How I went from unemployed to starting my own recruitment agency

Whitney Jacobs. (photo: supplied)
Whitney Jacobs. (photo: supplied)

Hailing all the way from Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, Whitney Jacobs decided to stop complaining about not having a job and do something about it.

At 29 years old, she can proudly say she has transformed hundreds of lives through her recruitment company, EmployMeSA.


Inspiration can be found anywhere and for Whitney it came when she found herself jobless and trying to come up with ways to change her situation. “I found myself unemployed and quickly realised the cost, time and frustration that is involved in seeking employment. Considering I was so frustrated by the process, I couldn’t envision coping with the frustration of people that have fewer resources than I had,” she says.


Out of all the businesses that Whitney could have started or gone into, she decided to make it her business to help the youth find employment. “I believe an employment opportunity can change the circumstances of any household, which in turn can change communities and the social issues we have in society. We cannot underestimate the influence employment has in South Africa; we can change people’s lives through employment and that is the reason I chose recruitment,” she explains.

Luckily, Whitney already had the skills set to help her understand and manage the business of recruitment. “My educational background in human resources development has given me the knowledge and experience required to deal with compliance issues and processes involved in recruitment and training,” she says. “It has also enabled me to understand what the employers need.”


The business world is a very competitive space and in order for your business to thrive, it has to have something people are looking for. “Our recruitment platform incorporates videos and is aimed at the youth. Our core business focus is providing job seekers with access to the labour market and ensuring we place quality candidates for employers,” Whitney says.

Most businesses focus on the bottom line which is to make money and very few exist for the purpose of changing lives or communities. Whitney says her company gives people meaning and purpose in their day-to-day lives.

“We have placed 250 candidates since our inception. We have hosted five road shows across Gauteng that provide job seekers with the opportunity to register on the platform and provide them with workplace readiness training. We have also created multiple skills development and employment projects for companies, including a Bounce Back programme for ex-offenders to help them start their lives afresh.”


The road to success is met with a number of obstacles before the person travelling it reaches their destination. “Finding the funding to develop the online platform was a problem, however I was persistent with trying to find opportunities to present my idea. I entered many entrepreneurial competitions and continuously spoke about my idea to everyone. I was then successfully funded by MultiChoice,” she shares.

“We are creating an appetite for industry players to support our social innovation, which is aimed at eradicating unemployment. Unemployment is a South African issue which needs to be addressed by all of us.”


You can’t be in the business of creating a space for a better future for someone if you don't care about others. Whitney explains who would be a good fit for this business and why it is a great one. “You have to be compassionate, resilient and strategic in finding ways to champion for the needs of ordinary South Africans,” she says. “You have to have a real understanding of the issues that ordinary South Africans face.”


Every unsuccessful interview or application a job seeker goes through is not always the fault of the employer. There are cases where employers don’t always make the right decision in terms of who can best fit the team, but at times the actual fault lies with the job seeker without them realising it. “Job seekers should apply for jobs every single day. Not following the guidelines of the application process, not attaching the requirements of the application such as qualifications and ID copy and poor quality of CVs are what people are getting wrong,” explains Whitney.

Almost everyone one wishes they could have a perfect interview, but in most cases, you never know what the employer is looking for. “Candidates should stay current in a rapidly moving workspace by thinking and solving problems independently and have a strong willingness to learn,” she says.


Whitney has advice for those looking for a job and are not finding one, “Never give up. Volunteer at organisations in your community. This provides you with the work experience that enables you to have a greater chance at succeeding in the labour market.”


It’s safe to say that Whitney is ambitious as she still plans to dominate her sector and take her business to new heights. “We are constantly developing the platform and adding tools that allow us to create easier access to the labour market for job seekers and access to quality candidates for employers,” explains Whitney. “We want to host national road shows, to register job seekers on the EmployMeSA platform and train them on workplace readiness and interview skills.”

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