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How to stand out in South Africa’s competitive job market

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Three million people lost their jobs in South Africa between February and April as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic1 and recent forecasting predicts that by December, 35%2 of South African’s will be unemployed and more than 70% of our youth will be unable to find jobs.

Entering this highly competitive job market is daunting. So, what can South African’s do - especially our youth – to make themselves more attractive to prospective employers?

According to Rajan Naidoo, Director of EduPower Skills Academy, job seekers need to ensure they have all the skills companies are looking for to stand out: “Employers want the total package; education, experience and skills – including soft skills,” he says. “Soft skills are practical, interpersonal skills such as time management and communication. Unfortunately, these are not part of the school curriculum, but it is possible for job seekers to develop these skills and enhance their employability.”

He offers his top five tips for improving your work readiness and employability:

1. Manage your time

Time management is a basic and valued skill that you can work on by simply establishing a routine and sticking to it. When you don’t have school or work, make sure you are up by 7 am. Before you start your day, sit, think and plan a list of activities. Challenge yourself by setting deadlines and track your progress in a diary. Though it may be difficult at first, you are establishing a pattern and it will help you to use your time more effectively.

2. Communication Skills

Communication skills are fundamental to most jobs. Text messaging is great for connecting with friends but you need to practice your phone and video conferencing skills, as both are important for business communications. Speaking and listening on the phone are skills that you can practice but think about what you want to say and communicate clearly. Do the same with video conferencing practising your conference and interviewing skills using platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Skype and Zoom.

3. Body Language

Body language is as important as the words you speak. In fact, studies show that 65% of all communication is non-verbal. Again, practice this whenever you can and whether you are speaking to a group or one-on-one, maintain eye contact and watch for visual cues that your listener understands. Be aware that your body is sending signals too. At EduPower, we encourage our learners to sit up straight and widen their shoulders, even when they are on the phone. These simple actions improve your ability to communicate and boosts your confidence.

4. Problem Solving

Everyone can solve problems. You just need practice. Focus on solutions as this will shift your brain into a positive space. To build this skill with our learners, we ask them to define a problem – such as I am always late – and ask them “why” five times. By giving a different answer each time, they eventually get to the root cause. Or you can list as many solutions as possible. While some answers may be ridiculous, crazy ideas trigger viable solutions. Keep practising and you will start moving into solutions mode more quickly.

5. Gain Experience

Work experience is generally a prerequisite for most jobs. If you are not currently working, consider part-time work, work experience placements, learnerships or internships. For instance, EduPower’s 12-month learnerships provide accredited skills training combined with work experience – invaluable for securing future employment. Another suggestion is to volunteer for community service. This will strengthen your skills and make you more marketable as it shows your character and integrity.

“By developing soft skills and gaining experience you are adding to your employability and work readiness. How you use these assets and present them to prospective employers could make all the difference to landing your dream job,” Rajan concludes.

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