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Finding a job is a job. 10 steps to success

Posted By Natalie Singer, 06 June 2013


You’ve completed your schooling but aren’t able to enter tertiary education, either due to lack of suitable qualification or financial challenges. What do you do now?


For many South Africans who leave high school, the only option open to them is to go out and find a job. But, considering the very high unemployment statistics and the current recession, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Like most things in life, finding a job needs to be something that you take seriously, that you prepare for and work on diligently until you succeed.


Life doesn’t always work out perfectly but preparing yourself for the process of finding a job will definitely improve your chances of succeeding. Follow these 10 steps to success.


Step 1: Have the right attitude

Your attitude will play a big part in your quest to find a job. Remember that you need to stay focused and be positive. It’s said that positivity is the first step to success. You need to believe in yourself and ensure that you come across as motivated, positive and realistic when dealing with potential employers. We all have dreams and whilst we might all want to become the next Tokyo Sexwale, we need to remember that we have to start at the bottom and work our way up. We need to be realistic about our current abilities, skills and experience.


Don’t turn down a job because you don’t think it meets your ambitions. Some of the most successful people in the world started their careers in entry-level jobs. Richard Branson worked in a record store because he never finished his schooling but he never believed them when they said that "he’d never amount to anything”.


Don’t discount the value of volunteer work. Whilst you might not be earning any money, you will be earning experience and this will definitely assist you in securing a paying job later. I studied to be a journalist and because I didn’t go to a technikon, I was at a disadvantage when it came to working experience. I decided to approach Independent Newspapers for a job. They told me that they weren’t hiring but when I explained that I just wanted to work there and didn’t expect to be paid, they took me on straight away – which business wouldn’t want an extra pair of hands, especially if it doesn’t cost them anything? Within a few months I was able to apply for a position as a sub-editor at a magazine and I only got this paying job because of my experience at the newspaper.


Step 2: Prepare your CV


Your CV is your marketing tool and is often the only thing a potential employer will see before considering you for a job. It is very important that your CV is an accurate reflection of your qualification and experience and that it is free from errors. Your CV should include all important information about you including Personal Details, Qualification, Experience and a Reference. If you don’t have a work reference available, ask your Headmaster, Pastor or someone else of importance within your community. Remember that they need to be able to give a character reference and so need to know you well.


Your CV should always be typed. You may need to ask someone for assistance – visit your local Internet café or even your library where you will be able to make use of a computer. Things to consider when creating your CV:

  • Make sure that you’ve done a spell check and that there are no spelling mistakes
  • Make sure that the CV is neatly laid out and that all information is included in the correct place
  • Make sure that your contact numbers are very clear on the CV so that a potential employer can quickly get hold of you if they’re interested in calling you in for an interview
  • Try and keep the CV as short and sweet as possible – 2 pages maximum
  • Make sure that your CV is up-to-date. Correct info including contact details and add any work experience as you get it.
  • Because many companies require you to email your CV to them, as opposed to faxing it, you should set up an email address. There are many free email addresses to choose from – hotmail, Gmail and others.

Step 3: Get your CV in as many places as possible


Looking for a job is hard work and will require that you spend time researching vacancies and opportunities. I suggest that you get your CV on the many job portals that exist because this means that your CV will be accessible to many hundreds of recruitment companies and potential employers. These websites are free and you can simply upload your CV onto the sites – most of them have simple templates where you capture your information. Visit your local Internet café, Department of Labour Centre or library with Internet access. Go to any of the following job sites:

You should also keep an eye out for the job sections of your local newspaper where jobs will be advertised by recruitment agencies or potential employers. Remember that whilst you are trying to get your CV in as many places as possible, you should only apply for jobs for which you are suitably qualified or experienced.


Visit your local Department of Labour Centre where you can register as a work seeker. They will be able to keep you informed of any job opportunities, temporary or permanent, in your area. Some of the Labour Centre’s also offer job counseling and career guidance so make sure you register for these workshops if they’re available in your area.


Step 4: Dress for the job you want, not the one you have (or don’t have)


It is very important that you behave appropriately throughout your job search process. This means that you need to ensure that not only during interviews, but all the time, you act the way you would if you were around your potential boss. This doesn’t just mean the clothes that you wear but also how you engage with people on the phone.


Remember that when you’re looking for a job you should ensure that you always answer your phone professionally and not how you’d speak to your friends or family. Also make sure that you have voicemail facilities set up on your phone and that the message is professional. The message should clearly identify your name and surname so that a potential employer can be sure they’re dealing with you and can leave a message for you to contact them back. Remove any ringtones, voicemails or other cell functions that could be offensive or put off a potential employer from contacting you again.


