Graduate Jobs and Graduate Programmes
Graduate Jobs and Graduate Programmes in South Africa – and how to prepare yourself for the rapidly growing job market
Exploring Graduate Opportunities – Differences and similarities between Graduate Programs and Graduate Jobs
The graduate job pool is vast, stimulating and full to the brim with opportunity – all you need to do now is jump in. Whether you are in first year planning for the future, preparing to finally complete your tertiary qualification or a graduate newly in the job market – graduate employment opportunities are on your mind. With some understanding, advice and preparation you will be entering into an exciting and challenging space where knowing yourself and your strengths is the key to opening the door to opportunity.
With endless possibilities, the world of work today is changing so rapidly with so many new and emerging prospects to apply your skills to. Your degree or qualification is just the start; opening the door to apply to entry-level graduate opportunities, it is all your other skills and experience that differentiates you as a candidate to employers.
When looking at the job market and the entry level opportunities available there are a range of names used to describe them – from graduate recruitment programme, graduate development programme or just graduate programme to a vacancy, bursary programme and internship. All of these titles resemble the same entry-level opportunity whether they are part-time, permanent, or on a contract basis.
Graduate jobs and programmes are not definitively different, they share many aspects. Targeting university graduates, both are looking for candidates that will benefit the organisation and fit into the corporate culture. Graduate entry-level jobs are however less structured than graduate programmes in terms of having a set learning and training scheme. With that said, learning and training will happen in a graduate job role – it may just happen in a fluid working environment such as an internship, where development and learning happens while you are working.
Found in all industries and with a multiplicity of positions to fit you as a graduate, the majority of the graduate entry-level opportunities are found within small to medium organisations. Even though a structured training facility isn’t present within the organisation, there are still opportunities and vacancies to stimulate and develop your young and curious mind.
The market in South Africa has a diverse spectrum of industries for you, the opportunistic graduate, to explore and understand. The largest recruiters in South Africa in 2014 are named by SAGEA in The SAGEA Employers Survey 2014 as the accounting and professional service firms with commercial or retail banks and investment banks coming in at a close second. It is important to investigate the array of opportunities within each industry as there are prospects you have never heard of that may take you places you never thought you could go with your qualification.
This step in your career ladder is about gaining and developing skills that can take you further in the direction you want to go. This is a stage where you can build your way up in a small organisation with great room for growth and opportunities to learn about many different components of the business, or use it as a stepping stone to figure out where in the corporate domain you would like to go next.
Graduate programmes are where the best of the best are chosen from the talent pit of ambitious and determined graduates hungry for opportunity. With expected high academic achievements and evidence of involvement, graduate programmes have become a competitive race of survival of the fittest – where knowledge and skills are your stamina, achievements are your head start, and the way you combine and use these to stay in the game is your strategy to come out on top.
As a structured programme there is more focus on learning, development and grooming for growth of future leaders. Graduate programmes are a chance for rapid growth and career development. Programmes may differ from organisation to organisation but there is a definite training and development process facilitated by mentors or a ‘buddy’, with possible access to senior executive support and outside coaching. More often than not a full-time programme running from 12 to 36 months.This is an opportunity every year for organisations to have an ongoing flow of aspirational young minds entering the company.
Graduate programmes are run mostly by large organisations in the public and private sectors, with resources and facilities for a big intake of graduates – the company’s way of moulding and building capacity for future company leaders and management. In most instances there is one intake a year of graduates with a high-level of competition and a rigorous process.
Learning and development all happens simultaneously in these training programmes – it may even involve a rotational programme where you are required to spend time within various areas of the company. This is vital for both you and the employer. The employer wants you to gain as much experience and knowledge about the company’s day to day running, as well as allowing them to see where you fit in best. For you this is a chance to engage in a variety of activities and find where you feel you can add the most value to the organisation.
If you are successful in proving yourself throughout the programme the world is yours to explore – some organisations may relocate you to other cities or regions. Make sure when applying you are aware of these opportunities and that it is a career move you are capable of making. Employers may even ease the relocation process with support and assistance. This is your pool of opportunity, dive in!
Applying and preparing for Graduate Jobs and Graduate Programmes
First impressions are at the base of forming good relationships. An employer’s first impression of you is based on an A4 document listing your work experience, academic achievements and qualifications. This is the first step in gauging your compatibility with the organisation and capability to perform the job required. A well prepared Curriculum Vitae (CV) is crucial for employers to assess not only what you have achieved, but how you could translate your skills learnt into a significant contribution in the organisation.
