The transition period between finishing school and embarking on job search can be one of the most boring and wasted period in most graduate’s lives if not carefully planned. This should not be the case.
Though searching for a job can be a full time job in itself, with its attendant frustrations and stress, this period can also be an opportunity that can be greatly Utilised to improve yourself and acquire the skills and knowledge you could not get during your busy schooling days. In fact, if well planned, you could actually take yourself out of a job search and create employment.
Here are things you can do to improve yourself when you are still job searching.
1. Develop your hobby
Most of us take formal education too seriously. The pride of most Ghanaian parents is to see their children graduate from a tertiary institution and get inducted into the “suit and tie fraternity”. Whiles education in itself isn’t a bad thing, not everyone is cut out for the higher glory that our parents envision.
We all have inborn talents and skills that can earn us a decent income if properly honed. So whilst you’re still on a job search, don’t forget your God-given talent. Put on your athletics spikes, polish those keyboard skill, join a local soccer team, get some fabrics and start designing your dream futuristic clothing line.
Whatever your hobby or passion is, dedicate hours every week to indulge in it. Who knows, you could represent Ghana in the next Olympic Games. You may even break doors and open up new job avenues for yourself by just following what you were naturally wired to do.
2. Start a Business
The mention of the word “Business” will most likely be met with the usual hue and cry about the “no-money syndrome”. The quickest way you could start becoming your own boss is to take on freelance work online and sell your skills. Some of the online freelance sites you could register for free are Odesk, Freelancer, PeoplePerHour. The good thing is, you’re paid in US Dollars! You don’t need to be an expert in any field to work as a freelancer online. For example, If you like writing, you can register as a content writer.
If you’re a creative person, you can register as a graphic designer. The internet is a vast ocean with all manner of people requiring almost every kind of skill imaginable. Funny as it may sound, there are actually people willing to pay others to do things like audio transcription, or give instructions on how to install a software.
Truth is, it can become frustrating getting your first client because there’s massive competition from countries like India, Pakistan, Singapore etc. However, keep applying and polishing your skills. Remember, you can always learn whatever you want to from google and YouTube. Once you land your first client and get good ratings, you’ve literally gamed the system.
3. Build Your Personal Brand
Free time on your hands during the job search period means that you can make use of the internet, social media and online blogs to build up your personal brand. Create a personal blog and pour your knowledge in there. Be known for what you do.
By constantly writing and sharing articles about a certain field or specialisation , you get noticed on social media and people will start reaching out to you for your opinion.
A lot of media companies; TV, radio and online news sites are hungry for information and are constantly scouting the internet for fresh unique content. You will get found online, you will become an authority in your field, your blog will become the go-to place for information in your field, and you can become an online superstar within a short period of time.
Building an online brand also means you have to be circumspect in what you put out there. Don’t engage in petty online political scuffles. Don’t engage in obscene topics, unless of course, that’s what you want to build your brand around. The general rule of thumb is, do what you love, have fun and be consistent.
4. Take Online Courses
Instead of sleeping the whole day and complaining about the unfair job market, take the opportunity to deepen your knowledge and acquire more skills. The world is moving so fast, to the extent that the courses that are being taught at the universities in this part of the world, are outmoded and cannot get you real world skills.
We’re in the transition to the 4th industrial revolution, the era of cyber-physical systems. This era will fundamentally disrupt the way we work, live and relate to others. Some skills are likely to die out in the next 10 years. For example, machines are already handling customer service jobs in some companies.
Sales job will likely become outmoded as virtual reality becomes mainstream and people purchase stuff in the virtual realm. You never know hiring managers might eventually become obsolete because artificial intelligence systems can scout the internet and do due diligence on candidates.
According to the World Economic Forum, the 10 most sought after skills in 2020 will be:
- Complex problem solving
- Coordinating with others
- People management
- Critical thinking
- Quality control
- Service orientation
- Judgement and decision making
- Active listening
Having these pointers in mind, go out and take free online courses that will polish your skills and knowledge in at least, five of these areas. Websites that offer free online courses include ALISON, Coursera, Udemy, Code Academy and others.
5. Apply for Scholarships to further your education
This may look like a default, but some people actually never consider it. If you’re finding a hard time getting a job, why not take the opportunity to further your education? Get a Masters or a PhD. At least your time is not wasted.
China is currently offering a lot of scholarships to Africans to study in China and learn their language. This is a fantastic opportunity. Chinese companies are exploding in Africa at an alarming rate. Imagine returning from China with competency in Mandarin, your prospects of getting a highly paid job with a Chinese multinational are very high.
Best case scenario, you can easily establish your own Ghana-China desk and help businesses with your services. We have compiled a list of 40 scholarship opportunities on this blog.
6. Attend Free Seminars/Workshops
Trust me, there is good free food and cocktails at some of these seminars so take advantage and broaden your taste. On a more serious note, apart from networking with influential people who can get your foot through the door for a job, you also get access to rare industry knowledge and resources that can change your career.
7. Volunteering and Internships
There is no better way to use your time than to serve your community and underprivileged. Take a month-long leave to your village and mentor kids about choosing the right professions or building career paths. Donate blood, engage in sanitation campaigns, teach kids for free, engage in HIV campaigns. At the end of the day, you don’t know where your luck will shine.
