For months he stood at the traffic lights on busy Jan Smuts Avenue in Blairgowrie, Johannesburg. Formally dressed in a crisp white shirt and tie, Ayanda Mbatha was hard to miss as he handed his CV to passing motorists.
And his perseverance paid off.
He’s started a new job as a project engineer with an engineering firm in Midrand – and Ayanda’s thrilled to be working again. “They loved my enthusiasm, they immediately took me on the projects they’re working on,” he tells YOU.
Like scores of other employees across the country, he was retrenched in March when the coronavirus crisis hit.
“When I called my mom and told her I was getting retrenched, she said it’s fine because she knows I’ll get something,” the 26-year-old says. Turns out she was right.
He was devastated when retrenched from the engineering company where he’d worked since 2017, but quickly pulled himself up by his bootstraps. “One of the things that got me up was my family structure. I’ve got the best support in the world and that made me pick myself up,” he says.
Every morning he’d start his job seeking by contacting a long list of companies via the business social media site LinkedIn.
“But in June I started thinking of going
to the traffic lights and advertising myself because I wanted maximum
visibility,” he says. “I always said to myself I’m going there to find a job, I
didn’t care what people thought of me.”
Taking to the streets every day come rain or sunshine took a toll but Ayanda refused to give up. “My feet would ache at the end of the day, but I didn’t feel the pain because the moment anyone took my CV, it put a smile on my face and gave me motivation to keep going.”
For three months he headed out to the traffic lights on the busy intersection, a placard around his neck advertising his skills and contact info on LinkedIn.
It wasn’t long before Mix FM’s drivetime host Darren Scott spotted him on the street and highlighted his plight on radio with a fundraising drive. Listeners raised R5 000, which he used to keep him going while he continued looking for a job.
“I was so grateful, it helped a lot,” says Ayanda, who spent the money on food and petrol to get from his home in Germiston to the traffic lights in Blairgowrie.
After his exposure on the radio show, Ayanda was shortlisted for several interviews but was unsuccessful.
Then, last month he got a break when a
passing motorist handed his CV to engineering firm Rhochrematics, who offered him a job.
Ayanda’s first to admit he’s not unique in having experienced tough times – according to recent statistics, three million South Africans have lost their jobs in the lockdown brought on by the pandemic.
But being retrenched has made him more positive. “It was a shock because I’m so young, but I made a choice to become positive about my situation,” he says. “Consistency is key – once you start something, be as consistent as you can and stay positive.”