Research from 2019 reported that young job-seekers spent an average of R938 a month when looking for work. Looking for work puts young people in a bind – printing CVs, using public transport to travel to town to drop off CVs or for interviews, and using airtime to respond to job adverts are costly activities for young job-seekers. Online platforms have the potential to make job-seeking affordable for young people.
To discuss this topic, Youth Capital and JobStarter hosted a Facebook Live, where Youth Capital Influencer Mokhele Tsotsotso had a conversation with Bongiwe Dlutu and Mpho Shogwe about their experiences of using online platforms.
The conversation was framed by some findings from research carried out by JobStarter, to understand young people’s experience of online platforms. Some of the findings included the difference between young people’s long-term career goals and their short-term needs. The majority of respondents said that they had a goal of becoming a professional, but are preoccupied with an urgent need for income from any available job.
THE NEED FOR AN INCOME vs. WORK GOALS.
The urgent need for a source of income leads to online job searches that are not specific. The other finding is that young people experience many challenges when looking for work online. These challenges include the high cost of data, job advert scams, and the time it takes to register. As a result, young people feel frustrated, discouraged, and tired as they try to find employment.
Mokhele asked Bongiwe and Mpho a series of questions to find out if the research findings reflected their experiences.
What was your experience like?
Bongiwe explained that “after finishing matric I didn’t have a career advisor. I wanted to study media and I thought finding a job would be easy. I even studied further and completed my masters. I found that looking for a job is anxiety-inducing as there is a lot of pressure from the community and family members”. Bongiwe also added that pressure and disappointment often lead to young people feeling depressed.
“Sometimes I would think I’m useless, and that my life is damaged. I didn’t get support from my family or any close friends”Bongiwe Dlutu
Mpho shared that she had received some guidance when she choose a career path. She says that “at school, Life Orientation helped me a bit. In my neighbourhood, I looked up to certain people who were successful, and they motivated me to become like them, be who I want to be”.
Reflecting on your job-seeking journey, what kind support was/is necessary?
Bongiwe stressed the importance of mental health support. In fact, she firmly believes that “all job seekers need to get mental health support for free, to prepare them for rejections and challenges”. Bongiwe further highlighted the importance of funding; she explained that young people need financial support to cover the costs of looking for work. Mpho also emphasised the role companies should play in helping young people gain relevant work experience. She says that “the private sector could make the journey easier for us in terms of maybe offering learnerships”. She argues that these learnerships would allow young people to gain and practice new skills.
Digital platforms are often seen as a solution to reduce the cost of looking for work and making opportunities visible. What is your experience of using online platforms to find jobs?
Both Bongiwe and Mpho expressed the idea that online platforms can be cost-effective, especially if they are data-light. Even though convenient, there are challenges that they have experienced when using online platforms. One of the challenges Bongiwe pointed out is the uncertainty linked with the application process. “As soon you click apply, you are not sure who will receive the CV on the other side. This uncertainty is made worse if the job advert is a scam“, she explained. Both Bongiwe and Mpho acknowledged the fact that most young people unknowingly fall into the trap of applying for opportunities that are scams. Mokhele warned the audience that opportunities charging for an application fee are a scam.
“Some people are desperate and they click on anything when they see the word job”Mpho Shogwe
How could these platforms improve?
Bongiwe believes that if integration between the many existing platforms is necessary- this would make the experience of looking for work less cumbersome.”An example of integration is ensuring that these platforms are connected to government sites, so that young people don’t have to upload any documents”. Mpho said that platforms could leverage Artificial Intelligence to flag opportunities that match the job-seekers skillset. “I don’t want to receive unnecessary emails advertising positions for which I don’t qualify”, Mpho explains.
As the conversation drew to an end, Mokhele asked Bongiwe about the small shifts needed to better support young people in their job-seeking journey. According to Bongiwe, the job-seeking journey should provide young people with:
- networking opportunities;
- education on ways to upskill;
- psychological support;
- opportunities to gain work experience;
- financial support to look for work.