In a recent survey, recruiters were asked about the quality of applicants they received for the positions they advertised. The general consensus was that out of a large pool of applicants, whether experienced or looking for their first job, they could only short list about 20% of them and offers were made to only 10% of those interviewed. The reasons they cited were badly formatted CVs, spelling and grammatical errors, lack of preparedness for interviews and a mismatch between verbal communication and the qualifications and skills outlined in the CVs.
The job market is a competitive place and in order for you to get your dream job and perform well in it, you have to put a lot of effort into ensuring that you stand out from the rest.
Here are some tips to help give you that competitive advantage:
Read a book every chance you get. It could be romance, non-fiction, news online, course material etc…just do it. Look up words you are not familiar with and try to memorise them. Discuss whatever you learned with your friends and encourage them to read as well. Reading opens up your mind and helps with English grammar.
Choose the right course
When once you have answered the question: “What do I want to be when I grow up?” -take time out to explore your options and choose the right course. E.g. if you want to be an accountant, it may be more beneficial to you to enroll on a CIMA or ACCA course immediately you finish school, while working part time as a trainee. This way, you go straight into your field and you learn on the job which would make your course easier and increase experience gained in a short period. You can then go on to do a Masters in Business Administration afterwards and search for your first big role. You can even add other skills like IT or Investment Banking that would complement your qualifications, making you even more marketable and giving you career choices.
Choose the right company
Try not to apply for jobs at random. When choosing your career, even before you decide on what course would be best for that career, you should start thinking about the companies you would like to work for. Find out as much as you can about the companies, either from the internet or directly, and make your decision based on the information you receive. Only apply to the ones whose cultures best fit your personality and that would contribute towards your personal development.
Find an Internship or Volunteer
Internships are new in Sierra Leone but thanks to development partners, there are increased opportunities. Although the focus is still on graduates, it is important for students to intern as this helps prepare them for the working world. In a normal environment, those who intern during their studies are given priority by host companies. If you add value during your internship, the chances of gaining employment where you worked are much higher - so get in there and perform well.
Learn skills during holidays
Do not spend all your holidays playing and hanging out with friends. If you are unable to get into a structured internship programme, sign up for a computer course, volunteer with a charity organisation, work in a restaurant, shop or radio station, or on a construction site. Use your holidays as an opportunity to learn how to do something new.
Join exercise groups, go to social events, attend career advice meetings and always ensure your conduct is good. You never know who you might meet. This could be the beginning of a fruitful career.
Applying for a job usually entails submitting your CV and a cover letter to the company. Make sure your CV and cover letter are formatted properly and free from grammatical and typographical errors. Use your dictionary and ask for feedback from a career adviser or HR professional. If you have varied experiences, you may have different versions of your CV, each highlighting a different strength or skill.
Always speak English
When calling or visiting to discuss job prospects, always start the conversation in English as it is the official language of Sierra Leone. It is unprofessional to speak any other language when approaching an office representative for the first time. Remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression.
Possessing interview skills will give you an advantage over other candidates applying for the same position. Attend an interview skills workshop facilitated by a reputable organisation or approach an HR professional for advice.
A recent article in the Chartered Global Management Accountant magazine described job hopping as changing jobs every two years. Most employers and recruiters see this kind of person as someone who either does not get on well with colleagues or lacks commitment. Do not allow money to dominate your decision making; consider other factors before leaving your current job. Try to gain as much experience as possible before making that move.
Good luck with your job search!
The author of this blog, Edleen B. Elba, is the Managing Partner of JobSearch, a Human Resource Management firm. She is a Chartered Global Management Accountant and Chartered Human Resource Analyst with extensive experience in developing and implementing human resource management and risk management strategies. She is passionate about Sierra Leone and believes that developing skilled workers would contribute greatly towards its growth.