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Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2015

Posted By APSO, 29 April 2015
Updated: 24 April 2015

Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2015


Author: Natalie Singer, Talent 3sixty

 

Each year Dan Schawbel, American author and management consultant, writes up his top 10 workplace trends for publication via Forbes.com and this year I have taken his predictions and applied them to the South African context.

Although South Africa definitely needs to be considered part of the global village, our socio-economic situation does make things different for us than for an advanced economy like the US.

Schawbel’s highest level trends include the skills gap, workers dropping out of the corporate system, use of automation, outsourcing and then pressure for companies to become leaner. I would concur that these are among SA’s greatest trends too.

There may be many challenges facing the workplace in 2015 but equally opportunity abounds for organisations willing to invest in understanding the changes and making adjustments as required.

 

Trend 1:  Companies hiring youngsters

Globally organisations are realising that in order to win (or rather build) the best talent they are having to engage them sooner than traditionally expected. In the US and Europe many multi-national companies are recruiting interns straight out of high school in a bid to address the skills gap that exists, particularly in the areas of science, mathematics and technology.

Whilst I believe that South African employees will, at least for the time being, still recruit at graduate level, the incentives provided by the Youth Employment Scheme and others are making the option of employing (and investing in) youngsters more attractive.

Trend 2: Millennials are taking up leadership roles

Increasing some of the youngest members of the workforce are taking up leadership roles. A recent survey by CareerBuilder, the largest global job board, found that 38% of the workforce is already managed by millennials and that is already causing problems including a sense of arrogance and favouritism towards others of their generation. The main problem it seems is that these youngsters have been promoted early, having not gained sufficient work (and life) experience nor appropriate management training.

Certain industries in South Africa may find this trend more apparent, such as IT, where the younger generation’s ability to adapt to rapidly changing technology is seeing them jump the corporate ladder at warp speed.

Trend 3: Honesty becomes a revered leadership trait

A recent global study found that more than half of Generation Y and their younger siblings, Generation Z, state that honesty is the most important quality for being a good leader. Social media may account for this as organisations and the individuals within them are pushed to become more transparent and to share their activities on a daily basis.

Whilst there may be some questions about leadership within the Government and public sector in SA, the private sector is being shoved towards greater transparency daily. Leaders will no longer just have to be good at inspiring and educating their employees, they will now need to instil trust though honesty.

Trend 4: The skills gap continues to widen

Ask any HR practitioner or business leader and they’ll tell you that skills shortages or mismatches are their biggest challenge. Despite a lot of talk about this, the gap seems to be widening rather than closing. Globally the education systems fails to keep up with needs of the current workplace.

In South Africa the education crisis is reaching epic proportions as FET colleges continue to produce abysmal throughput rates of just 9% and tens of thousands of graduates remain unemployed years after they’ve qualified. Until business and the education fraternity are able to sit down and co-create a curriculum that meets the needs of the market, the sad paradox of unfilled jobs and drastic unemployment will continue.

Trend 5: The continuous job search picks up

Technology has enabled individuals to easily find new jobs and to allow recruiters to identify, approach and “steal” talent in numbers. As a result employees are undergoing continuous job search and never really settle. Companies who wish to increase their retention rates need to focus on creating a superior work culture where employees make friends, are consistently engaged and get perks that appeal.

The average job tenure in South Africa is not quite two years, with younger generations “hopping” regularly. It seems that this trend is not likely to be reversed and so employers – and recruiters – need to adjust their perceptions and to find advantages to the myriad of jobs, environments and experiences that these individuals have been exposed to and what advantages these provide to their next employer.

Trend 6: Mobile hiring and the mobile job search explosion

Mobile access to the Internet and in particular job search functionality is increasing globally. According to Schawbel, 83% of jobseekers in the US use their smartphones to search for opportunities and yet just 20% of Fortune 500 companies have a mobile friendly career site.

In South Africa, just as it is across the continent, the vast majority of individuals access the Internet via their mobile. It is therefore no longer optional for an organisation, especially recruitment companies, to have a mobi-friendly website and ideally a mobile app.

Trend 7: Social media posts used to attract and retain talent

Employer brand is ever more critical in attracting and retaining top talent. A snazzy website and carefully constructed employer marketing material are no longer sufficient. Interested individuals wish to see into the culture of the company and social media provides a great platform to share work culture related posts and leveraging current employees to promote the brand.

