It is graduation season and indeed, one of the most important times for any graduate. The hashtags just want to make you jump and get that degree. There is Nomzamo Mbatha magic that we are still gushing over and we will talk about for a while.
There is also an important milestone at Rhodes University in 2017, with almost 60 percent of 2,400 graduates being women. What a time to be a woman in South Africa, and a good time to show that we can talk women without talking abuse.
I guess "mama we have made it", but the truth of the matter is that not all of us have made it as yet. We have given it our all in the hopes of getting that job and getting rid of that poverty, but for most of us, after our three minutes of fame at grad, we are still in many dire situations than before. We have those loans we still must pay up. We are back in our parents' houses that we had hoped to change and make better, as they have sacrificed so much for us to get those degrees. We are unemployed graduates.
Statistics South Africa in 2017 reported that the unemployment rate amongst graduates remained at 7.3 percent. It sounds like a small number, but the frustrations of those that make up the 7.3 percent are the worst nightmare for any graduate. I mean it has been an intense journey of three or four years to get a degree, and it is everyone's wish to reap the rewards from it.
Instead, the rewards are that of being a herdsman again, or being stuck in that long-hours poorly paid job that is not related to what you studied, or doing that post-graduate degree you never wanted to do, just for the sake of keeping it going. I get a lot of calls from university friends – most of who are on the brink of depression due to being unemployed.
We laugh about having "tombstone degrees", consoling ourselves over those "we regret to inform you..." letters that at least they responded. It is sad, and most of us wish someone had given us a heads-up about the real world.
Graduates, I hate to burst the excitement bubble – but some of you are going to join this club. But it doesn't have to be like this. For most of us, we do it late – we wait for that degree completion status before we can start applying for jobs, and by the time we apply, we are late. I wish someone had told me in my final year that I should apply as early as possible.
Unemployment can lead to many bad things, but don't let it destroy you.
I wish I had known that it was not only high grades that get you the job, but that you need to be holistic in the sense that your confidence levels and other aspects should match your grades, as they are equally important.
I wish I had known that volunteering in certain societies at university was important, and that the CV workshops I overlooked were equally important in building my future. I wish my professor had told me that you need to knock on those companies' doors at which you would like to work and inquire about the positions that you are interested in.
There are many regret letters that one will receive, there are those telephonic, video and face-to-face interviews that the recruiters of this world will invite you to. They just need to know your capabilities in these interviews; show them you are confident enough and knowledgeable enough for that position you have applied for.
Some will go well, and others will be bad, but never give up. There is also that classmate that is doing well – don't be scared to connect with them and ask how they do it.
Also, don't be scared to apply for that job you don't qualify for, or try to pursue that business dream you have always had. For now, apply and apply – and let's just hope Cyril's Youth Employment Service (YES) delivers on its promises.
Unemployment can lead to many bad things, but don't let it destroy you. To all the graduates, congratulations: and to my graduate sisters, I love that women magic!