The hallowed halls of academia always inspire a deep sense of reverence and respect for those who appreciate the value of knowledge. Institutions of learning are so much more than training grounds for monetary accumulation, or a gateway to stability and security in society. It is the place where knowledge is born, where scholarly discourse rears critical thought, where the very intellectual fabric of society is threaded. If only I had realised this during my tenure as a full-time student, I would never have left. Unfortunately, I thought a qualification in tertiary education was enough as a means to get by. Who wants anything more out of life anyway, right?
So now I am part of the world of the employed, and I know many people are getting their running shoes ready to join this world of chasing the cheese. Instead of discouraging them, I’ve decided to help out instead. Provide a bit of perspective on how to view your newly acquired degree or diploma in the context of the job market. You see, I keep my ear close to the door of the boss, so I have a fair idea of what is desired. So if you are completing your studies and looking to get into the job market, here’s some advice. Not so much of practical value, but more philosophical perspective.
When I first received my degree certificate, I saw a ticket into the exclusive world of employment. All that was required of me was to redeem my prize at any jobs outlet, and I would have a nice cushy start to my career in no time. This fantastical image pulled me through the melancholic soul-destroying funk of working at an outbound call-center, so when I received that certificate, it was like an emancipation from slavery, a hearty slap on the back from the hand of opportunity. Yes, I was excited and ready to face the working world, bright-eyed and naïve, energetic and enthusiastic. A year later, all I had found was a minimum wage substitute teachers post. Not at all what I had studied, but good enough to stop me twiddling my thumbs and dying of hunger. That year had taken the gleam off the working world entirely. The frustration of looking for a job had taken its toll on my naturally energetic and positive attitude. Teaching made me anxious and self-conscious, so my enthusiasm had waned. This is the period in which I learned the most about how really difficult it is for a young person to find employment. So I revamped my CV, changed my perspective and decided that this is where I start over.
The first thing to go was my reliance on my degree. I became a marketer of myself. After all, employers look for people, not a list of qualifications and competencies. So I focussed on my personal strengths, my own ambitions and my passions. Then I substantiated them with instances and examples from my own life. For example, “I am approachable and I communicate well” is substantiated by feedback I got from my time as a call-center agent. My perspective on a degree changed from being a ticket into the world of employment, to just a ticket to see someone that could possibly help me become employed. Nothing more than fulfilling a prerequisite, like getting a 50% class mark. All it does is get you into the exam, it doesn’t mean you have passed the subject.
Second to go was my arrogance and my stubbornness to find work in the field I studied. I asked myself some serious questions. If the boss made me do filing or cleaning or making coffee for a year, would I be dejected, insulted and angry? Or would I view it as an opportunity to gain a reputation for myself as being reliable and trustworthy? I adopted the latter attitude; I would be willing to do what it takes to grow my reputation from the very bottom. Money is a product of value, and growing my own value became my priority. Working in jobs that I may not have studied for also became useful, I made it one of those instances in my CV that showed I was willing to learn new things and I was able to gain competency in a short period.
Thirdly, I threw away the notion I had carried that companies should take me as I am. That mantra is for relationships, not for the people that could possibly provide you with a livelihood. I decided that I would let it be known that I had ambitions to continuously progress. Learning new competencies, taking up courses part time: whatever made me more versatile and able without interfering with my primary work. I decided on progression as a mantra for my life, which happened to spill into my profession. After all, it is highly unlikely that anyone would want to stay in a single entry-level job for the rest of their professional life. Take initiative to speed up this process.
Finally, I applied passion. This was the hardest thing to do, because I am in all honesty not passionate about my job. I realised that my passion actually lies elsewhere. So I had to be creative. To me, fields of knowledge are all interlinked; and the higher up the chain you go, the more blurry the lines between disciplines become. For example, if you are an engineer, you may decide to work on water-systems for the rest of your career. But if you have ambition, you will need some managerial capabilities as well. Then if you get to the top, or have your own business, you have to become competent at the laws and legislation regulating the business you are in. Truly successful people are able to remove the segmentation of fields of knowledge, and view knowledge as an interlinked whole. So I have managed to connect and justify my passion within the scope of what I am doing by viewing my job as fulfilling one necessary aspect to fulfilling my passion, the aspect of technical ability.
I sincerely hope my musings on the value of perspective in the job market finds some resonance. The searches for employment and the progression within employment are huge mental barriers that cause apprehension and unhappiness in many people. My experiences are by no means comprehensive or authoritative, but they have helped me. If your experiences taught you anything, share it here, so we can all benefit. Otherwise, have an awesome weekJ.