People want to work for interesting companies and when they see their social media posts they get a better sense of what the organisation is all about. Platforms such as Glassdoor, although relatively new to South Africa, give a glimpse into the true state of affairs within an organisation, ensuring a balanced perspective of employer brand.

Trend 8: Succession planning becomes a top priority

Loss of skill and experience is always difficult and as the workforce ages and more Boomers are set to retire, many organisations are facing a serious challenge: how do they ensure effective succession? Luckily more than 60% of older workers surveyed in the US indicated that they are not ready to retire entirely, requiring an opportunity to continue to earn into their “retirement”.

South Africa too faces a threat of too many skilled individuals retiring at the same time. Unfortunately too few organisations have amended their antiquated retirement policies, expecting 60-year-olds to pack up and go – with more than 20 years retirement facing them. Opportunities to remain employed, via contract or third parties, exist and will continue to be utilised by individuals who’re not ready to retire and their organisations who simply cannot afford to let them go.

Trend 9: Woman continue to seize power positions in the workplace

Pay gaps continue to exist across the world with woman earning as little as 75% of their male counterparts. Whilst research indicates that this gap is narrowing, woman in the workplace continue to hit glass ceilings although advances are happening to improve the representation, especially at senior levels.

South Africa’s constitution has always promoted equal treatment and in this regard SA must rank amongst the best in terms of female representation in the workplace and at senior levels of management. In 2015 more woman were enrolled at universities across the country and this bodes well for increasing the pool of skilled, experienced and ambitious young women in the workplace.

Trend 10: More people stepping out of traditional career paths

Every year an increasing number of individuals become freelancers, either through choice or out of necessity. Companies are opting to hire more contingent workers as they attempt to keep their organisations lean and mean, employing skill on a project, rather than permanent, basis. Technology makes accessing the world of work from wherever easier by the day, encouraging the growth of freelancers.

Although South Africa is grappling with the concept of flexibility and organisations will now have to manage increasing complexity of regulation, South Africa will not lag behind the global trend. Research conducted by Boston Consulting Group in 2011 clearly indicates that global competitiveness requires organisations to have 30% flexibility in their workforce.

How is your company adapting to the trends?

 

Tags:  APSO  apsogram  equal treatment  honesty  job search  Leadership  millenials  mobile hiring  mobile job search  skills gap  social media  succession planning  talent retention  traditional career paths  youth 

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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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Jobseeking 101 Infographic

Posted By APSO, 06 June 2013
Updated: 06 June 2013
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To be searchable, or not to be?

Posted By Natalie Singer, 06 June 2013
Updated: 06 June 2013

That is the question all candidates should be asking themselves as the online job search environment changes. In today’s online environment there are many ways to promote yourself if you’re seeking better career prospects, and for potential employers to seek you out. Some are obvious, such as job boards or perhaps your LinkedIn profile, but some, like your FaceBook page or where your weekend sports results were posted, are not.

Today, many candidates are unaware of the changing landscape in South Africa and the fact that many of the job boards, that traditionally only serviced recruitment agencies, are now making their service offering accessible to corporate employers, and this could have dire consequences for your confidentiality and job security.

But, before you panic, let’s assess the risks. There are most certainly pros and cons to being found easily in cyberspace, and it depends entirely on your current circumstances.

Flying below the radar

If you want to be in direct control of who has access to your CV, then you’d be better off not registering on any portals and simply watching the career sections of newspapers or websites for positions that catch your eye. You can then make a conscious decision to forward your CV for consideration. However, this can be extremely time-consuming and you may miss out on the perfect job simply because you didn’t see the advert on that particular day.

Pro:        You are the only person who has access to your CV until you choose to apply directly

Con:       You could miss out on the ideal job

Targeted selection

As a skilled candidate, you may wish to rather begin a relationship with a specialist recruiter who works within your niche sector. By registering with a particular agency, or perhaps two, you could benefit from their expertise and network of clients with the right kind of opportunities. You would take the time to register with the agency once and then liaise with them from time-to-time as your needs changed, or they had suitable opportunities to discuss with you. This form of relationship allows you to control where, and to whom, your CV is sent because a professional recruiter, especially one that is registered with APSO and adheres to the APSO Code of Ethical & Professional Practice, should always contact you to discuss any potential career move and get your express permission to send the CV to that specific client, for that specific role at that specific time.

Pro:       Your specialist consultant will be able to identify those opportunities that meet your specific skill set and requirements and market you effectively to the potential employer, including assisting you with the interview and offer stage.

