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The job hunt: tried and tested

Over the years, I’ve had some experience job hunting. After school in South Africa, I had the privilege of attending a good university with a top journalism department and after a lot of partying and a bit of studying, I was both surprised and proud to claim my very own degree in journalism. This led to…

Job hunt 1

Back home with my parents, I obediently scanned the web for jobs in my field, deciding that it was finally time to move to my beloved Cape Town. But, in a surprising twist, after stumbling upon one of those normally-annoying pop-up adverts and actually clicking on it on purpose, my job hunt took a new direction. I realised I wasn’t actually ready to settle into a ‘job job’, i.e. one that would presumably kick-off my career in journalism, and, after finally convincing my parents that it could be an opportunity to grow out of my irresponsible ways, I began working as an au pair in New York. After 13 months there and a lovely invitation from my host family to continue on for another year, I decided instead that it was time to return to South Africa and begin working in my chosen field.

Mistake #1: Don’t rush into your first, or a new, job if you don’t need to just because you feel you ‘have to’

For some reason, I believed that if I delayed finding my first job in journalism for more than a year, I would risk having a career in the field at all. Looking back, while I wouldn’t suggest delaying your career for too long a time, I do think it’s OK to take your time getting into your chosen field. I look at people now and I see how different all of our stories are, how we study one thing and end up in an entirely different profession, how people hire others on the basis that their personality ‘works’ and that they’d be willing to train them up, and for many other random reasons which we can’t always predict. So I think taking a year or two ‘off’ before settling into your career is understandable. At the end of the day, the job you’re applying for with whatever education or experience you have behind you at the age of 19 will be the same kind of job you’ll be applying for with whatever education or experience you have at the age of 21 and I highly doubt your chances of getting that job will be determined by whether you’re 19 or 21.

But,

Tip #1 – If you do take a gap year/s after school or university, do something that could be vaguely helpful for your CV

Most CVs will consist of some sort of timeline, from your education to your current situation. So if during the gap between your studies and the beginning of your career you are able to, try to do something on the side, or every now and then, that will look as though you have always been working towards your future career goal. For example, while I was in the US, in my free time worked for a local website and television station and that experience is still on my CV today, and is even asked about to this day.

Job hunt 2

After the US, I returned to South Africa and began looking for work in journalism again, but this time with determination, and fortunately so, because many job application rejections were to follow. At this time, I had the romantic idea of travel writing, visiting and writing about one exotic place after the next while my employer picked up the tab. I soon discovered that I wasn’t the only one with such an idea and realised I needed to broaden my horizons and apply for work I didn’t imagine I would be doing, but could at least help to get my foot in the door.

Tip #2 – don’t restrict your job search because you may miss opportunities

So I scoured the web, applying for one job after the next, as well as for temp work if that’s what I had to do until I found a job somehow related to media. I didn’t get a lot of positive responses. Every now and then you may hear about, or even yourself experience, the odd exception where someone easily finds the exact job they’re looking for, but, for most people most of the time, the job market can be quite tough, and, depending on how many jobs you apply for, you will usually get a lot more rejections than you do offers. Therefore:

Tip #3 – be realistic, but don’t give up

Job hunting is a job in itself. It can be really exhausting and disheartening. You can come to easily recognise the rejection email and anticipate the same dreaded words over again. Or perhaps you hardly get any responses at all. But that doesn’t mean you should give up; your chances of getting a job will only increase the more you put yourself out there. I worked in random temp jobs while applying for journalism-related work in my free time, and I didn’t give up, no matter how many times I got rejected. Fortunately, relief came. My parents graciously bought me a flight to Cape Town and I stayed with family for a week while continuing to make applications. To my delight, I had an interview for a job and wonderfully the interview was successful! A few months later, I was living and working in Cape Town as a professional blogger for a Search Engine Optimisation start-up. I hadn’t intended to end up in digital media, but that’s where I am today, and I’m happy for it.

Job hunt 3 

I moved to the UK just over a year later. While I now had job experience, I didn’t have UK or London experience, and I soon realised that put me at a disadvantage. I once again began the job application process with renewed fury, refreshing my cover letter writing skills. While some job hunting involves going through agencies, journalism is not really like that, but friends and family told me which websites to use and that helped a lot.

Tip #4 – Find out what the best recruitment agencies or websites are from others who have worked in the same area or industry, or both, and use those

About two months later, I found a job that had potential, but unfortunately the salary was too low for me to make ends meet. So I compromised with them – I would take the job, but part-time so that I could do other work in order to pay the bills.

Tip #5 – don’t be afraid to seek mutually beneficial working relationships and let potential employers know that you’re worth it, i.e. how you can add value to their business

He agreed, and so I began my first job in London on a part-time basis, and in my free time waitressed for a high-end events company. Unfortunately, as in my last job and often the case with start-ups, finances ran low and they could no longer keep me on.

Job hunt 4

You know tip #2? Well, it was at this stage in my life that I took it a bit too far. That is, I applied for a job that was a step backwards in my chosen career path. Why? I panicked at being out of a job again and the salary was better.

Mistake #2 – as far as you can, don’t compromise your chosen career path for silly reasons

I stayed in this job a lot longer than I should have, mostly due to a sense of job loyalty and a no-quitting attitude. But it was clearly the wrong role for me – I knew it, my colleagues knew it, and so did my boss. So just short of a year and a half later, the job came to an end.

Job hunt 5

My last and most recent job hunt, this one was also the most difficult. I once again put great effort into applying for loads of varied jobs. The responses were mostly dismal and it got to the point where I began to look at jobs in South Africa, wondering if the market was better and assuming that my UK experience would put me in good stead back home. Finally, I reached the point where I had to contact our rental agency to warn them that I may have to leave our flat due to a lack of finances. It was around this time when I landed a couple of job interviews I was really interested in. Amazingly enough, in just at the right time, I was hired to write and edit for a range of digital magazines. And this is where I am now. The salary may not be as much as my previous role – in fact, it’s the same as my first role in London years ago – but I absolutely love my job and I am so thankful for it, and for all the experience I’ve had that led me to where I am now.

So I’ll end with a repeat of one of the tips, and the most important:

Don’t give up!

Comments

  • Anna says:

    What a great article, will pass on to my partner whose son is a graduate and faced with the disheartening reality check the current job market presents… Really great advice! x

  • Margot says:

    Thank you, I hope it helps in some way! Soldiering on through rejection is tough but it pays off.

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