Youth, be bold and browse digital platforms to look for work experience

Having a body/portfolio of freelance work, especially when looking for work opportunities in “blue-chip” companies, enables one to get their foot in the door. Photo: file

Having a body/portfolio of freelance work, especially when looking for work opportunities in “blue-chip” companies, enables one to get their foot in the door. Photo: file

Published Jun 27, 2024


By Wabo Majavu

As South Africa commemorates Youth Month under the theme: “Actively advancing socio economic gains in our democracy”, the prevailing issue of youth unemployment and skills development has once more taken centre stage.

According to Statistics South Africa’s latest figures, the unemployment rate among young people (aged 15 to 34), stands at 45.5% with the national average at 32.9% in the first quarter of 2024.

Even more stark is the difference in transition rates between youth without experience and those with experience. The experience “dividend” reveals that youth with experience outperform youth without experience by a margin of 4 to 1, as StatsSA reveals.

Unemployed tech-savvy youth can leverage various digital platforms to improve their skills by affording them the opportunity to gain practical work exposure, while helping them to build a portfolio that they can use to better market themselves.

If you simply wait for employment in order to escape unemployment that is going to be a can you kick down the line for a long time. Don’t wait for employment, grow your portfolio while searching.

By using global digital platform, such as UpWork Inc Global or Fiverr, youth or unemployed professionals can start building their portfolio of work and increase the value of their time. These are freelance on-demand talent-sourcing platforms. Most of the platforms have no geographic restrictions – you would be gaining global experience while sitting behind your laptop at home.

In terms of pay or pricing time, job seekers can charge anything starting from $5 (R91) and hour to $100 an hour, depending on what they are bringing and their level of experience.

While education is the foundation, it is equally important to build on that base by taking the initiative and using digital platforms to help build a portfolio of work young professionals can take to a prospective employer, while earning some form of income.

Getting started is relatively easy. All you need do is register on the websites, specify the kind of work you are looking for and the platform matches the submissions from the client’s request and the skill set available on the entire platform.

It is important for those seeking opportunities to take the time to look at those in their area of specialisation and how they go about selling themselves to clients. The reason for this is due to experience, those who have been working or using digital freelance platforms for some time, understand what search criteria the algorithm uses and what it recommends to clients.

Instead of saying you are sitting at home and struggling to find employment, you can turn that around and say: “I have done this project and here is my portfolio or work and am now looking for something more permanent.”

If you’ve been unemployed for a long time, you could be feeling uninspired as it is mentally and emotionally challenging. What is important is to start by establishing a daily routine and split your data usage between social media for entertainment and browsing freelance platforms for project work and start increasing your productivity

Having a body/portfolio of freelance work, especially when looking for work opportunities in “blue-chip” companies, enables one to get their foot in the door. Companies are always looking for self-starters, a trait that is difficult to know before hiring a candidate. By demonstrating this ability through freelance work, your chances increase exponentially.

Navigating the job market with start-ups, however, is different and requires young job seekers or professionals to take the lead when approaching the business. They can do this by studying the company thoroughly and offering a more efficient way of doing things.

The reality is that artificial intelligence is replacing experience, so the minute you have AI infusion into all your skills set, you will probably get the job over someone who has experience.

We don’t have enough people who have a vested interest in the development of students or graduates, regardless of whether they are male or female. It is important for leaders, be it in tech or any other sector, to care. The reality is that we don't have enough of that due to competing priorities.

Young professionals need to start by saying: “How do I better myself so that in three months’ time, while I am unemployed, I am able to demonstrate that I have acquired skills unsupervised?”

Wabo Majavu is the executive strategy and business operations at Africa Data Centres. BENG Hons Electrical, Petronas Universiti Malaysia and MSC ENG (Electrical), Witwatersrand University.