Even if you don’t get any personal benefits out of it, the inner satisfaction of being a responsible citizen and serving your community selflessly will not only earn the respect and pride of your parents and siblings, but your community and those underprivileged whom you served will forever have you in their heart.
Also consider volunteering your skills and expertise to a local organization. You will gain free on-the-job experience and a good recommendation, as well as build your network. This is a win-win for you.
Things to Avoid While on a Job Search
Avoid the following as much as possible in order to increase your chances of landing a job.
1. A messy social media presence
First of, if you’re using any funny, crazy nickname on Facebook or LinkedIn, hurry on right now and go change it. This can hurt your chances of a successful job search.
Once you have completed school, you’re deemed an adult and must behave as such. Don’t go clicking on unsavoury links and inadvertently reposting them on your timeline. If you see any link that shows obscene pictures, don’t allow your curiosity to take the better part of you.
Don’t post pictures of your binge drinking or cosy postures with girls/boys at the club. Clean up. Post industry related information related to your career on platforms like twitter and facebook, and engage insane conversations.
Show your social skills without getting intrusive and engaging in unnecessary keyboard battles with people you barely know. Be free to use your space and engage, but just be cautious how you use that social media space as the world is interconnected.
There is actually a research done to prove that hiring managers are increasingly relying on social media to make hiring decisions. According to the 2015 CareerBuilder nationwide survey, the biggest turnoffs for potential employers are:
- A candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photos or information.
- Sites had information about candidate’s drinking or drug use
- Candidate bad-mouthed a previous employer
- A candidate has poor communication skills
- Candidate who made discriminatory comments related to race, gender or religion
2. Dressing Unprofessionally
The days of baggy drawn-down trousers or those scanty clothes are over. Start dressing like a responsible adult. First impressions really count. For ladies, your dress must cover down to your knee level, and your top should completely cover your cleavage and your navel. Your waist line must not show. Avoid skimpy tight skirts that show your essentials.
For guys, avoid “baggy” jeans and sleeveless top. Wear the right size of trousers and don’t wear your shirt more than once without cleaning it because it will stink. Most importantly, use deodorant. Deodorant use ensures you don’t give off bad odour.
3. Making pidgin language your first language
This point particularly applies to guys even though ladies are increasingly falling victim to the trend. There is nothing wrong with speaking pidgin with some friends or having a conversion with the trotro mate. However, most young people have lately turned pidgin language into their lingua franca.
The danger of getting too accustomed to pidgin language is that it depreciates the quality of your oral English over time, and subconsciously finds its way into your written language. A lot of us have gotten used to shorthand on mobile and this is creeping into formal written language.
There is a story of a gentleman who went for an interview and in the course of the interview, he wanted to prompt the interviewer to repeat a certain question. Instead of saying “pardon me sir I did not hear your question well”, this gentleman rather said “Sir, you say weitin?”
4. Keeping Visible tattoos, Piercings and Crazy hair-do
First of all, know that there are cultural differences between us Africans and the westerners. Don’t believe everything you watch in movies because they’re simply movies. Moreover, we are just culturally different and what is acceptable over there, may not be so cool here. 99% of the time you will be denied a job if you attend an interview with piercings in your nose, tongue or ears (in the case of men). The simple reason is this; those body art and accessories are associated with certain stereotypes in our society.
For example, assuming you find yourself in a crime scene and you’re the only person with unkept hair and covered in tattoos, you will likely be whisked away by the Police within the blink of an eye. It’s the same for an interview room. You immediately become the most unqualified person once you appear with these things on. If you find it absolutely necessary to wear them, then have them in places you can cover up.
However, there are certain exceptions to this rule. The entertainment or creative arts industries, by their very nature, actually embrace creativity, differentiation and unique personal branding. Unless you want to join this industry, do not take the chances. Our corporate world is still very conservative and not open to certain lifestyles.
5. Applying For Every Job You Come Across
While on a job search, you may think applying for every job actually increases your chances of landing a job. This is the strategy most popularly referred to as “spray and pray”. Just imagine for a second that you were a fisherman and you went about casting your net in every puddle you find along the way. What are your chances of catching fish? Good. You must be strategic. Don’t be desperate.
Some hiring managers are sceptical about desperate candidates because they never can tell whether you are really into the job or you just need something to keep you going in the short term. Just like any other thing in life, you must plan very well. Identify the industries you want to target, then drill it down to the companies within those industries, and research the job role you think you could become a superstar if given the opportunity. Once you have this planned out, you will realise that your efforts and energy are more focused, and you would make a lot of progress as time goes on. Job Platforms like Jobberman Ghana (which we own by the way) help you avoid “spray and pray” by sending you targeted job listings once you register on the website.
Embarking on a Job search can be energy draining. With the emergence of technology startups and a redefinition of the workplace, some of the “dont’s” outlined are gradually making their way into the corporate world. Just be circumspect and research about the culture of the organisation and see if it fits your lifestyle. In Ghana where jobs are scarce and job seekers have little or no bargaining chip at all, it is advised you keep to these points so you increase your chances of landing a job. Don’t lose hope. Every good thing takes time and effort.
Have any questions to ask? See you in the comments section.