Choosing a career path after matric or entering the workplace after studying can be intimidating, and many people are not necessarily sure of exactly what they want to do.
Being forced into making a rash decision can lead to dropping out of a course or going into a career with no job satisfaction, warns Manpower SA MD, Lyndy van den Barselaar.
“South Africa’s high unemployment rate puts more pressure on students and job seekers to make careful decisions around what career path to pursue,” she says. “Factors such as job availability, job security and future of the position or industry all have to be considered, which can make the process overwhelming.”
ENCA last year reported that 50% to 60% of students at higher learning institutions drop out during their first year. “This is often owing to students realising quickly into their first year of study that the course they have chosen is not something they want to pursue.”
Further, those working without job satisfaction are less likely to be productive in their positions and passionate about their jobs. “Since we spend a large portion of our lives in the workplace, it is important to have a job one is passionate about,” Van den Barselaar says.
Owing to this, many students who complete their matric or their tertiary education choose to spend some time overseas before settling into a course or a career. “Contrary to the beliefs of some, this can be a positive experience in terms of the travellers’ future career development,” says Van den Barselaar.
“Besides assisting to develop ones interpersonal and social skills, independence and confidence, finding work overseas can assist in gaining valuable, worldly experience,” she says. “Taking up part time work will introduce the traveller to the workplace and could even assist them in figuring out what their chosen career path may be, whether this is an internship or contract position.”
Platforms such as oDesk, now Upwork, are evidence of the evolving workplace and the digital transformation in practice. These platforms allow job seekers to create profiles, citing their skills and experience in any particular field, from anywhere in the world. Those seeking professionals for casual jobs can then interview, hire and work with jobseekers through the platform – the process is completely digital, making distance between the employee and employer superfluous. With upgrades such as realtime chat, it is now more convenient for potential employers to find and hire employees.
“Platforms such as these ensure that time spent overseas will not be time wasted, where one could be gaining work experience,” explains Van den Barselaar. “For example a student who was part of the school newspaper may be able to assist a business looking to expand their social media footprint.”
Van den Barselaar suggests that matriculants or graduates look for work within their field of interest and where their strengths lie. “This will ensure that the traveller also becomes an asset to the business they are looking to work for.”
She explains that many businesses have cultural exchange programmes in place that will facilitate for work experience for graduates from other countries, while other businesses offer internship programmes.
Volunteer programmes also offer a positive way to explore the world while working and making a difference to the community in which you are living at the time.
“The digital nature of the evolving employment landscape makes overseas travel a valuable part of one’s personal development and even one’s career path,” she says.