Con:      You need to ensure that you’ve registered with the right recruiter who will be proactive in assisting you with your next career move otherwise you run the risk of missing out on other suitable opportunities. 

Leveraging your network

If you’re a social media fundi you may wish to leverage your own network when seeking better prospects. Keeping your job search solely to cyberspace associated with social networks can be risky as your network may not be big enough to uncover the right opportunity for you. Remember to manage your profiles carefully because social media is equally used to reference potential employees as it is to recruit them.

Pro:        You can control all engagements and work with people in your network.

Con:       Your profile/s may in fact cause potential employers to disregard you entirely.

Signing up to a job portal

For a long time, job portals in South Africa were only accessible to recruitment agencies and this meant that candidates could register and make themselves searchable confident that their details were not at risk of being found by their current employer or someone in their immediate network. However, several of the job boards, including some of the leading brands, have recently changed their service offering and now make it possible for their corporate clients to utilise the search functionality. Some portals provide candidates with the option to "opt in” or "opt out” from this extra layer of accessibility but it’s not always clearly laid out. As a result, candidates are recommended to investigate their rights and understand what they are signing up to, before simply assuming that their information will be handled only by recruitment agencies.

The job portals can be an excellent way to manage your career search as they provide resume creation services, direct online applications, application tracking and other tools. Many recruitment agencies, and increasingly corporate employers, are also making use of these portals so the number of job vacancies being posted is increasing. However, in light of the changes, we strongly recommend that candidates do their research and choose their job portal wisely, especially if they’re currently employed and don’t want to risk being discovered by their own boss.

Pro:        One stop shop with many vacancies and other useful career-seeking tools

Con:       You could end up with your details openly available and this may risk your current job.

All or nothing

If you’re currently unemployed or work as a freelancer or contractor, it may be in your interest to be as accessible as possible to anyone who is seeking your skill set – recruiters and employers alike. It makes sense in this case to register your CV on as many job portals as possible, including those that allow employers direct search access to the CV database. You should also invest in creating a detailed LinkedIn profile that clearly outlines your skill set and experience as this social media site is being used more and more often for recruitment purposes. Remember to always consider your online profile and consider limiting access to your FaceBook profile to friends and family – after all, seeing the "good time” you had on Tuesday night, is unlikely to be seen as an advantage by a potential employer.

Pro:       All potential opportunities are available to you.

Con:      You lose control of your personal information and there is always the potential for it to be used unethically or illegally. 

Whatever method you choose to use when seeking a step up in your career, remember to carefully weigh up your options. Remember too that your circumstances will change throughout your career, and what was suitable today may not be right for tomorrow. Maintain your online profiles, including registrations with recruitment agencies and job portals, to ensure that they’re up-to-date and have privacy settings that are appropriate for your current situation.

Tags:  candidate rights  CV  Facebook  job portal  job search  LinkedIn  networking  recruiter  reputation  social media  vacancies 

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Kickstart your Career!

Posted By Natalie Singer, 06 June 2013
Updated: 06 June 2013

This article first appeared in the ACCA magazine in 2010 and whilst it was targeted at newly qualified accountants, the advice will apply equally to other new entrants to the job market

You’ve made the decision to follow your dream of entering the accounting field, have successfully navigated your way through your studies and now you face the next challenge: finding a job.

Searching for a new job is just like a project; you need to spend time identifying your target and determining the action items required to reach the desired outcome. Planning is a crucial part of the process and should not be underestimated if you want to utilize your time and resources wisely.

Creating your CV

Your CV is the document that needs to "sell” you in your absence. It should speak of your strengths, skills and experience but nothing beats actual examples of performance to shown an employer what you can deliver for them. Use real-life examples of accomplishments to increase your chances of getting an interview. If you don’t yet have any formal work experience, look at highlighting other accomplishments from your studies like outside activities (sport, community work) or your part-time jobs. Even if it doesn’t directly relate to your accounting career you should look to highlight your leadership ability and transferable skills and attributes like planning, reliability, dedication and commitment.

CVs should be concise and additional documentation like certificates, ID, driver’s license and reference letters should always be kept separate and only sent on request. Recruiters get very frustrated receiving an application that has multiple attachments or 10-page documents.

The format of a CV should be neat, logically structured and easy to read. Avoid adding pictures or unnecessary "frippery” – keep it clean and concise. Make use of standard fonts, bullet points and appropriate headings. There are many websites that provide CV templates if you need guidance.

