Building a CV and career starts early. Teenagers do it while still at school. University students certainly do it, especially as graduation nears and the search for a good job becomes obsessive.
Young people are not stupid. They know unemployment remains around 25% while our youth unemployment rate is one of the highest in the world.
Traditional focus for career-minded young people was always a good matric. Today, this is merely stage one. After that, ambitious youngsters look for smart ways to move to the top of the class as a career-builder.
Essentially, the challenge is to strengthen a CV's non-academic segments with strong focus on work experience, self-reliance, leadership, personal balance and community involvement.
Work experience: Get a job before leaving school or university; any job, even a dead-end job. Apply for anything that’s going - washing dishes, waiting table, office admin, washing cars, cleaning windows. Even a dead-end job at the weekend livens up your career prospects. Your eagerness to work and gather on-the-job experience sets you apart as a go-getter with an independent streak.
Identify mentors who can pass on valuable experience; perhaps an uncle, older sibling or someone within your circle of acquaintances who has achieved career success. Having more than one mentor is fine. Changing them at various stages of life is also beneficial. Mentor insights improve your confidence and instil the goal-setting habit.
Leadership: Take on responsible positions at school societies and engage in school activities. Being president of the school photographic club or debating society or other special interest group shows you make commitments and follow through. Some activities also prepare you for career roles. For example, presentation skills can be important, and the debating society is a good place to start - it may also help overcome shyness and improve social skills.
Balance: Employers are not only interested in well-educated candidates, they also value balance. Those with a range of interests make good team members. They generally get on well with others. Mono-maniacs can burn out. Balanced individuals carry on making a contribution. Broad involvement in school and varsity activities is a good indicator of balance.
Community involvement: Voluntary work also indicates balance. Your pass marks show you have a head. Helping others shows you have a heart. Many employers engage energetically in social investment. They value new employees with a similar vision. Help clean up the environment, work in fund-raising projects or help disadvantaged pupils improve their maths. But do something.
There has to be a pay-off for all this effort, right?
There is. Working for a pittance at the weekend, adopting mentors, embracing wider interests and helping others makes for a better CV. It also makes you a better person.
That's important - because good people get good jobs.
Annelize van Rensburg is a Director at Talent Africa, a leading executive search and talent management company and an alliance of Korn Ferry, the world’s largest executive search business.
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