Graduation: a time of celebration that leaves you excited to step into “the real world.” What I knew about the real world was that traditionally, it wasn’t a fun place to be. Graduation had meant the end of student perks and studying, which I actually really enjoyed. My peers and I were officially certified to join the rat race — or at least, every 3 out of 4 of us were with South Africa’s high unemployment rates. I’m part of Generation X, the ‘born free’s’ who were in primary school in the 90s. To us, the Millennials, who have never known life without the internet, are fast approaching, outsmarting us with their skilful technological ways and ‘slash-slash’ bio’s, that read something like this: ’19 / Capricorn/ Creator / Designer / DJ.’ My generation are left wondering how to break into the working world, before these kids will take our spots, replacing desk chairs with bean bags and Monday meetings with a “How are you feeling today” segments.
I was fortunate enough to have studied at two prestigious institutions, gaining two degrees in related, but different fields. I worked throughout my studies and have been creating content for the blog you currently find yourself on, for years. In my mind, my CV detailed the work of an absolute catch for many companies.
I began looking for a job and it became clear that I loved finding opportunities. For each application, I was able to imagine myself in that role, thinking about the possibilities it lead to. Soon, I became addicted to indeed.com. My daily routine was to scour the jobs under my usual searches, which unfortunately had to expand as the terms I searched most, ‘journalist’ and ‘writer’ had nothing to offer.
Compared to many, I was fortunate to get quite a few responses. The only thing is, the calls I got back were for what would be my 5th internship. Many were unpaid, others offered a stipend. This stipend wouldn’t be enough to put a dent into my education that had lead me to this point and certainly wouldn’t make it possible to cover expenses. But we’ve heard this all before: internships are a necessary step in the door, a necessary growing pain.
After speaking to recruiters and industry professionals, I was advised that being an Honours student, who is so accomplished, I needed to steer clear of internships. In the digital media realm especially, I have come to realise that many companies realise the need for social media and decide to hire interns as they are unable to put a value on the service. The problem is, this does not facilitate learning, the way an internship should. I stopped searching for and applying to internships after realising my worth and value.
I’ve been through it all with interviews, from:
- having an interview rescheduled because I met at the wrong chain, a mere 5 minutes away, then attending the second meeting where the interviewer was 40 minutes late
- attending an open recruitment day, where I was over-qualified
- being told by the interviewer how bad the interview was and thrown with a slew of insults that aim to leave you in pieces, twice (both by men from the fashion industry)
- receiving many emails containing ‘unfortunately,’ ‘we regret to inform you’ and ‘we’re sorry for the disappointing news … not based on anything in particular’
- taking a Skype call in the car, en route from Johannesburg to Cape Town
- Receiving a counter offer on a freelance position that was a quarter of the average pay
- Never hearing back after interviews
- Needing to have had another 2 years of experience before quailing for a junior position
- Being asked about my personal social media presence and how I reached the level I’m at
- Going for 2 follow-up interviews over 2 months for different positions (unknowingly) and not getting either of them
- Sitting-in on a surprise interview at work drinks, for a position I was trying on a trial basis
- Being laughed at for my salary suggestion
- Being advised to join a remote freelance website by a recruiter because their job ads are old
I now consider myself a master at interviews. I come in prepared, knowing exactly who I am, what I’m looking for and why I’m there. It takes a lot of resilience to wake up each day, ready to re-apply, without taking the prior rejections too hard. Unemployment is a challenge in SA and this should not be underestimated. I’m not sure what the future holds for me, but I currently have three promising prospects. Keep your fingers crossed for me & stay tuned for updates.