Unemployment is a crisis that faces every economy globally. Closer home, latest statistics from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) show that seven million Kenyans are unemployed. Out of these, 1.4 million have been desperately looking for work. The rest have given up on job hunting, either opting to go back for further studies or venturing into entrepreneurship as a means of economic empowerment.
One reason why jobseekers may have trouble finding a job is because the hiring firms are unaware of the specific skill sets that are available within the talent pool but this is changing today due to the establishment of numerous job sites which have made it easier to look for a job. Despite this, it is still hard to figure out which firms you’re applying to work for as many agencies don’t include the name of the brand in the advert. How then do you know you’re applying for a company you want to work for?
Furthermore, advertised jobs don’t account for all of the jobs available. Just because a role isn’t advertised doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Similarly, some roles may be advertised but they don’t really exist. This happens when dishonest agencies create ‘fake’ roles to broaden their candidate base. Despite this scenario, it’s always advisable to have companies in mind that you would like to work for. Don’t just look at ones who are advertising.
Taking a speculative approach while looking for a job can also be rewarding for both candidate and recruiter. By informing a company that you are available and looking for work, while taking the initiative through a direct approach, you are immediately showing a high level of enthusiasm. Additionally, it shows proactivity and an eagerness to learn about the company.
Recruitment agencies, while effective, handle more than one client at a time. In most cases, they will put forward multiple candidates for a single position while charging the recruiting company for doing it. By approaching companies directly, your CV won’t be part of a ‘pack’ of applications, and you will save them expensive recruitment fees if you are successful.
Interviewers are always more impressed by those candidates who request information while genuinely wanting to develop their career. However they are less polite about those who simply show up for an interview with very little knowledge or interest in the position or organization. With this in mind, it is very important that job seekers realize that there is always an opportunity for them to sell themselves better than any other candidate.
Don’t be put off if there aren’t any vacancies at any one time. If you’ve expressed an interest about working with a firm and there are no jobs available, just be patient as when a position does appear you may be at the front of the employer’s mind.
It is also important to remember that “It’s not about what you know, it’s who you know.” For some people the idea of networking can cause embarrassment. There’s often a reluctance to contact friends or previous colleagues. But this can be the most effective way of finding out about upcoming vacancies and getting recommendations for roles.
If you have a company in mind, think about who you know who works there. If you don’t know anyone personally, introduce yourself to a decision maker in an online community or through a direct approach at an industry event or similar. The key is not to ask for a job, but rather ask for help and advice on how to get work in that particular area or company.
And if you do feel embarrassed about contacting someone you haven’t spoken to for a while, remember honesty is always the best policy. The simplest and most effective phrase you can use is “I need your help”. We all have a desire to help and asking directly is often the best way to get it.
Michael Armstrong (FCA) is the Regional Director for Middle East, Africa and South Asia at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).