Life After School Graduation: How Do You Get Your First Job? Here Is Your Only Magic!
Did you know that Ugandan institutions release more than 400,000 fresh graduates each year? Did you know that Uganda can only provide only 90,000-150,000 jobs annually? (Oxfarm report, 2016/2017). Did you know that the youth unemployment in Uganda is at 83% (African Development Bank, 2013) or 63% (Action-Aid, 2012) or 64%? (UBOS, 2012). Even me I don’t know which statistics to believe!
In 2014, Alon Mwesigwa wrote in the guardian that we have about 40,000 graduates each year with only 8,000 jobs available. But New Vision reported in 2015 that only Makerere University released about 10,000 graduates into the job market and Daily monitor had reported the same university to have released more than 11,000 graduates into the market in 2012. Considering that we have very many private and public universities and institutions, then it is possible to release about 400,000 youths graduates into the market every year.
Perhaps the Guardian report must have considered only those released by universities only (or even private universities only or government universities only or both). Whatever statistics we take, the point remains and is clear; there are always many job seekers (graduates) than the available jobs every year in Uganda.
The general population unemployment rate is said to have increased from 1.9 (2005) to 4.6 (2010) and then 5.1 (2012) [International Labor Organization, 2014). According to the Oxfarm report (2016/2017), there are about 400,000 graduates every year and only 130,000 (Oxfarm) or 90,000 (Kayinza Maureen, 2015) are absorbed into the job market, resulting into unemployment of about 67% or even 83% as reported by African Development Bank. Whatever statistics we take, the facts are; there are many youths (and many graduates, including those dropping out at secondary school and college levels) in Uganda and many of these youths are unemployed or simply competing for the scarce jobs.
Globally, as revealed by International Labor Organization (2014), 73 million youths (15-24 years) are unemployed (cited in the Guardian, 16th January, 2014). Let us note that there are about 1.2 billion youths (15-24 years) in the whole world, with about 200 millions of them living in Africa. According to the 2014 National Population Census, 23% of Uganda’s population were youths (18-30 years of age).
Considering that Uganda’s population was 34.6 million people, then the productive (for our case, this is the same age bracket for graduates whether secondary school dropouts, college or university graduates) youths (18-30 years) were 7.958 million. Assuming the growth rate remained fairly constant among youths (18-30 years) and then considering the current’s Uganda population estimates of 41 million people, then we have about 9.43 million youths (of course, university graduates must be increasing too. The question is; did jobs or job market enlarge too? I don’t have answers for this question for now).
Anyway, let’s jump onto the main issue, how do you get your first job in such a competitive and unfriendly job market as revealed by the above statistics? What is it exactly that differentiates you from those having jobs or who get them sooner after graduation? Let’s explore the magic!
In 2013, I finished my college diploma and had Christmas with my family at home. Exactly, in the beginnings of January, I set out to look for jobs. Yes, I travelled to Mbarara district to look for some jobs even when my final exams results were not yet out; I wanted a job in the above competitive job market. I spent about 3 weeks walking up and down, dropping my job application wherever I saw the word ‘clinic’ or ‘pharmacy’ or ‘medical center’ and so on. In some places, they chased me out without even looking at my CV or even giving me a seat in the reception and in some others, they got my application and told me to go and wait. I called everyone I knew would help, including my friends; yes, I let everyone know I was looking for a job, including the woman that served me a cup of tea every morning in a small hotel near my friend’s residence (yes, I was being accommodated).
Fast forward, someone nearer the small hotel noticed me and connected me to a man that needed a man to work in Kiruhura villages, I didn’t like the offer and so I declined it. Life was very hard in all aspects. Yes, my friend was helpful in all possible ways especially giving me where to sleep but where would I spend my days? How w3as I walking to and from different places? What was I eating or drinking during the day? What was I putting on? We can’t explore this for now.
I just want you to know it wasn’t easy and my wife can tell you that too! (She was aware of all I was going through for we talked on phone a lot. And you know what! She later experienced the same or even worse when her time to look for jobs locked). Anyway, I later got another connection from my friend (the same guy we had actually finished college with) and this time I accepted the offer; it was to be a general nurse at a clinic in Ibanda town (I won’t tell you the pay; it was funny). That was exactly 3 weeks of restless hunting. Thank God.
