Living in a country like South Africa, which has the highest unemployment rate in the world, can be a very stressful experience for a graduate. The unemployment rate in South Africa is 44.4% and more than half of the youth are unemployed. Employment opportunities are scarce meaning there is a lot of competition for each opportunity. Only having a degree is not enough to get you employed, you need to improve your employability so that you may have a better chance at finding suitable employment.
Employability refers to one’s ability to gain employment, maintain employment as well as get employed elsewhere if need be. Employability is not just about getting a job; it also refers to a broader set of skills and attributes that will enable you to have a successful career throughout your life. If you are a young unemployed graduate (or even if you are employed), we have some great tips for you to improve your employability, particularly in the biodiversity or green economy.
“The biodiversity economy encompasses businesses and other economic activities that either directly depend on biodiversity for their core business or that contribute to conservation of biodiversity through their activities”
South Africa is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, therefore the biodiversity economy is the basis of employment across many sectors. Here are a few tips to improve your employability so you may access more opportunities within the biodiversity, water or environmental sector.
Improve your soft skills
Soft skills are interpersonal attributes that are required in the workplace. Soft skills help you utilize your hard skills to their full extent, some may even argue that soft skills are more important than hard skills. Soft skills include leadership skills, communication skills, problem-solving skills, teamwork, work ethic, adaptability, interpersonal skills, time-management skills, etc. You may learn or develop these skills through reading books, listening to podcasts, reading blog articles, and watching online videos that are relevant to the skill you are trying to develop.
Work on your CV
Your CV is one of the most important instruments when looking for employment, make sure it is professional, clear, concise, and up-to-date! It is easy to forget what you have accomplished over a long period of time, make sure that you update your CV constantly! Keep a record of your certificates and achievements, you never know when you might need them. Make sure that you adjust your CV to the job description every time you apply for a new position. Don’t be afraid to send out your CV to trusted people that will review it and provide feedback or suggestions on how you can improve it.
Gain Practical Skills
We have already mentioned soft skills and why they are important. However, in addition to your degree, it is important to gain practical skills or hard skills. You may acquire some hard skills in university, however hard skills are enhanced through practice and repetition. You may improve your hard skills through part-time jobs, work experience placement, volunteering, fellowships, internships, etc. There are a variety of volunteering and internship opportunities in the biodiversity and green economy, always be on the lookout for these as they help you get a competitive edge in the job market (also check out the GreenMatter Fellowship opportunity). Volunteerism is a great way to get your foot in the door for any job in these sectors.
Build your Professional Social Media Profile
A lot of employers use social media to find the ideal candidate, you can use this to your advantage. Put in effort in getting noticed on social media. Ensure that you list your degree information and work experience in your profile. Follow organizations that are aligned with the biodiversity industry to keep up to date with the latest news and developments within the South African biodiversity sector (be sure to follow GreenMatter on social media). Interact with people that are part of the biodiversity sector. If your social media profiles are public, ensure that there are no posts that may decrease your chances of success. LinkedIn is the best platform for professional networking, be sure to check out important people in your field and get tips on how they structure their profiles.
Find a Mentor
Find a mentor who is also in the biodiversity economy, but also further along with their career. These people have more knowledge and a better understanding of the biodiversity economy and they can teach you invaluable lessons that you would have otherwise learned the hard way. One of the trickiest things about finding a mentor is that mentoring is often informal, which can make it difficult to find an entry point. The GreenMatter Fellowship also has an amazing mentorship program.
Grow your Professional Network
Finding a job isn’t only about what you know, it is also about who you know. It is very important to build your network within the biodiversity economy, this will be key to developing your career. You may use social media platforms to enrich your network. Be sure to create and maintain good relationships with colleagues, volunteers, or fellows when you are involved in volunteering, internships, work experience, or fellowship programs. Attend events and conferences that are in line with the biodiversity sector and take part in programs such as the Imvelisi Enviropreneur Programme.
Develop a Growth-Mindset
A growth mindset is an amazing approach to life, where one believes that their talents, skills, and abilities can be developed further. People with growth mindsets are constantly seeking opportunities to improve and grow, personally and professionally. Developing a growth mindset improves your employability because it allows you to develop positive habits and behaviors that will enhance your career success within the biodiversity sector.
Whether you are still in university, looking for employment, or are already employed, it is essential to always improve your employability. Now that you know how to improve your employability, make sure to apply this advice now. All the best!
Environmental Youth for the Future!