Developing a "Plan of Attack”

As the saying goes "if you want to catch a fish, make sure you have many lines in the water” – the same goes for looking for a job. A job certainly won’t come looking for you so you need to determine a plan of attack and then take the necessary action to get yourself into the job market. Identify your target market – which employers are most suited to your skill and experience.

You should determine what qualities would appeal most to them and work out how to approach them successfully. You are far more likely to make a successful connection with a company if you highlight those skills of yours that match their needs so remember to customize your CV and application for each individual job.

Work out where to market yourself. Consider uploading your CV onto the various job portals. You can register online at no cost and by being on the portal you will be accessible to recruiters who are able to search the online database whenever they’ve got a vacancy. Most job portals also have an alert function that will let you know (via email) whenever a new job is posted that matches your skill set or predefined requirements.

Monitor the career pages in your local newspaper to see if any employers (or recruiters) are advertising positions that you qualify for. Remember that you should also frequently check the websites of your identified employers (companies you’d like to work for) to see if they’re advertising vacancies. Most of South Africa’s top companies have job sections on their website where they advertise vacancies, including graduate programmes.

You should also seriously consider registering with a few recruitment companies who specialise in financial placements. Whilst it is a good idea to be registered with a few, you should rather focus on developing relationships with one or two recruiters than with every recruiter in town.

Know your rights as a work seeker

Recruitment agencies have their own specific requirements when it comes to what they expect of the candidates who are interviewed by them. However it is important to note that you have rights as a candidate, and that you should choose to deal with an APSO-registered agency that practices recruitment in a legal and ethical manner. APSO registered agencies operate according to a strict Code of Ethical & Professional Practice and this refers specifically to the services that should be extended to candidates.

You can expect the following:

Respect & Confidentiality – APSO members are required to treat their candidates with respect and to ensure that their personal information is treated confidentially.

Professionalism – you are entitled to be interviewed by a consultant of appropriate seniority and training who fully understands the search assignment s/he is working on and who can take adequate notes during the course of the interview and who can then present you to the client in an accurate and professional manner.

Efficiency – APSO members are responsible for ensuring that they gather all appropriate information. If any doubt exists as to the authenticity of these documents, the member is required to undertake investigation to verify the relevance of this information.

Permission for submission – it is never acceptable for an agency to forward your CV or personal details to a company without first getting your express permission to be submitted for that particular job. The member is required to provide you with all relevant details including name of the company, job title, salary on offer, location and any other pertinent information.

Communication – members should provide candidates with ongoing feedback concerning the recruitment process. Candidates should always be informed of their success or failure in each vacancy.

Not all agencies are registered with APSO so we recommend that you make a point of dealing only with APSO registered agencies that pride themselves on providing a professional service with high ethical standards. Should you not receive this level of service you should make a point of expressing your concern with the recruitment consultant, agency management or with APSO directly. For more information on APSO, the ethics complaint process and a series of other articles aimed at educating work seekers, visit our website www.apso.co.za

Tags:  candidate rights  CV  dress code  employers want  job search  professionalism  skills  volunteering 

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Natalie Singer answers questions on recession-proofing your career

Posted By APSO, 06 June 2013
Updated: 06 June 2013

In an interview for Fair Lady, Natalie Singer, APSO Chief Operating Officer, provided some advice to employees who were looking to recession-proof their careers.

Q: It’s often said that WHAT you know isn’t as important as WHO you know. Can fostering connections on, say, twitter, or ‘networking’ contribute to making your career more resilient? And can you give any suggestions how people can begin to network?

Personal relationships are imperative in all aspects of our lives and your career is no different. Many people find new opportunities via their network and it’s always a good idea to ensure that if you are looking for a new challenge to let people know, after all, you never know who in their extended network may be looking for someone with your skills and experience.

Networking today happens on all levels whether in person, via clubs and associations you may belong to, or via social media. Of course, the key to good networking is to remember that "actions speak louder than words” and so doing what you can to help other people in your network is always a good place to start. Truly successful networking relies on you offering assistance to others instead of simply asking for assistance yourself. 

Depending on your skill set or interest, establishing an online presence via a blog may also be a good way to get noticed. Sharing your knowledge and experience with others via this kind of platform could generate interest from people or organisations looking for someone like you. Think about your social media profiles as a full-time advert of who you are and what you stand for. As a result, consider carefully what you share online – pictures of your drunken Friday night out or an online argument with someone may jeopardise your chances.  If your profile is "public” remember that anyone can search your name to find you. Increasingly companies and recruiters are using these kinds of searches to check out potential employees. 

