Have you ever noticed that people who are already employed, or are only recently unemployed, seem to be able to secure new jobs quicker than everyone else? And that some people seem not to have too much trouble finding employment? You usually just conclude that they’re well connected, because it’s a little baffling right? Well, they are…but not necessarily in the way most of us young people assume. It’s not all about nepotism, it’s the science of how information is spread. To job hunt successfully you need to understand something very important…
Most jobs aren’t really advertised, not in a big way.
fact a whole lot of jobs aren’t advertised at all, and it’s not even about nepotism. See, advertising jobs through traditional means, is expensive. Putting an ad in the Herald costs hundreds of dollars and then it only appears in that one edition, unless you pay for more appearances. Now imagine you run a company, and then Yvonne suddenly quits, and you need someone to replace her as soon as yesterday. You didn’t plan for her leaving so advertising in newspapers is not in your budget. Additionally, you don’t have the manpower to deal with the hundreds of applications that will pour in if you advertise in the Sunday Mail. Smaller organisations (50 people or less) tend not to have a entire human resources department, because…hello, it’s pricey. This means someone has to review all those applications, respond, conduct interviews, and give feedback, all on top of their ordinary duties.
So what do a lot of organisations do? They take cheaper alternatives, and sometimes cut corners. Now back to your company. What do you do? You need this vacancy filled asap. You put up a poster on your Facebook page, and you tell your employees/colleagues to spread the word. You ask them if they know anyone qualified and competent who might be able to start asap. So everybody gets on their smartphones and starts asking around in their groups on WhatsApp, sharing the poster. You may even be related to someone qualified for it, so you tell them to send through their CV. Do you see how information spreads? When people talk about the importance of networking, they are not exaggerating. That’s how you access information, through people you know, and the people they know.
Where am I going with this? Yes, the job market shrank significantly, but there are always open positions available somewhere. The thing is you can’t apply for them if you don’t know about them (remember our informal sector also employs people). How you get a job really doesn’t matter, as long as you can do the job well (in my opinion), so be shameless about it. If you get assistance from people in powerful positions, good for you. However it is quite possible to secure employment without inside help…very very possible (I’m living proof). You just need to be aware of the opening in order to try. I’m going to look at ways you can better access information, and how to increase your chances of getting a job without inside help (it also applies to people who are getting a hand). These are methods that worked for me, they might work for you too.
When you’re job hunting, don’t be shy. Or embarrassed. And don’t lie. Instead, reach out to people and give them a chance to help you. I know admitting that you finished school and are just chilling at home sucks (if you’re interested in the employment track, others are not). Swallow some humble pie and be honest. If nobody knows you need the information, nobody is going to pass it on to you. Some people will take joy in your misery, granted, but they don’t matter; you can’t accurately predict who will be most helpful, so tell everybody. Tell them your areas of interest, tell them what you’re qualified for, and if the conversation is really moving, tell them what you’ve done, and maybe a general ambition. Sometimes the people you least expect assistance from will be the most helpful. People are generally interested in young people, they’ll ask you what you’re doing, what your plan is, etc…take advantage and let them know, instead of trying to change the subject.
What then happens is, someone, somewhere, will think of you when they come across a vacancy ad, and they’ll take time to read it, to see if you could fit, then forward it to you. Suddenly you have a deluge of information. That’s how I realized that there are jobs out there. I came across so many when I was job hunting, sent by people who knew I was actively searching and knew my areas of interest. There’s no shame in being unemployed, there’s no shame in the job hunt. Everybody who’s been employed by someone else went through the same thing at some point in their lives. Be open, be shameless, and don’t forget to thank them for the help.
Refine your search
One of my former lecturers told me to apply with reckless abandon. I disagree. I took it to mean spray your CV anywhere and everywhere (maybe that’s not what he meant but ah well). Whilst I liked the part where he said, relax, it’ll work out, I do think you should be more prudent. You waste energy when you apply without discrimination. Job hunting is a full time job…and it’s exhausting and frustrating. Spare yourself that stress, and set up a method of applying.
- List down areas you’re interested in or those you’re qualified for, and and use that as your base. Subscribe to sites like Jobs Zimbabwe, CV Africa e.t.c and check for new postings everyday. Check out job pages on Facebook, and check the newspapers religiously too (especially the The Herald on Thursday, and the Sunday Mail). LinkedIn can be quite useful too…use it.
- Apply only for those jobs whose criteria you fully meet. The qualifications, requirements, even the ‘appreciated but not necessary’. If the job requires at least 2 years experience and you have 3 months, don’t bother. (Even if you get it by luck, you won’t make it past probation because your inexperience will affect your performance.) If they’re asking for qualifications that you don’t have, don’t bother, especially if it’s a big thing like the field your degree is in or a masters. If it’s not in your field, and they specifically named the field, don’t bother. There are many others who have the required qualifications. Make sure you have the skills required (if any) and that you can prove it. Let me repeat the point above, apply only for jobs with requirements you actually meet without a doubt.
- Tailor every single application to each job application. Revise and alter your CV for every application, unless the jobs are the same. Different skills will be appreciated in different places, remember that. You’ll need to add some things, remove some or highlight more relevant information. If you’re sending the same CV for different applications you’re not doing yourself any favours. The same applies for your application letter, it should never ever be the same. Ever. When employers advertise, they request specific characteristics, show you have these in the application letter. Generic letters are so obvious, if you read one, you’ll see what I mean. Tailor your application.
Be patient. There’s really nothing much you can do to speed up the recruitment process so you might as well learn to be patient. I applied for a position as an HR graduate trainee at a major company in Kariba at the end of April. I saw their ad online (it was advertised in the Herald too I think). I went to the fourth and final round of interviews for that position in July. That’s how long it can take, or longer still. And let’s not forget that not every shot will find it’s mark, whether you’re getting inside help or not. On that note, remember when I said you can get a job without inside help? It happens more often than people want to acknowledge. If you ever find yourself doubting that, think of my experience.
I quit my previous job mid-March (here’s why) then started the job hunt at the end of March. Fast forward to mid-July and I’m employed again. How? I knew precisely which areas I wanted to work, HR (because I am qualified for it) or Advertising (because I’m skilled at it), and tailored my search. I came across the vacancy for my current job on a job website at the end of June, and applied. 2 weeks later, I was starting my first day at an advertising agency. I did the interview and a small assessment. Apparently one of my former workmates also recommended me. This was around the same time I was called for that last interview with the company in Kariba. I didn’t receive any assistance there either. I chose the advertising job receiving any kind of feedback from Kariba (they later chose the other girl anyways).
My point is don’t lose heart, especially if you think you’re not connected well enough to land yourself a job. Tap into other people’s networks for information. You don’t necessarily need relatives in high positions to get you places. If you do have them, take advantage of your privilege and ask for help. Remember how information spreads, and that recruitment is not as sinister as we like to think. Corruption exists, there’s no denying that, but there’s a lot more involved in the set up of the employment world than just nepotism.