Looking for work can be a lonely and depressing process. The sense of community and solidarity was evident when a diverse group of job seekers came together in the Life Sciences Computer Lab for a morning workshop that was packed full of well-thought out strategies and useful information that will go along way towards helping them get a foot in the door.
After some delicious snacks and coffee, the session kicked off with a welcome from Niven Maree, the UWC Alumni Manager, who delivered some very encouraging comments to the assembled crowd. He let the audience know that ‘the UWC story is laden with struggle and perseverance, resilience and success’, and that they will get there too, one way or another. Maree really understands the power of the global UWC network and he illustrated the importance of getting involved with the alumni, both online and at the regular events which take place in the Western Cape.
Maree was followed by Nazrana Parker who arrived with a wealth of concrete strategies for job seekers. As Career Services Coordinator at UWC, she stands at the intersection where recruiters and job seekers interact, and she added a lot of value. Parker spoke about the real situation in the job market in South Africa right now, (‘You may have had 10 jobs by the time you are 25 years old’) and about some common mistakes that job seekers make. (“I want to complete my degree first.”)
Once the group understood the broad parameters of the market, she took the group deep into the Career Xplora portal, helping each of them to set up their profiles correctly, showing them how to follow the companies registered on the portal and all of the available jobs which are currently listed. For the alumni members who were not yet part of Xplora, it was eye-opening to see how many resources are out there for them already.
Before the break, Parker gave a passionate call to get involved on LinkedIn, especially with the UWC Alumni network and she explained how different your LinkedIn should be from your Facebook presence. It was inspiring to hear Ms Parker talk about motivation, how you need to talk about what your goals and to have your CV ready in your mailbox to send out at a moments notice.
After a short break, the energy levels shot through the roof as the keynote speaker, the leadership coach Denzel Pedro Smit, took to the stage. Mr Smit is a very engaging speaker and he told his story in a frank, honest and amusing way. He spoke about his early days, his decision to join UWC at the age of 29, and the feeling of landing ‘back in the real world’ after varsity when he was looking for a job. As a skilled speaker, Smit was able to weave his life story into a presentation while giving the audience solid advice on how to find a mentor, how to know if you are following your own goals and looking for ways to keep growing.
Next up was Imtiyaaz Mohammed, another UWC alumnus who now works for Sanlam Private Wealth. He had many useful tips on how to use free tools on the internet to enhance your profile, how to plan your goals, and he also spoke with honesty and integrity about the many twists and turns that his career has taken.
The final speaker was Ms Zimkhitha Mqutheni who also offered many practical skills on how to present yourself, with CVs and covering letters and in person.
It was refreshing to see how all of the speakers were able to stand up and speak honestly and openly about how to find meaningful work in a tough employment environment. They were generous with their time and their ideas and they connected with the small crowd who seemed to take in a lot of useful information.
It was clear by the end of the workshop that those attending were going home equipped with new tools and new strategies to make a positive change to their lives and their prospects of finding meaningful work.