Q:Can being friendly, upbeat and personable affect your likelihood of being retrenched?

Retrenchments are usually about more than the individuals involved and relate to the organisations restricting requirements. However, if there are multiple people working within a department and only some need to be retrenched other factors may come under consideration when management determines who to retrench. More than being personable, management will look at who is most productive and adds value to the organisation. 

Given that we spend the majority of our day at work, it makes sense to do what you can to promote a harmonious environment via good relationships with your colleagues and offering assistance to other people if your own work has been completed. 

Q: How important is it to be proactive, and in what ways can employees be proactive to encourage continued employment?

Being proactive is very important. This means that you should continually look at opportunities to improve your knowledge and skill and to gain more experience. This can be through offering to take on additional duties, doing some after-hours studying, even if it’s just online research/reading, or determining what you need to do to be considered for a promotion internally. People are naturally drawn to people who are positive, optimistic and proactive so focus on looking on the bright side and finding solutions rather than always finding problems.

Q: In what ways can we positively distinguish ourselves from our colleagues?

The most important thing is to ensure that you do whatever is expected of you, every time. Of course, the old cliché of "going the extra mile” also holds true. When doing your job, focus on doing it right first time and look at ways to improve; this could mean increased service to customers, cutting costs or determining a more effective way to get things done faster. Management will always pay attention to individuals who have good time management, meet their deadlines, produce quality work, are a team player and who are willing to get stuck in with whatever needs doing .

Q: How important is it to up-skill, & why?

The world is changing rapidly. This is especially true when it comes to technology. It is very important to ensure that you’re up-to-date with information and skills relevant to your job. For example, make it your mission to learn more about the computer packages you use every day. For example if you can only use basic Excel, why not spend some time learning how to take it further, like creating graphs and developing macros? Being up-to-date doesn’t only relate to practical skills.

Knowing what is happening in the world at large is important too. Make sure that you read the newspaper, or at least watch the news, every day. Pay attention to local and world events, especially those that could impact your industry. Subscribe to online newsletters or magazines for your industry/sector so that you can stay abreast of the latest developments. Your boss will definitely notice if you’re able to converse intelligently about business, even if you’re only a junior or in an administrative role.

Q: Can it be beneficial to offer to take a pay-cut?

If an organisation is struggling to stay afloat, they may be willing to consider a pay-cut rather than retrenchment. If the company is willing to go this route then it would be up to the individual to determine whether they feel remaining in the position for a lesser salary was better than accepting a retrenchment package and securing employment elsewhere. It may be best for the individual to do some research before making this decision as their skill set and experience would determine how likely it would be for them to secure alternate employment. Research could be conducted by looking at jobs advertised via online job portals or by contacting some industry-specific recruitment companies to ask for advice on their marketability.

Q: Is there any other advice you can offer?

I would like to give some advice to people who may be retrenched and who are looking for alternative employment. When looking for alternative employment there are a few things that you can do to improve your chances, including:

Quality CV

Your CV is your advertising platform and needs to be perfect. Ensure that you spell check and get a second pair of eyes to look over it as spelling mistakes, missing information or poor layout will create a poor impression of you. Remember to include only information relevant to your job and keep it as concise as possible. Ensure that you have multiple forms of contact information because if the potential employer/recruiter doesn’t get hold of you the first time, they’re not likely to keep trying if they have many other applicants to consider.

Nothing but the truth

Resist the temptation to lie or "expand” your CV. You will be found out. Consider how best to highlight your specific skills and experience, relevant to the job you’re applying for, so that a potential employer/recruiter can easily see why you’d be a good person to consider.

Be realistic

We all wish for a job that pays a lot and requires us to work a little. In tough economic times it may be necessary for you to consider a lesser salary than the one you earned before you were retrenched, particularly if you’d been with your previous company for a long time. Heed the advice of recruiters who understand the market. Remember too that it is in their interest to secure the best possible package as their commission is directly linked to your offer of employment.

Work with professional recruiters

Unfortunately there are scam artists out there who take advantage of desperate job seekers. Don’t fall prey to these scams. It is illegal in South Africa to charge applicants to register with an employment agency or to secure employment. Recruiters earn their money by charging a recruitment fee to the employer. If in doubt, rather choose to work with an APSO member agency that has been vetted against current legislative compliance requirements and who is held accountable to a Code of Ethics & Best Practice. For a comprehensive list of our members, from across South Africa, simply visit www.apso.co.za 

Tags:  attitude  career  CV  employers want  honesty  job search  recession  recruiter  remuneration  retrenchment  salary  skills 

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Dress for the job you want, not the one you have

Posted By Natalie Singer, 06 June 2013
Updated: 06 June 2013

"Always be well-dressed…even when begging” Hindu Proverb

Professional dress can be a bridge or a barrier to clients, customers and interviewers. If they don’t like the messenger, they’re not going to get the message. Communicating professionalism through dress is important, particularly when being interviewed for a senior or skilled role. 

