How graduates can use the power of their qualifications for career progression

28 June 2018 - 12:00 By Vincent Solomon
Graduate students celebrating.
Graduate students celebrating.
Image: 123RF

Once students enter university, they tend to be more experienced and confident about their career path and future employment prospects. However, that doesn’t mean they have everything figured out.

In some ways, graduate students need a higher level of expert support to navigate the complex “next steps” of career advancement – especially when it comes to navigating South Africa’s complex employment environment.

Lyndy van den Barselaar, managing director at ManpowerGroup® South Africa explains that for students and/or jobseekers who want to make sure they are leveraging the power of the degree or certificate they worked hard towards, the do-it-yourself "Google" mentality isn’t enough.

“This is where the help of a qualified career services centre becomes important. This is particularly true in South Africa, where most industries are plagued by a widening skills gap between what is taught in education facilities and what is needed for success in business,” she says.

Today, career services can and should play a key role in meeting the needs of a university’s graduate student population. It’s no longer about just polishing the resumes of graduating students; career development support should offer coaching, counselling, career action planning, creating meaningful and strategic connections and actively shaping the future for advanced learners.

“The development and maintenance of career service centres should become a top priority in South Africa as they could be an important step in closing the skills gap and ensuring businesses have an easier time finding candidates with the necessary skills to assist in the successful running of the organisation, and in an organisation’s digital transformation,” says van den Barselaar.

Looking at the ways in which modern career service centres help qualified graduates reach even greater heights, van den Barselaar outlines the following benefits:   

Creating connections

Only between 5-15% of new job hires are the result of online job postings, but more than 85% of new job hires are the result of a planned, active and sustained campaign of networking. Graduate centres can help with that by being a hub of connections, offering career fairs and virtual career fairs, as well as setting up networking events and specific matching of graduate students with possible mentors and employers.

Career coaching

A soon-to-be graduate may find that even though they’ve spent years preparing their skills, they find themselves at a loss on how their new qualifications translate into career transition and advancement. That’s where career services can pave the path with coaching, online information, and webinars.

Developing long-term plans

“It’s about having a plan, not just expectations,” says van den Barselaar. Research from MBA.com shows that "65% of prospective students pursue a graduate business degree to increase their job opportunities." Often, a student with an advanced degree in hand may expect an immediate payoff, with a quick promotion or pay raise. That may well be a reasonable goal, but it takes concrete steps to get there.

On average, it takes between 18 months to 2 years to transition into a new field, industry or role. Today's career services centre needs to instil an “aggressive but realistic” attitude with graduate students, that include realistic expectations, strategic career action planning and patience for short-term gains.

“With the lifespan of skills continuously decreasing, robust career management services are more important now than ever. This needs to become a focus area for South African universities, businesses, and government alike,” van den Barselaar concludes.


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