Let the job hunt begin

By Drum Digital
22 March 2017

Electrical engineering student and author Ayanda Mjwara knows finding a job is easier said than done. He offers tips on getting yourself into the market and creating your own opportunities

Life after university didn’t turn out the way electrical engineering student Ayanda Mjwara (29) expected after he completed his studies.

Instead of stepping into a “dream job”, he spent four years looking for one. Many young people dream of finishing their studies and finding a job almost immediately.

According to an economic paper published by Stellenbosch University’s researcher Hendrik van Broekhuizen, Professor Servaas van der Berg and Heleen Hofmeyr, the number of black graduates in 2014 stood at 48 686, while 9 % were unemployed in 2015.

So, while there are jobs for graduates, it’s a matter of standing out from the rest to find employment. The challenges Ayanda faced included not being able to find in-service training to complete his degree at Mangosuthu

University of Technology in KwaZulu- Natal and as a result he didn’t graduate.

That forced him to take a different route by using his skill set and becoming an entrepreneur instead. Along his journey to find a job he faced rejection, disappointment and bitterness, as many

other job seekers might also experience.

This prompted him to write a book, From Hell to Heaven (see box right) about his experience and to offer advice to help other young graduates who face similar situations. “I’d like unemployed youth and graduates to know that, in everything you go through in life, there’s always a positive you can take from it. It’s time to stop being spectators to other people and to develop the attitude of being future leaders,” Ayanda says.

Together with resilience coach Janine Shamos and motivational speaker Tshepo Seopela, Ayanda offers the following tips on how to stay active and positive in your job search:


It sounds obvious, but you can’t get a job if you don’t look for one. “I basically did everything to help get a job,” Ayanda shares. “I constantly applied with my CV at various offices; I bought the Job Mail and other newspapers almost all the time to check for vacancies, even if it was something outside my field of study just to manage myself, as I was also looking for in-service training.

I applied on career sites that had job ads and subscribed for notifications to my e-mail for other job ads.”


It might take a while before you snag an interview and that important job offer.

This doesn’t mean you should stress, Tshepo encourages. “You might feel like a failure for not knowing your next step after graduation.

Remember, the speed [at which you’re able to land a job] doesn’t necessarily equal success; the speed really has no impact on your future success. “So, don’t fall into the trap of thinking your lab partner who already has a gig

lined up is destined for a future as a CEO, while you’ll never make it past the mailroom. It’s simply not true,” he explains.


When you go through long-term unemployment or underemployment you need a special kind of hope, Tshepo says. “You need the kind of hope that comes from doing, not from wishing.

It is not the end of the world, but it is the beginning. Let me tell you something important: Just because you don’t have an amazing job right now, doesn’t mean you’ll never get one.”

Ayanda says he had to fight against feeling bitter as it seemed finding a job was about “who you know and internal connections or bribery”. “I finished my studies thinking I would finally reach financial freedom when I found a job.

With each rejection my hope dwindled until I had no hope. I just couldn’t understand how certain people would get jobs they weren’t even qualified for,” he shares.


Volunteering is a great way to fill your time with something you find personally rewarding, while building your network at the same time, Tshepo advises. “Since volunteers aren’t paid, it’s also a great opportunity to take a chance and learn a new skill.

You can try something you’ve never done before without worrying that you’ll be fired. Once you have mastered a new skill in your volunteer setting, you have two things to add to your résumé,” he adds.

Ayanda travelled from his home in KZN across the country for job opportunities that were promised but never materialised.

“I even volunteered as a pool attendant for the eThekwini Municipality for six months without getting paid monthly, hoping to get referred when interviews came,” he remembers. “I ended up working with an artisan I approached to get some kind of formal training and I was earning R1 600 per month.

During those days I also had to walk back home as I couldn’t afford much.”


Ayanda started a company, Ayakhanyisa Energy Suppliers (Pty) Ltd, which he’s building from the ground up.

His vision is to one day work with higher education institutions by recruiting graduates who can’t find jobs or in-house training.

“The youth of today need leaders who can understand what they’re going through in order to mentor them, instead of judging them,” he concludes.

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