Who makes the rules about business dress code? 

Most people agree that what you wear to an interview matters, but how do you decide what is appropriate? Most of today’s job seekers, particularly Generation Y, believe that it shouldn’t matter what you wear, so long as you can deliver the goods, but considering they’re likely to be interviewed by a Baby Boomer who still believes strongly in corporate dress codes, this is not the case.

Your choice of dress should be guided by the kind of job you’re interviewing for, and the corporate culture of the organisation. Generally, a more corporate office will have a higher expectation for professional dress and certain professions, like legal and finance, tend to be suit and tie environments. An artistic role, like graphic designer, PR consultant or advertising executive would expect an element of creativity and boldness. Wearing a dull suit with no personality will likely cost you the job if this is the environment you’re interviewing for. 

Wearing what an organisation expects you to wear, including to the interview, shows them that you’ve made a conscious decision to be part of the team. If the interviewer can look at you and "see” you sitting behind the desk for the role they’re recruiting, you’re halfway there.

What about personality? 

For many individuals, the thought of wearing a uniform to work, whether official or unofficial, is off-putting. I mean, who wants to look just like everyone else, and how boring to wear the same thing day in and day out.  Just because there is an expectation for a certain look, doesn’t mean that you can’t allow your choice of outfit to reflect your personality.

A successful dresser finds a distinctive way of dressing that is appropriate for what they do and is a true reflection of their personality. A feminine woman could add a touch of the romantic by choosing a ruffled blouse in a soft pale pink fabric to wear under a traditional dark business suit, or an outgoing man might opt for a bright red tie to show off his bold personality.

The Power of Colour

Using colour does not only help your personality shine through; colour psychology can give you the edge when attending an interview or an important business meeting. Whether we are conscious about it or not, the colours we choose for our business attire sends a strong message. The image you project with a beige suit is very different from the way you’d look in a navy suit, for example.

 There are a few simple "golden rules” to consider when choosing a business outfit, based on colour:

  • The darker the colour, the more powerful the "look”
  • Monochromatic colours, like different shades of grey or brown, look sophisticated.
  • Bright colours are less formal. You’re likely to be taken more seriously if you avoid colours such as yellow or orange in the business environment

True Blue

Studies show that navy blue is the best colour to wear to a job interview, because it inspires confidence. Have you ever noticed how many companies use blue in their logo? Blue inspires confidence, trust and security and it’s no wonder that banks and insurance firms tend to opt for this colour in their corporate branding.

Yeah, Grey

Grey is associated with neutrality, respectability and reliability. It works well across all tones but should be paired with a small injection of another colour to make it more interesting. Grey is less authoritarian than black and is especially good for negotiation including during job interviews. 

Beware Red

Red is a powerful colour that demands attention. It works well if you’re giving a speech but not as well if you’re aiming to be seen as a team player. Depending on the perception of an individual, red can be seen positively – as a sign of confidence – or negatively, as aggressive or overbearing. It is not a good choice for an interview, except if used sparingly as an accent colour, because you cannot be sure how it will be perceived by the interviewer.

Green for Girls

Although green is proven to be the easiest colour for the eyes to process, when we think of green we think of nature, tranquility and relaxation. Green indicates informality, predictability and even laziness. Green should be used sparingly in the business space and usually only by women. The deeper greens, when used in a well-cut garment, are acceptable for business wear for women but should be avoided by men unless they’re dressing down. 

Boring Brown

Brown implies dependability, conservativeness and dislike for pretension. As a neutral colour, brown is a good alternative to black, navy and grey but should be accompanied by lighter, more eye-catching colours to lift it. Rich, warm browns are unthreatening and will help people to feel comfortable around you but beware of using them at functions or events where you’re likely to literally disappear into the woodwork.

10 rules for successful dressing

Think about these ten things when dressing for an interview, or important meeting.

Rule 1: Colour

Choose a maximum of 3 colours only and ensure that one of them is neutral.

Rule 2: Line and Shape

Select clothes that have clean, uncluttered lines and simple shapes for a strong, professional impact.

