, it is important to start with the end in mind. With the help of the Internet and a little research, this need not be a difficult process.
1. Honestly evaluate your interests, your strengths and weaknesses and your current circumstances. Look back at your school experience and question what you enjoyed doing, what you were good at and what study methods suited you. Look at your current circumstances: are you able to re-locate to study if necessary? Can you afford to take off between a year and four years?
It is important to be honest with yourself and to enlist the help of a trusted family member or friend to help you through the process. This should remain an open and continuous conversation that you can return to regularly.
2. Look at the National Scarce Skills list published by the Human Resource Development Council of South Africa in May 2014 (www.inseta.org.). Scarce skills refer to those occupations in which there is a scarcity of qualified and experienced people. By making a career choice based on the skills South Africa needs, you can streamline your study options, as many tertiary institutions have courses tailored specifically to these needs and you can study towards greater career opportunities and job sustainability. There are often more bursaries available for courses in these fields.
Logistics and supply chain management, for instance, is a listed scarce skill and currently the country requires approximately 130 000 logistics managers to meet its needs. The Institute of Logistics and Supply Chain Management (ILSCM) offers a range of courses to meet this demand.
3. Spend some time looking at South African job websites. Job sites like pnet.co.za, skillsportal.co.za, careerjunction.co.za and bizcommunity.co.za give you a good idea of the number and types of jobs available in your chosen industry or field. Take time to read the job specifications; not only do they give you an idea about the qualifications required, but also the soft skills expected by employers, an area often overlooked by graduates.
4. Find a course. SAstudy.co.za and skillsportal.co.za are both excellent websites to follow up on the institutions and courses available for your career as well as the bursaries currently on offer. Both sites are user-friendly and offer a good starting point. Once you have found the institutions that interest you, it is important to look at the courses they offer, study options (part-time, distance learning, etc.) and student support. Also look at consumer websites like hellopeter.com and news websites, which can alert you to any irregularities or student dissatisfaction. Be aware that there are now many fraudulent institutions that prey on newly matriculated students, so it’s important to confirm the institution and course accreditation, as well as the industry and professional body recognition of the course.
5. Contact the institution. Many institutions have student advisory centres that can help with queries and career choice guidance, with many institutions looking to intensify their student support structures.
Throughout the process keep an open mind - follow your dreams, but also be realistic in creating your path to follow. There are many tertiary education, training and continued education options available; by broadening your research you will be better equipped to make the right choice based on your individual needs and circumstances
By Dr Mario Landman, Academic Head of the Institute of Logistics and Supply Chain Management (ILSCM)