2011 wound down uncertainly. I had finished my honours in international relations at UCT, graduated and distributed an enthusiastic amount of job applications. So, with not much more to do but wait it out I sat in Durban, ate mince pies and repeatedly hit the refresh button in my Gmail account. The process of applying for jobs was new to me. Luckily I was successful and was offered a position at Equal Education. I started last week as their media officer and I am working in their Khayelitsha offices. There is a lot for me to say about my new job but I thought that my experience of the process of applying for a job might be useful for some people. It’s a short list but I think that the following four points are really important to remember.
1. Apply for everything that interests you. There were some jobs which I knew I had little chance of securing but the process of applying for the position was important, as was any feedback that I got. Having to sit down, tweak my CV and write a letter of motivation made me view my qualifications in a new light. It’s good practice – especially for the newly minted graduate. Rejection letters are also valuable. They might give you hints on how you could secure the job in the future or might even suggest a different position to apply for.
2. Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! During my years at university I unknowingly helped myself along in the job application process. The years you have at university offer you the opportunity to gain experience in a number of ways. This can be through extracurricular activities, student politics, part-time jobs and volunteering. During undergrad I started a student group and was involved in student politics and the SRC. When I was at UCT doing my honours I worked part-time for Doctors without Borders and volunteered for the Right to Know Campaign. This sort of experience automatically puts your ahead of applicants who had purely academic pursuits and also allows you to (see point four!) make useful contacts.
3. Put yourself out there. Put yourself and your interests into the public domain. Twitter, blogs and writing can give you a jumpstart when it comes to getting a job. In 2010 I started a blog so that I could publish my writing. Although it hasn’t exploded on the web all my interviewers have asked about it. It shows dedication and is proof of your interest in an issue.
4. Stay in touch. Make the most of the contacts that you make during your studies and work. They will be the ones who will let you know about job opportunities, write you reference letters and give you advice. It’s not about what you know; it’s about whose email address you have!