First impressions last so be sure to give a good one at all times! If you are invited to attend an interview, make sure that you’re dressed appropriately. You must ensure that your clothes are suitable for the job you’re applying for. Rather opt for conservative clothing – trousers and a collared shirt for men and trousers/skirt and a nice blouse for women. Don’t wear anything that could be seen to be too revealing or in poor condition. You and your clothes should be clean and neat. Make sure that you fix any hems, buttons or other problems if there are any.


Shower, wash your hair, brush your teeth and put on deodorant before going to the interview. You need to look your best to impress. Looking good also helps you to feel more confident and this is always a plus when you go into an interview.


Step 5: Manage your time and always be punctual


Potential employers will be looking at everything about you during the recruitment process. They will specifically look to see if you’re reliable and able to manage your time efficiently. This means that you must ensure that you arrive for the interview on time. If you’re not sure where you’re going or how to get there rather be very early than late. If you arrive more than 15 minutes before your appointment time, rather go and get a cold drink, take a walk or wait somewhere else. Being too early can be just as bad as being late.


If the potential employer asks you to send them extra information or call them after the interview, be sure to do this before the agreed time. The potential employer will be checking to see if you’re trustworthy and able to follow instructions and meet deadlines.
Step 6: Preparing for the interview


You should always prepare for a job interview. It’s normal to feel nervous about the interview but you need to try and manage your nerves. You can feel more confident, and therefore less nervous, if you are prepared and know what to expect during the interview. Ask the potential employer or recruiter what format the interview will take, whether there will be any skills assessments and who you will be meeting.


If possible, try and find out more about the potential employer before the interview by looking out for articles about them in the newspaper, visiting their website or asking friends or family if they know about them.


Remember that you will be asked questions about your qualifications and experience. Always be truthful – you will be caught out if you lie and this will seriously jeopardise your chances of finding employment. Understand how you’d answer questions like:

  • What kind of job would you like to be doing?
  • Do you have any plans in terms of where you’d like your career to be in 3 or 5 years time?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?

Think about how you could use examples from your school life, sporting achievements and other aspects of your life to show that you’d make a good employee. Have you held leadership roles at school, in Church or on the sports field? Do you display discipline through your sports practice regimes?


Step 7: Interview "rules of engagement”


There is a definite set of rules that apply during a job interview. You should always behave professionally and with respect. Refer to people you engage with during the interview as "Mr” or "Mrs” so-and-so. Remember to be polite and always use "please” and "thank you”.


Don’t be afraid to ask an interviewer to repeat the question if you’re unsure what they’re asking. Never be afraid to admit that you don’t know the answer – tell them that you’re not sure but attempt to provide an answer as you understand the question. You should show interest in the job you’re applying for and ask questions of the interviewer. These questions could involve asking about career development opportunities, training opportunities etc but should never be about money, holiday and sick leave or other aspects that seem to show that you’re only interested in the job for "what’s in it for me”.


Step 8: Watch your body language


80% of communication is non-verbal and this means that the way that you’re dressed, your facial expressions and your body language all provide feedback to your interviewer. Be sure to consciously manage these non-verbal forms of communication during your interview. Whilst there are differences culturally when it comes to body language, you need to pay careful attention to the following during an interview:

  • Sit up straight in the chair – no slouching
  • Don’t fidget. If you’re nervous, fold your hands in your lap rather
  • Maintain eye contact with the interviewer – if you don’t look at them they’ll either think you’re too shy or trying to hide something
  • Shake hands firmly with the interviewer
  • Don’t cross your arms – this comes across as being a defensive gesture
  • Talk slowing and clearly


Step 9: Remember to smile


Smiling releases endorphins, the body’s natural antidote to stress, and these help to fight the nerves brought on by stress. Stand up straight, think positive thoughts and smile – you will feel and look much more confident! Remember to smile when you talk on the phone too, the person on the other side will be able to "hear” that you’re smiling and will immediately feel more positively about you.


Step 10: If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again

It’s highly unlikely that you will get the first job you apply for. Remember that every time you attend an interview you are gaining experience that will hopefully assist you in better managing your nerves and improving your chances of getting the next job.
It’s easy to become despondent during the job search process but remember that potential employers are more likely to consider a candidate who is positive, upbeat and confident. Rather than get yourself down on what you’d consider "failed interviews” focus on the positive lessons you can learn from the experience.

Practice your interview skills and improve your presentation and you’ll be one step closer to getting your first job.

Tags:  attitude  body language  CV  dress code  honesty  interview  job portal  job search  practice  punctuality  recruiter  skills  volunteering 

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