Rule 3: Detail

Use detail as a focal point. If you choose a pair of bold earrings or bright tie, ensure that the rest of your outfit is understated. Don’t risk garnering the interviewer’s attention for all the wrong reasons!

Rule 4: Pattern

Avoid mixing matters in a single outfit. Choose a single pattered garment and pair it with block colour.

Rule 5: Texture

Consciously combining textures helps to create interest. Pair shiny satin with a dull matt finish of wool, for example.

Rule 6: Balance

Know your body and balance any "out of proportion” area by adding visual detail where necessary. Balance wide hips with a top with shoulder interest, or use a solid dark colour on the bottom and a bright, interesting necklace to draw the eye up.

Rule 7: Proportion

Remember that unequal proportions are visually more dynamic. Think about the size and placement of bold patterns, large jewelry or hair accessories to get this right.

Rule 8: Harmony

Select individual garments for an outfit that connect with each other by picking up a common element of colour, line, shape or texture. 

Rule 9: Contrast

High contrast colours, like red and black project authority. Medium contrast cool blends, like blue grey suggest sophistication and low contrast warm tones like rust with cinnamon suggest approachability.

Rule 10: Emphasis

Use accessories to emphasize your ‘style and personality’ either to add a twist to classic business dress or emphasize attractive features, for example bold framed glasses to highlight eyes.

Don’t blow it by forgetting instant image breakers

It doesn’t matter if you’ve chosen an outfit that "fits” all the rules, if you forget to avoid these instant image breakers. Image breakers can be grouped into dress style, clothes maintenance, and personal habits and grooming. The most common turn-offs reported by interviewers include overpowering fragrance, careless shave, unpolished shoes, bad breath, laddered stockings, strange body odour, chipped nail polish, dandruff on collar, shoe heels in need of repair and scruffy hairstyles.

Personal hygiene and grooming are non-negotiable in any business setting but more so in an interview situation where all eyes, and attention, is focused on you. 

Plan your interview outfit and get it ready at least the day before you are scheduled to attend the interview. The last thing you want to have happen a few minutes before you need to leave the house is to realize that your trousers don’t fit anymore, a button’s missing off your shirt or your forgot about the coffee stain dribbled down your front.

Get a second opinion.  Ask someone you trust to give you honest feedback about your planned interview outfit. Let them give you frank, but constructive, advice on what the outfit says about you. Does it portray the image that you intend?

Remember that above all, you need to feel professional and confident in the outfit if you wish to make a good impression.

Tags:  accessories  clothing  colour  confidence  dress code  employer  interview  job search  personality  planning  recruiter  style 

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Unexpected dangers of job seeking

Posted By Natalie Singer, 06 June 2013
Updated: 06 June 2013

This article first appeared in The Workplace in September 2011

It is shocking to hear the awful tales of unsuspecting work seekers who have fallen prey to con artists, scammers and dangerous criminals posing as employment agents. As an industry fighting for recognition as a profession, it is disheartening to see the havoc that can be caused by unscrupulous individuals who simply see an opportunity to take advantage of desperate people.

In an attempt to provide guidance to those currently seeking employment, APSO (the Federation of African Professional Staffing Organisations) has provided a few tips that should assist you in successfully securing a job whilst avoiding falling into the trap laid by calculated criminals.

Virtual smoke and mirrors

We commonly engage with one another today in the virtual world, whether by email, SMS, instant messaging or social media. Access to technology and the ease in which professional-looking websites and virtual businesses can be created allows an individual who wishes to appear in a certain way, as an employment agent for example, to do so quickly, cheaply and effectively.

More frightening is the speed at which these virtual businesses can be altered or disappear entirely, leaving no trace behind. APSO has recently received reports about a con artist who appears to target free sites like Best Jobs.co.za and Gumtree.co.za and who regularly sets up (and closes down) "employment agencies” using free email addresses and 086 fax numbers.

Their modus operandi is to get work seekers to respond to an attractive job advert, often communicating seemingly professionally via email and then requesting that the candidate sends their CV and certified copies of all personal documentation including ID, driver’s license, Matric certificates etc.

Once the information has been sent the work seeker never hears from the "agent” again. In some cases the work seeker has subsequently discovered that their personal information has been used fraudulently to secure loans and contracts, for example, and this is tantamount to identity theft.

