Conversations about Graduation: What’s next?
By Zuko Komisa
Graduating is largely a fantastic feeling of accomplishment, where what feels like the end, is a scary beginning. The enormous preparation of a journey ahead, where you thank Google, Wikipedia and the person who invented copy and paste. Where you get on top of a mountain and it hits you, this is the first of many to come. You ask yourself what’s next?
According to the Institute of Race Relations 2016 South Africa Survey, our country’s unemployment rate stands at 26.5% with rates of youth unemployment almost double that. The chances of being absorbed into the workforce with tertiary education are at 76.7% – Chances of being absorbed into the workforce with a school leaving qualification stands at 51.1%, while the number of unemployed graduates is at a staggering 405 000 and those who graduate only with a matric remain well over 1,7 million. The stats are very scary.
In a country where young people are begging for an education, street corners are filled with graduates desperately looking for jobs, students are complaining about being financially excluded from tertiary institution and a government delaying the common dream of free quality, decolonized education, one has to wonder with so much against graduates, how is it that so many Africans manage to beat the odds stacked against them?
Once you graduate you are faced with a mammoth task ahead of you, these are a few things you need to know once you graduate:
You are on your own.
Every decision you make the giant leap of graduating, with a colorful degree/diploma will be made mostly by you. Not knowing what you will do next or how you will get there will be the common theme of the next couple of years, persist and you shall prevail.
The first year is the most challenging.
Unless you have a glowing job offer or an organization just waiting to snatch you, you will have a hard time getting your foot through the door. You will need to be able to write impressive resumes, be able to sell yourself as you convince your employer you are worthy of a job with limited to no experience.
Build or leverage you networks.
This is a good time to make new and useful friends. The cliché of life in this regard truly applies, ‘your network is directly proportional to your net worth’. Post graduation, your social life should be deliberate, you will need to spend time with people who have already achieved what you are trying to in your industry and make connections.
Get familiar with financial literacy, it’ll change your life.
If you took out a loan, are in debt, receiving your first pay cheque, are confronted by the age-old phenomenon of black tax; you need to know how to spend the little that you have wisely. Understanding the value of money, the art of maintaining a good credit record and saving will save you a lot of grief in the long-run so get familiar with being diligently smart in this area of your life.
Approach every situation like it’s impossible to loose.
There are many who have walked the same journey you are in, most have succeeded, and there is nothing but yourself stopping you from being one of them. Most importantly, they have figured all the questions you have yet to ask, find them, and use them. Be a sponge waiting to suck every bit of useful information, you don’t stop being a student when you leave the lecture hall. Go forth and figure it out, read and live. There is a book and a life experience for every question you’ve ever asked yourself.