With a fast growing and highly competitive job market it is fundamental to construct a CV that is impactful and to the point. Employers need to know three key pieces of information about you – who you are, what you have studied and what other attributes you have to offer the organisation. By attributes I am referring to the experience you have gained in communication, leadership, teamwork, organising and planning. These skills are largely gained through project work as part of your qualification but most often developed through participating in extra mural activities – these could include being part of a student society, volunteer or charity work, team work on the sports field, and part time work experience gained.
When developing your CV it is critical to understand the position you are applying for and the criteria listed. Think about the fundamental things the employer would need to know about you and what is most relevant to the position, giving this priority. It is important to note that each CV needs to be tailored to each different position you apply to in line with the specific job criteria.
It is essential to explore and research a range of industries and their offerings – find out what roles are available for entry-level graduates. This way you can take your strengths and apply them to a multitude of positions you never knew existed.
If you are brilliant at planning and organising you could look at a career in retail or marketing with planners, merchandisers and coordinators being viable options to explore. With a knack for solving problems you could apply your skills as a management consultant. If relationship management is your thing then you could consider a trainee account executive as a potential position. Identify these ‘soft skills’ and use them to complete your own puzzle of strengths and apply these constructively.
Once you have wowed the employer with your CV it is time to prepare yourself for the next step. The interview process varies depending on the size and resources of the company, with larger organisations you will see a process that could take weeks where as a smaller organisation may just rely on a few interviews and test.
It is common with a larger organisation and the application process for a Graduate programme, that there will be multiple stages to go through. A screening process will be the first port of call usually in the form of a telephonic interview but these days we are seeing the emergence of Skype and video interviewing.
The subsequent step is a type of assessment; this may be online where you can do it from the comfort of your own home within a time-based deadline or at the organisation itself. Doing assessments at the organisation is commonly called an assessment day which comprises of a range of activities– these could include: psychometric assessments, personality profiling to see whether or not you are a fit for the organisation’s company culture, problem solving activities which may be individually done or testing your team work abilities, a presentation to a panel, and may even include social activities like lunch or a networking event with senior staff.
When being interviewed make sure you are appropriately and professionally dressed – key tip: dress like the person you want to be! Speak confidently and clearly making eye contact with the interviewer. If you are being interviewed by a panel, remember to share eye contact with each person. Be honest in your answers, be assured of your strengths but also be able to identify your weaknesses – this will show a willingness to learn and grow. This is the employer’s chance to gauge who you are as a person and how you communicate. This may be a nerve-racking step for you but remember that they just want to get to know you. They have already chosen you out of a sea of candidates; show them you deserve to be there.
When preparing for interview questions there are a few key scenarios that are important to have answers for and going over these beforehand will see you much more relaxed on the day. What we know is that employers are looking for evidence of at least four fundamental skills: teamwork, organising and planning, leadership and communication. Just like an artist would prepare a portfolio, so you can prepare your evidence of these skills. Think of a time or a situation which you are most proud of where you demonstrated skills in these areas. Prepare your answers in advance by thinking through how you describe the situation, how you went about planning, actioning and achieving the outcome.
Employers measure the complexity of the skill you describe so it is important to come up with the absolute best example that you can, and talk about what you learnt through any rough patches. We have all have experiences with conflict when working in a team – use this to demonstrate what you have learnt and how you would do it differently today. A bad experience can also show problem solving and leadership skills if you can identify a way to fix the scenario. At the end of your interview the panel will ask if you have any questions, use this opportunity to clarify any information gathered during the interview or from research - this may be about the role or the organisation. Ask insightful questions as your curiosity will show enthusiasm and interest in the company which is what the employer wants to see.
The process of finding a graduate job may be long and rough but keep on applying and believe in your strengths – the opportunity will come. Find an opportunity that not only speaks to your qualification but that resonates with you and your skills. This is your time to shine and show the market why you are an asset–do your research, know where you want to go, and just be yourself – what more could they want!
Graduate Jobs and Programmes by Industry
- Banking and Finance
- Business and Commerce
- Information Technology
- Marketing & Sales
- Mining, Oil and Gas
Graduate Jobs and Programmes by Location
Amy-Leigh van der Walt
University of Johannesburg
Bachelors with Honours of BA Honours Strategic Communication
Universirty Of South Africa
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Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Diploma of Information Technology: Communication Networks
University of Johannesburg
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Shaban Cmeo Danne.
Richfield Graduate Institution Of Technology
Diploma of Information Technology Networking