Youth focus: New era for the job hunt

2013-06-16 14:00

Networks of friends, relatives, acquaintances are vital – report

If you’re a young jobseeker who’s been sticking to the traditional way of looking for work – ­shoving your CV into a postbox or emailing it and hoping for the best – it’s time you changed tack.

Experts say jobseekers have a better chance of finding their first jobs through networks of friends, relatives and ­acquaintances.

A report by the Centre for ­Development and Enterprise ­titled Routes into Formal Employment found that young job hunters should learn the power of networking.

The report was derived from a study of 5 000 Cape Town youngsters between the ages of 14 and 22 who were interviewed about what they thought their chances of finding work would be when they ­entered the labour force.

The group, which included youngsters from different neighbourhoods and education levels, was first interviewed in 2002 and their responses showed they were overly optimistic about finding high-paying jobs.

The core of the group, those aged 18 in 2002, were interviewed again in 2007 and the report found that those who worked while studying increased their chances of becoming employed.

By 2007, aged 25, 67% of the group members were working, 12% were unemployed and ­actively looking for work, 14% wanted to work but were not looking actively and 8% did not want to work.

Those who had used connections – such as priests, school principals, neighbours, friends and relatives’ friends – found work. They mostly lived in urban areas and were considered “insiders”.

Centre for Development and Enterprise research and programme director Anthony Altbeker said jobseekers who lived with relatives who were also struggling to find work would be ­considered “outsiders” compared with those with a network.

“If an employer is looking for an unskilled worker today and is already employing a lot of people, according to our research, that employer will ask one of his trusted workers whether they have a relative who needs a job. The job search involving sending out CVs has been proven to be passive,” said Altbeker.

He said the much-maligned ­labour broking firms were vital in helping outsiders gain a “foothold” in the world of work, although most jobs were temporary.

The Centre for Development and Enterprise report found that young people typically found their first jobs – in restaurants, guesthouses, weekend craft markets and shops – through connections.

“Most urban insiders know people who can, and do, help them to find jobs. If they don’t, they will enquire directly at workplaces. Urban outsiders, by contrast, have few useful connections, are unlikely to enquire directly and rely on sending out CVs. This is a futile form of searching for a job,” said the ­report.

The report also said young people should use every chance to market themselves.

“Many have little or no access to social networks that could link them to job opportunities, partly because many have parents who have themselves been unemployed for substantial periods of time,” the report found.

“A growing number of young people are living in environments of multigenerational unemployment. Young people who find themselves in these situations are becoming increasingly ­resigned to never finding a job.”

So how can “outsiders” ­become “insiders”?

The report advises them to get ­realistic, develop a better understanding of how the labour ­market works and don’t just rely on sending out CVs.

Nazreen Pandor, chairperson of the Youth Employment Index, said any jobseeker needed to understand what their “value-add” would be and why they should be added to the company’s payroll.

She agreed that networking turned outsiders into insiders.

“It is important to be proactive. The youth should not be afraid to do internships and vacation work. In that way, they will be able to build relationships. Not all jobs are advertised through mainstream media. Some people get employed just through the power of networks.”

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