Anyone who has been job hunting knows it is an incredibly challenging task – one made infinitely more difficult when there is a shortage of jobs available. South Africa has a high national unemployment rate at 27.6%, and youth unemployment stands at an all-time high of 55.2%.
Unsurprisingly, being unemployed comes with heightened levels of stress. Some of the more apparent stressors are financially based – the loss of income, for example – but others are not so obvious. According to the New York Times, if someone is still job hunting after 10 to 12 weeks, they experience worse physical health and increased rates of depression. In some circles, this is referred to as ‘job-search depression’.
Exacerbating this is the fact that the average time it takes for companies to fill a job has increased over the years. This is due to various reasons such as hiring policies, background checks, skills tests and an overall increase in the number of candidates. The average job posting receives about 250 applications and the current average that it takes for companies to fill a post is about 42 days. That’s six weeks. Six long weeks of putting yourself out there, customising cover letters, finding ways to stand out of the crowd and, if you’re lucky, being interviewed.
It’s a vicious cycle. The longer you go without employment, the tougher it is on your mental and emotional health, and the tougher it becomes, in turn, to find a job. So how can you overcome these barriers?
The good news is that a lot of how you feel about it is within your control. One of the big challenges with job searching is the effect it has on your self-esteem. In a lot of ways, job hunting is like searching for approval and it can be a big knock to the ego when you aren’t getting any positive feedback. Even though it may be hard, it is crucial to remain social, remain focused, network and learn new skills.
Cue ‘The Power of You’. This is a personal branding workshop that was borne out of our desire at FleishmanHillard SA (FHSA) to do something in honour of the 100-year celebrations of Nelson Mandela in 2018 and to help up and coming professionals with their job searches, helping to give them the best possible start. We have designed and delivered a programme to Communications and Public Relations students who are about to start looking for their first real job.
Knowing how hard it can be to land a job and how demotivating it is to not get feedback, especially in those first few months, we wanted to show young jobseekers that their story is the unique selling point they need to get their foot on the first rung of the career ladder. We take them through how to uncover and tell their unique story.
Ultimately, people buy people so it is important for young people on the job hunt to know who they are and the value they can bring to the workplace, especially in entry level positions. This is why we help them understand their brand and how they can establish and sell themselves using social media, eye-catching CVs with compelling cover letters, and mock interviews to give them some much-needed practice.
Our overall goal is to support 100 young jobseekers in the Communications and Public Relations field. We have supported 26 students since the programme began, with a further 30 students to come in the rest of 2019. Our goal for 2020 is support a further 44 students.
The Power of You is FHSA’s small way of using our unique set of skills to propel the next generation of consultants forward by harnessing the power of their own unique stories to jumpstart their careers.