It is a challenging year ahead for new university graduates. According to a recent South African Graduate Employers Association survey, nearly half of employers have fewer graduate opportunities this year than in previous years. This limited number of opportunities makes it crucially important to prepare ahead of time in order to stand out in the application and interview process. Dell Young Leaders program Alum Zizo shares her advice on how to shine through when preparing and applying for a job opportunity. Zizo currently provides in-house counsel at a leading international law firm.
Before you drafted your curriculum vitae (CV), what was your view of the process?
I always thought there was only one way to write a CV, or just one format to use. Then I started researching and found that there are many ways to draft a CV. My advice is to do your own research and find a format that is simple and appropriate for presenting your skills and experience in the best way possible.
What challenges did you face when you prepared your CV?
When I started working on my CV, my biggest challenge was my lack of work experience, as I thought a CV should only focus on this element. But I realised I could use my skills and experience from extracurricular activities and volunteer work to show potential employers my range of capabilities.
I learned to not be afraid of putting myself out there, and I selected the big projects and assignments I worked on during my studies at university. I added this type of experience to my CV, as this helped me upskill myself and show prospective employers my potential.
What’s the best way to use a cover letter?
In my view, a cover letter is similar to a pitch or marketing document you share with your potential employer. It helps illustrate why you are right for the job and acts as an executive summary of your skills and experience. The highlights in the cover letter should be split into two sections. One section provides information about you as the person applying for the job. The other section is about the organisation to which you are applying to show the potential employer why you are pursuing them amongst other key competitors in the market.
What are your greatest achievements since graduating?
Since graduating, I have worked for two of the biggest law firms in South Africa. After I completed my articles of clerkships and got admitted as an attorney, I realised it was not enough for me. I decided to continue with my studies to upskill myself. I wanted to know more about the business of law firms, and this helped me transition comfortably into the role I am in now, in-house counsel.
Any word of advice to other upcoming graduates?
To be ready, you need to prepare. It’s never too early to start. Prepare now and you will be ready later. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help and do as much research about the industry in which you’re interested. Find a mentor and apply for vacation programmes, any type of work experience or any positions of leadership. If you are still not winning, try and find someone to job shadow. If you are a Dell Young Leaders student, take advantage of the Alumni Mentorship Programme. Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is the best experience you can get to be ready to step into the working world.
Given the current economic environment, new university graduates face a steep road ahead.
The Career Insights Series is designed to help graduate job seekers. Dell Young Leaders alumni share insights on their career path, highlight a day in the life at their employer, and provide guidance to students on how to stand out to employers and prepare for the world of work.