Tips for dealing with "virtual” businesses:

  • Be wary of dealing with any business that operates using a free email service address like @hotmail, @gmail, @yahoo. If the website address appears to be unusual do an Internet search to find out whether it is a free service or not – you’d be surprised at the vast number, and unusual names, of the free services available in cyber space.
  • Legitimate businesses will most often have personalised email addresses linked to their company website or will make use of recognised service providers like Telkom etc.Look for a contact telephone number ideally a landline and attempt to verify the business by calling them. Don’t simply engage via email or fax. If there isn’t a number then I’d recommend not continuing with them.
  • Free job sites usually don’t verify to see that the adverts that have been loaded or the individuals/companies utilizing their services are legitimate. Free and unlimited access to advertising is a perfect platform for con artists to attract victims. There is no paper trail and so they can appear and disappear quickly, drastically reducing their chances of being caught. 

The issue of fees

More and more we get reports about "employment agents” charging work seekers for their services. APSO would like to point out to candidates that the law is very clear about what can, and can’t be charged. Currently in South Africa a registered employment agent could charge a candidate a registration fee of no more than R1.00 and a placement fee of up to 7.5% of their first month’s salary in the event that the agency secures the candidate employment. However, this is something that is currently being reviewed in line with the Employment Services Bill expected to be passed in the near future. Going forward, it will be illegal for employment agencies to charge any fees whatsoever to work seekers in line with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention 181 on Private Employment Agencies.

APSO members are forbidden from charging any fees to work seekers, a condition of membership that has been included in the APSO Code of Ethical & Professional Practice since the early 1990s. This is one of the many reasons that we recommend that work seekers actively choose to work with an APSO member.

Professional staffing companies make their money by charging fees to their clients (companies seeking staff) for their recruitment services.Individuals seeking to secure employment are strongly advised not to engage with companies who charge fees, whether for registration, application, administration or placement.

In the event that you come across a company asking for money, especially as a pre-requisite for applying for the role, stop! Further, we recommend that you report this company to the Department of Labour who can investigate further and close down any illegal operators.

Verifying if they’re legitimate

Unfortunately there is little regulation for the South African staffing industry and so it can be difficult for individuals to ascertain whether the company they wish to engage with is legitimate or not. Currently, all staffing companies are required to register with the Department of Labour as a Private Employment Agency.

When you’re dealing with an "employment agency” for the first time, ask them to provide you with their PEA certificate issued by the Department of Labour. If they don’t have one or are reluctant to provide you with this information, be wary. Rather walk away and find another agency to assist you.

All APSO registered agencies are required to meet compliance criteria before they are admitted as members of the organisation to ensure that they are legally and operationally compliant. Members are also held accountable to the APSO Code of Ethical & Professional Practice that sets the minimum standards for the industry, including a section on candidate service. If you choose to work with an APSO member and experience any problems, you have free recourse via the APSO ethics and compliance mechanisms.

To find an APSO member, simply visit www.apso.co.za and search our member directory.

Be cautious when arranging to meet

It is common to attend an interview with an employment agent before being considered for the vacancy. Although telephonic interviews are becoming more commonplace, it is likely that you will be asked to meet the employment agent in person. Despite dealing with a business, you are essentially meeting a stranger and so you should always proceed with caution.

Tips for safe meetings:

  • Some employment agents may wish to meet you at a coffee shop, rather than in their office, especially if they are recruiting in a geographical area away from their usual place of business. Arrange to meet them in a busy venue, like a shopping centre, so that you can be confident that there will be other people around and you can access help if necessary.
  • After hours interviews can be convenient, particularly if you’re currently working and would find it difficult to get away from the office, but remember to conduct these meetings in a safe environment (public area) and ideally take someone with you, especially if you’re a woman on your own.
  • NEVER accept a lift from a stranger! Always arrange to get to and from the meeting or interview under your own steam.
  • Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to get back. You may even want to get them to call you at an appointed time so that, if necessary, you have an excuse to cut the meeting short and leave. 

Finding a job is stressful but your stress should never include worries about the security of your personal information, the likelihood of being conned or placed in physical danger. Heeding the tips provided above will assist you in making informed choices about who to deal with during this process and hopefully result in you securing a great job. Remember too that you should always listen to your "gut”. If something doesn’t feel right or seems too good to be true, it probably is. Rather walk away disappointed that you didn’t get a shot at the job than find yourself a victim.

For more information about APSO visit www.apso.co.za

Tags:  candidate rights  dangers  Department of Labour  employers  hints  identity fraud  job search  recruiters  scams  tips  virtual recruiters 

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