Fresh graduates: How to survive in the job market

Last week, University of Rwanda held its 4th graduation ceremony which saw a total of 8,366 students conferred with degrees in different programmes. However, despite having a degree, it’s not a guarantee that every graduate will land a job. For this reason, experts advise that graduates should learn how to make themselves more useful and employable. Again, they as well say, for those who are lucky enough to land a job right away, they should use that opportunity to grow professionally and get experience.

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Youth making a garden for needy people in Nyaruguru District. Engaging in voluntary community work gives graduates a chance to get some experience and network with potential employers..  / Lydia Atieno.

What to expect in the market

With the current digital revolution, Dr Alphonse Uworwabayeho, a lecturer of mathematics at University of Rwanda’s College of Education, believes that despite having a degree in a certain area, one should be in a position to adapt to new skills that are on high demand on the job market.

“Most employers are looking for an employee who is creative, can think critically as well as those with entrepreneurship skills. With such skills, companies will be able to survive amidst the challenging market dynamics,” he says.

Uworwabayeho adds that employers expect their companies or organisations to offer a range of solutions to their clients and assist in innovations, and that when someone has those skills, they are likely to be picked on.

He, however, points out that not all those skills are taught in school, so it’s up to a graduate to show interest and take the initiative in learning them. This, according to Uworwabayeho, can be learnt through volunteering to work with different organisations just to find out how things are done and to get familiarised with the working environment.

According to Edigold Monday, the managing director, Crane Bank Rwanda, for graduates who might land jobs, they should not have unrealistic expectations regarding their new work.

“Most fresh graduates have unrealistic expectations, and when these do not pass as they expected, they tend to give up or it affects their performance. Instead, they should be persistent and learn how to work with the little they are offered for the start,” she says.

Monday adds that since most employers need people with some experience, gradutes should use any opportunity available to work in different places despite the challenges so that they garner the skills required to get a better job in future.

For any country to achieve reasonable development, Isaac Munyakazi, the State Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, believes that it all depends on how skilled fresh graduates are.

“They should be optimistic about coming up with new innovations that will see them self-employed. They should think outside the box and be in a position to do as much research as possible to help them undertake work with ease,” he says.

On the other hand, Jackyline Irabagiza, a mentor and a counselor, says those who get jobs immediately should give themselves time before making the decision to move out of their parents’ home.

“After university, most youth tend to shift from their parents’ home in the name of seeking independence, as well as pressure from their peers.This should not happen immediately. Before making that decision, first find out if you have what it takes to move out.

“Getting a job doesn’t guarantee financial stability. In case one lands a job, it’s better to opt to stay with a friend so that you share the rental fees until you are stable and ready to live alone,” he says.

Tips to create job opportunities

According to Dr Michael Tusiime Rwibasira, the head of examination and accreditation at Rwanda Education Board (REB), with the skills they have acquired, graduates can apply for different job opportunities. However, he says it’s not easy for one to get a job any time soon; therefore, the best way to go is do voluntary professional internship.

“Most employers want people with experience; through such internships, one is able to get the experience that could see them land a job in future,” he says.

He further notes that although this kind of work pays less or at times doesn’t pay at all, it’s one way to get exposed to how the labour market operates and what is takes to fit in.

Rwibasira also says that graduates should from groups, most specifically those with similar qualifications, to help them to advance their knowledge through group investments.

“It’s also not good to become selective by only wanting jobs that relate to what you studied as this denies one the opportunity to grow. Flexibility is what is needed to cope in this fast-moving world.

“Those who may take long to get a job should keep in mind that opportunities don’t come over night, and instead exercise patience to see what the future holds by not opting to keep trying,” he adds.

Engaging in community work and voluntary work, Monday says creates an opportunity for fresh graduates to network; hence better chances to get employed.

“This is because when one is volunteering to work, the company they work with it likely to consider them first in case of any opening,” she says.

Monday adds that they should also join youth clubs under the action wing of Rotary International that work together to bring about peace and grow leadership skills.

She points out that such clubs do different activities ranging from projects such as helping the needy by building houses for them to engaging in community sensitisation drives. This, she says other than just interacting with people across the globe; it’s a good opportunity to gain experience and even get exposed to the real world.

Paul Munyaneza, a Kigali-based financial expert, is of the view that depending on what one has studied and their financial status, creating your own job is just one way of putting your skills to good use.

He advises new graduates to use opportunities available such as those under Business Development Fund (BDF), which is ready to finance graduates’ start-ups.

“The problem comes in when one wants to start big, yet they may not have the requirements for such funding. Start small to avoid missing out on opportunities,” says Munyaneza.

Short courses for added value

Munyakazi points out that the graduates should not be content with what they have only acquired from school; rather, they should look out for short courses that will add value to their skills.

“Having the skills beyond the course you studied doesn’t mean you do not have what it takes to fit in the labour market. Be willing to learn from others, and be open-minded to grab any opportunity that comes your way,” he says.

Nestor Niyitegeka, a computer and ICT teacher at Nyange 1 Secondary School in Musanze District, says short courses help in updating one’s skills and building upon the qualifications gained in school.

“Short courses are a great way to fill the gaps in one’s knowledge and give them a competitive edge when it comes to promotion at the workplace,” he says.

Niyitegeka adds that this is important because as technology evolves, many practices are bound to change, making it critical for people to refresh their skills and stay on top of the game.