The best way to seek for job opportunities

The economy of South Africa has shifted to one in which higher levels of skills are increasingly in demand. With the employment mix becoming more skill intensive in both the private and government sectors, it means that each year more skilled workers are required in relation to unskilled workers. 

The agriculture sector is the most reliable sector in terms of job creation especially in times where South African unemployment rates remain at roaring levels. The agriculture sector has established itself as an attractive employer providing jobs which facilitate socio-economic betterment, with economic security and stability. Thus, it attracts candidates who aspire for office-based jobs and equally accommodates individuals who deem office-based jobs too sedentary and are more inclined to get their hands dirty.

The year 2022 is briskly coming to an end and soon we will be celebrating graduation ceremonies and wishing new graduates’ prosperity on their future endeavours. However, one cannot help to ask, when do you start preparing and applying for job opportunities? For the current blog, I had the opportunity to pose this question to Senzo Mavuso who’s currently completing a BSc degree in Forest and Wood Science at Stellenbosch University. He started actively searching for jobs earlier this year, more precisely from April. Eight months later, Senzo has not been able to secure a job for the year 2023. According to Senzo, the challenges he has encountered are mainly associated with companies requiring 2-3 years for entry level jobs, few jobs being advertised which has been worsened by the fact that most job applications are currently online, and the application forms are generally confusing. Contacting the companies does not yield any positive results considering that companies do not respond to emails.

There is no right time to start actively searching for employment opportunities, however, I would like to present to you this known fact, early birds catch the biggest worm. Start searching as soon as you can. You can even be systematic about it.

I am confident that if you follow these steps, you can improve your employment opportunities. Firstly, during your university journey, you must attend as many industry related events and the AgriCAREERConnect. This step will improve your exposure and introduce you to different South African based companies and job titles. Additionally, it gives you an opportunity to network and connect with different professionals. When networking, always prioritise quality over quantity. There is no need to have over 100 business cards from individuals you know you will never need to contact.

This leads to our second step, building your professional network. The majority of professionals have LinkedIn profiles. After a networking event, send them a connection request (side note, add a message to accompany your request). Additionally, use LinkedIn to develop your professional brand. Share articles related to your field of interest, engage with other professionals’ content on the site. Lastly, it is important to ensure that the LinkedIn profile is up to date and corresponds with the CV especially when you provide the link to the LinkedIn profile on your CV. The mission of LinkedIn is simple; to connect the world’s professionals, to make them more productive and successful. Therefore, do not neglect it during your job seeking journey.

The third step is, develop your skills. It is encouraged that one does vocational work at companies of your interest. However, opportunities are generally limited, indicating that there is a need for partnership between government and private sector to collaborate in investing in mechanisms that can facilitate connections between young people and the labour market. The added benefit of vocational work is having referrals. Senzo indicated that this is one of the challenges he is currently facing. Employers are risk averse and thus prefer to employ people with work experience. They might, therefore, be reluctant to employ people they do not know and whose productivity is not proven.

Considering that it is difficult to get industry based vocational work, I am an advocate for waitressing jobs during your university years because waitressing helps you develop one of the main skills needed for workplace readiness, communication skills. As a waiter, you will communicate with different kinds of people, including international tourists who can barely complete a sentence in English. Navigating such situations will sharpen your communication style. There are many other ways to develop your communication skills, however, do not neglect the fact that communication includes the ability to write professionally. Lastly, on skills development, identify the key skills currently needed by the industry and work on them. The easy way to find out these skills is by looking at the job requirements. Once you have identified your skills, compile your CV. Our previous blog addressed CV writing. Do check it out.

Finally, when job searching, do not limit your applications to the degree you did study at university. Venture into other fields, for example, one of Senzo’s key skills is knowledge of geographic information systems (GIS) software. This is one of the skills taught as part of a BSc degree in Forest and Wood Science at Stellenbosch University. However, it is applicable to other fields which have nothing to do with forestry. Applying for other positions in agriculture (for example, soil science companies) where this skill is needed can help him to secure his first job. Additionally, Senzo indicated that he is passionate about silviculture and nature conservation specifically in the forestry industry. However, as per my previous statement this passion can be applied in other areas within the agriculture industry. Instead of focusing on searching for opportunities as specified by your study degree, widen your horizons and search based on your skills and passions.

Various measures have been put forward in trying to deal with the problem of unemployment and facilitate graduates’ placements. These include provision of in demand skills, providing information on job availability and effective job searches, government internship programmes, youth development programmes, and vocational training of technical and practical jobs. All these discussed tools are just that – tools! No different than a hammer, which is only as good as the person swinging it.


Compiled by:  Makhosazana Ngwenya