Have you noticed how I got my first job following college? Maybe you have or you have not, but here is how you are gonna get your first job no matter the competition in the market.
1. Prepare yourself to look for a job.
Listen, your preparation is as important as the practical search. This is all about equipping yourself and nurturing your life into that person that deserves the job (s). It is about you working hard while still in college, making smooth and resourceful relationships, hardening yourself into a more resilient person, and nurturing your core values of patience, hope, courage, faithfulness, and hardworking while you still have time.
Sometimes I think we (the youth) don’t give it all it takes. Yes, I know there are so many limitations and we all know, sometimes it is not even about our worthiness, but we always have to do our part. Preparing yourself in forms of studying hard, offering marketable courses (like sciences), making great friendships and being a person of integrity, faithful and truthful, reliable and trustworthy is very important. Listen, no one will connect you if you are known to be lazy, unappreciative, don’t have skills and knowledge, dishonest and can cause trouble or even steal things. Yes, trust me on this. Good character and hard work pay.
2. Practically look for the job (s)
Listen, this is 100% sure way of getting a job after college; just look for the job. My brother and sister, following your good preparation for the hustle, sit down and write your applications (tens or hundreds of them) and your curriculum vitae and make copies of whatever document or certificate you have or have ever achieved, and drop your application with the attached copy at every company, organization or individual you think can offer you some kind of job.
And this time, don’t limit yourself to one field. For example, even when you studied nursing or social sciences, apply to be a teacher in a college near you or even a chef in the next big restaurant or a cleaning officer (I am becoming polite here; I mean a cleaner) in the hospital near you. Of course, the truth is if given the job, chances are always you are actually going to be the head of cleaning department or at least the supervisor. And that is a pretty good job, at least for starters.
Talking about choosing a job, never take up a risky (risky in any form) job no matter the pay or situation or a job that is gonna kill or restrict your other freedom of expanding or shifting goal posts. This is because your life is still young to mess up with; take any job but keep your principles and preferences on table. Remember, in my example above, I refused to go deep into village where there was no electricity yet the pay was far better. And yet I applied to be a cleaner in one of the clinics in Mbarara town though I got the offer to go to Ibanda before the clinic could call me back.
The point here is one; hard work. There is no substitution for hard work. You can have studied well, passed with good marks, have values and ethically upright, powerful and helpful connections, but you must look for the job yourself. There is a class of youths that amaze me; they finish school, sit at home and wait for their uncles, powerful dads, or even friends to just find jobs for them and then connect them! Really? Of course, it works for some but I have never valued such people. Even when we are blessed with such people around, it is fair to also stand up and do the searching and, yes, let your uncles, friends or even parents help you but when they have met you on the way. Is there another way I can explain this?
Listen, do you really want a job? Look for all the possible places you can work in and drop there your application. Use internet, Facebook, and move around town like I did, ask people and friends, and, yes, drop your application at every place and pray that they consider you. Believe me, it is rare to drop 10-40 applications and you don’t get even one offer. Actually, it is almost impossible. And listen, when they don’t call you (at least 2 weeks following your application drop), go back to the same place and inquire. Remember to be collecting contacts (reception, working staff or even administrators) so you can always check on the response even without moving or traveling to the stations first.
3. Connect and socialize and let everyone know you need a job
Do you even get what I am saying? I am saying that connect with as many people as you can, socialize with as many people as you can, and most importantly, let everyone know that you recently graduated or dropped out of school and are looking for a job. In my example, you already noticed my first offer was just through the woman that served me at a small hotel near my friend’s residence. My next offer was through my good friend who we had studied together at Mutolere nursing school and it is this one that I took. The point is that I had friends or socialized with others, but also let them know I was looking for jobs. I won’t forget that day when my friend, Mateka Loise, called me and let me know about the job. And yes, when I later connected with the boss, it was real; the job was available. That is how I entered the employment stream.
