The start of a new year can be both an exciting and daunting time. This is especially true if you’ve just finished high school or your tertiary studies and you are now looking to enter into the job market. But as you will soon find out, finding a job isn’t as simple as printing out a copy of your certificates and handing them out to anyone who asks. The reality is that a successful job hunt involves a wide range of skills and knowledge that you probably weren’t taught at school.  Here are some practical tips to help you maximise your efforts as you start hunting for that perfect job.

1. Make sure you have a quality CV
A CV or resume is a summary of your academic and work experience and your relevant interests. You can download a CV template from a website like this one or this one, and fill in your own information, or you can create your own from scratch. It is vitally important that it is neat and presentable and contains no spelling or grammatical errors – and it shouldn’t be more than two pages long. Ask someone with language skills to help you proof read it before you send it out to potential employers.

2. Set up a professional email address
CVs are usually submitted by email, so if you don’t have an account, set up a free one at Gmail.com. It is best to use a version of your name, with a number at the end if someone has already used your preferred address. Stay away from anything funny, flashy or “clever”.

Set up a signature that will automatically appear at the bottom of every email that includes your contact details.

3. Write a standard covering letter, but be prepared to edit it
It is vitally important that you have a clear and intelligent covering letter that makes a good impression from the moment your email is opened (the same applies for a fax or a hand-delivered CV). Introduce yourself, your abilities and your education, and explain why you are a good candidate for the job. Remember to edit the letter for each different job opportunity and to address it to the appropriate person each time.

4. Make sure you have certified copies of all your important documents – and scan them in
Many employers want certified copies of your ID document and qualifications. Print out a few of these and have them certified at your local police station and remember to take along the original for verification. Then take them to a print shop for scanning so that you have digital copies as well.

5. Make sure that you have a good interview outfit
The rule of thumb for interview outfits is that they should be one notch smarter than what the workplace requires. So if people come to work in jeans and shirts, wear chinos to the interview. You don’t have to spend money on a high-end suit – but make sure you have a smart outfit that looks neat and presentable and isn’t too garish or unusual.

6. Look for a job in all the right places
Sign up with recruitment agencies, look at all the online and print job classifieds, and ask everyone you know – from teachers and lecturers to friends and family and even their employers – whether they know anyone who could offer you a job. They say it’s not what you know but who you know, so get your entire network of acquaintances working for you.

7. Identify and pursue the right companies
Do internet research to try to identify companies in the right field or with the right culture to match your skills and requirements. Get in touch with their HR departments and ask if you can drop off a CV should any job opportunities arise. Always be presentable and polite when you do so – you never know who you might meet.

8. Find a part-time job while you are looking
Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity to come to you. Why not earn money and gain experience while waiting for a career job? You’ll be making contacts along the way, and it looks good on your CV. Try your hand at waitering or working in a shop that interests you. Just be sure that the job is flexible enough to allow for prospective job interviews.

9. Consider an unpaid internship or job ghosting in your chosen field
Sometimes, a lack of experience holds you back from landing even entry-level jobs. Identify a company or an individual that you would like to work for, and offer your services for free, or ask if you can spend some time in their offices just learning the ropes. Of course, it’s vitally important that you don’t get trapped in a situation where you are providing your skills for free, so make sure that you are learning something or making contacts.

10. Expand your skills with short courses
While you’re job hunting, you might find that you lack skills in certain areas, and that this is preventing you from landing your dream job. Enrol in a short course through a college or investigate the wealth of study material that’s available online for free.

11. If you feel you are not job-ready, enrol in a job finder support programme
Training and employment acceleration companies like Imsimbi Training and Harambee provide industry specific skills including training in customer service, business English, phone skills, computer use and appropriate dress, as well as job application support and insights into working culture. If you need these fundamentals, get in touch.

12. Work out public transport systems so you can get around
If you don’t have a car and will be relying on public transport to get to job interviews, make sure that you’ve understood the various routes and timetables, and that you’ve allowed enough time to get where you need to be in rush hour. If you do have a car, learn the routes to your destination – also allowing for rush hour congestion. There’s no excuse for being late for a job interview.

13. Don’t fall prey to employment scams
Unfortunately, there are many con artists and fraudsters who target individuals that are desperate to find work. Any job opportunity that requires you to pay money upfront is a scam.

Good luck
Looking for work can be tough, but if you can use the experience wisely, find the right job and get your first foothold on the career ladder, then it will be time well spent. Don’t get despondent, and look for opportunities for personal growth while you search. Before you know it, you’ll be climbing to new professional heights and wishing you had more time on your hands.