Recently, I was called by a friend to go apply for a job in UNDP-Kigali. He believed that it was my kind of job and he was certain I would beat the competition for the post.
Typical of lazy or crowded minds, procrastination set in and I did not get in my application till the second last day.
However, I was not really ready for what hit me that day.The minimum experience for any job advertised was 3 years!
The applicants numbered more than 500 for less than 10 posts and their average job experience for most of them was a few months, and most of it as part timers.
A report released February 5th 2009 showed a 40% deficit of short term human skills requirement in the country. The skills gap in the private sector, which stands at a 60% deficit, is severest; the public sector reported a 30% deficit and civil society a 5% deficit.
The skills audit report indicates that the skills gap is severest at the technician level, which has a 60 percent deficit. Rwanda lacks personnel in critical areas such as nurses, engineering assistants and supervisory staff in the service industry.
This question comes down to the old catch-22, “I can’t get a job without experience, and I can’t get experience without a job!” .I guess that’s the way it will always be.
I’m not sure I’m in the position to advise all fresh job seekers out there. The traditional one month internship allowed and offered in lots of institutions, as a pre-requisite for a bachelors degree, is a far cry from what one would use for ‘experience’.
However, think about the skills you’ve attained while pursuing your degree. You say you have no work experience, but think in terms of the skills most employers seek these days: teamwork skills, communications skills, interpersonal skills, leadership skills, the ability to multi-task, work under pressure and meet deadlines.
Then think about the things you’ve done to cultivate those skills -- class work, projects, research papers, sports, extracurricular activities, especially leadership positions.
But to those still in campus, I will share this: Look for a job. Be wise; get a leg up on your career by obtaining experience while in school. Even a low-level job can give you a worm’s-eye view of the realities of life in that organisation and offer the chance to talk to people doing the type of work you might hope to do in the longer term.
It will give you insight into what you enjoy and don’t enjoy in a working environment.You will acquire valuable transferable and practical skills - how to deal with people, work in a team, use office equipment and IT packages.
And you have heard this one before - volunteer! Even if it is not in your area, by volunteering you are showing potential employers that you can handle a work environment and care about the world around you.
Most employers will ask about your work experience and the benefits you have gained from it, on their application forms. Anything that has given you experience of life in what employers like to think of as the “real world” outside university is helpful - if it has some relevance to their organisation, so much the better.
Even if it’s not specifically degree-related, part-time and casual work while you are at university can help you to develop key transferable skills which will place you in a strong position when applying for graduate work.
All part-time and casual jobs are worth including in your resume. You may find that any work you have will develop your transferable skills in areas such as customer service, using computers, office etiquette, supervising staff, business communication and working with minimal supervision.
There can be ‘flow on’ benefits of work to your studies in terms of developing your skills in being organised, managing your time and working in teams with a wide variety of people.
Remember this: experience is experience. It doesn’t have to be paid.Go get it or lose out.