For God’s sake, what makes you ashamed of telling people that you are looking for a job? We currently have the power of social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, WhatsApp groups, and the general internet). Socialize, connect with people all over the world and let them know you need some job.
Search on Google for different jobs available in your country and just apply. Utilize every opportunity that you have at your exposure, especially the people you socialize and live with every day; let them know you need a job. Whether you scroll through tips offered at monster.com, the Guardian, or even Forbes, the tricks are the same; work hard, utilize social media and connections, and practically search for the jobs yourself. That is the magic.
NB: Your first job is not your defining job so don’t mind about it so much. Just use it to get to your dream job. I repeat this; never give up on your dream job till you get there. You are just practicing patience or waiting for your dream job but doing something in the meanwhile.
4. Volunteer or apply for internship
The difference between volunteering and internship is more about the motive than the real practice. In other words, “an internship is something you choose to do in order to develop your skills in a profession while volunteering is anything you do due to the driving force of the desire to help” (International Volunteer Directory). In both cases, there is no formal salary earning though in some situation and depending on the organizations’ management, volunteers and interns can be paid or facilitated. Yates Kylie (2014) adds that internship is more formal and interns are legally committed to work and the purpose is to benefit themselves and not the organization whereas the volunteer has no such legal attachment to work, is more informal, and works primarily to benefit others. The point here is; you can get your first job through internship or volunteering. Listen, this works.
The US corporation for National and Community Service did a study on about 70,000 jobless people between 2002 and 2012 and discovered that those who did volunteering had a 27% increased chances of getting jobs. This is not the only study. Another study by Centre for Economic and Policy Research found out that people who volunteered between 20-99 hours during the year were roughly 7% more likely to find jobs than those who didn’t (Collamer, 2013). In 2012, Shifman Julie wrote an article in which about 7 means through which volunteering leads to a job were discussed. Among these reasons are; acquiring new skills, broadens your CV work experience, improves your social media profile, new connections and friends, get the touch of employment environment and thus how to go about it, in-depth knowledge, and self-confidence grows. That is how volunteering becomes magic.
About internship, in 2012, Susan Adams cited a study by National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE-Us) and wrote in Forbes; “if you are a college graduate and you are working at a paid internship, you have 60% chances of having the internship become a job offer, and 37% chances if it is unpaid internship.” You have heard it yourself. In my personal experience, it is harder to get internship placement than it is to get where to volunteer and so I would suggest volunteering (after all, both interns and volunteers almost are the same, especially here in Uganda).
I didn’t suggest internship and volunteering as the first or even second point because our deal was to get job as early as you can and a paying one. But depending on your situation (maybe you have some home support while you do volunteering or internship, maybe you can find a paid up internship or volunteering, maybe the volunteering or internship period is short, or even maybe you are doing it alongside other paying jobs or activities), you can really have internship or volunteering as an option. The truth is there is an increased chance of getting employed if you have prior internship or volunteering experience either within that same organization or a new one, take the chances.
5. Pray to God and ask for a job
As a person who believes in God and His son Jesus Christ, I am confident to tell you that prayers work and God answers our prayers. Seriously, the bible is full of God’s word and instructions calling upon us to always present our needs and desires to Him for He is the only who can satisfactorily provide for our needs (Isaiah 41:13-20; Matthew 7:7-11). So while you are doing all the above, keep praying and beseeching God to provide for you. We can work hard, have powerful connections, build strong skills and knowledge, but it is only when our God wills it that we can make an achievement in any area of our lives (Psalm 127).
Summary and conclusion
Looking and finding a job is easy for those who prepared for it and get determined to do what it takes to find one and it is hard for those who expected it to be on a silver plate. Like I said above, you cannot drop 10-40 applications and you really have what it takes and you don’t get even one offer! Never. In my personal experience, I have realized that combining the above strategies works even better, do the same. Remember, your first job is not your defining job but just a step towards your dream job. So don’t unnecessarily turn off offers when you wouldn’t lose the opportunity to upgrade or access other better opportunities when they show up or when the job isn’t necessarily harmful to your health or values and principles.
God Bless You
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The Complete You Ministry, We Believe In You.