All your years of burning the midnight oil won’t help you much if you don’t package yourself and your application in way that makes you stand out from all the others who had also burnt the midnight oil. Here, at PRESENTATION, we show you how to make sure interviewers take (positive) note of your CV and your interview, and advise you on how to make the best of your internship. We help you to carefully craft the perfect package to make your future employer draft that contract. It’s all about strategy, not just luck. After all, luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
South Africa's notoriously high drop-out rate among first year university students can be ascribed to a number of factors. One of these include a disconnect between lecturers and students and, if addressed, can make a difference not only to individual student success, but also to overall throughput statistics, an expert says.
"We hear a lot about this idea that modern students are different. That can be really daunting when standing in front of a group of students, as those differences are not clear and are wrapped up in further obscurity with references to 'digital natives', short attention spans and even 21st century skills - as if every lecturer should understand what that means and know how to adapt their teaching as a result," says Tshidi Mathibe, Head of Programme: Faculty of Commerce at The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest private higher education provider.
She says given this context, it is important to focus on the fact that today's students, just like young adults of all generations past, are caught in between worlds and ways of being, with the new overlay of technology and an uncertain world further complicating matters.
"Therefore, lecturers who want to support their students' learning need to make sure that they engage with the students where they are at and take it from there. To do that, there are a few things that improve chances of success," she says.
PIC: Tshidi Mathibe
KNOW YOUR STORY
"Whatever you say can be Googled students. It is therefore critical that you are a master of what you are teaching. It is also important that you are a role model in helping students understand that the lecture room is only where knowledge starts, because the real learning is being able to make sense of it all by drawing on many sources of information," says Mathibe.
"If you model confidence and curiosity, students will do the same and not find it quite as necessary to put you in your place with differences on detail."
IF YOU DON'T KNOW THE ANSWER, SAY SO
"If you do not know something, students are far more likely to learn from you modelling how to find out answers and will have greater trust in someone who does not simply pretend to know everything," Mathibe says.
"Young people have no need to see lecturers are omniscient. What they want is someone willing to engage with them to extend what you both know. You need to be the master of your discipline, but that is not the same as being its sole custodian."
Students will only engage with someone whose reactions they can predict and so, if you are consistent, engaging and human, and give them glimpses in to the things that motivate you, you provide them with the hooks and inroads for trusting you with their questions.
"If you are able to get students to connect with you as a competent and curious individual, the lecture room is easier to manage as people are far more likely to disrupt the classes of those they do not respect."
REMEMBER THAT THEY ARE HUMAN
Mathibe says that taking time to understand who the students are makes a world of difference to a lecturer's ability to select relevant examples and case studies.
"Understanding the range of learning styles they bring with them reminds you to offer a range of learning opportunities. This is not about pretending to identify with their music or even political preferences, but it is about consciously using accessible examples that enable them to anchor their learning," she says.
USE CASE STUDIES
Case studies are the most powerful of teaching tools as they provide stories around which theory can be organised and remembered.
"Your selection of case studies also speaks volumes about who you are and who you think they are. Case studies also offer you many opportunities to model problem solving, decision making and critical reasoning resulting in higher quality learning."
BRING IN THE EXPERTS
"Guest lecturers deepen understanding as they provide different perspectives and reinforce what you have been trying to teach," notes Mathibe.
"Guest lectures are also the perfect way to offer exposure to a multitude of voices on a topic that will enable more students to identify with someone who is an expert in the field you are trying to share, thereby also reducing boredom."
BRING IN THE TECH
"Use the technology to which students already have access and give them the responsibility to prepare for classes by finding examples, reading online or collaborating on a task. Teaching time can then be spent reflecting on the steps they have already taken, while the pressure is then on students to keep up rather than on you to drag them along."
"Ultimately what helps students learn and make a success of the challenges of their first year in higher education, is connection," says Mathibe.
"By connecting with students using these strategies one will be able to bridge both real and imagined divides between lecturers and students, and any good public university or private higher education institution must ensure that lecturers are fully trained and empowered to connect meaningfully in this way."
DID YOU KNOW?
The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE) is a division of the JSE-listed ADvTECH Group, Africa's largest private education provider. The IIE is the largest, most accredited registered private higher education institute in South Africa, and the only one accredited by The British Accreditation Council (BAC), the independent quality assurance authority that accredits private institutions in the UK. By law, private higher education institutions in South Africa may not call themselves Private Universities, although registered private institutions are subject to the same regulations, accreditation requirements and oversight as Public Universities.
The IIE has a history in education and training since 1909, and its brands - Rosebank College, Varsity College, The Business School at Varsity College and Vega - are widely recognised and respected for producing workplace-ready graduates, many of whom become industry-leaders in their chosen fields. The IIE offers a wide range of qualifications, from post-graduate degrees to short courses, on 20 registered higher education campuses across South Africa.
With the release of university results in coming weeks, many first years have to face up to the fact that their transition from school to higher education was less successful than planned, and that they need to re-evaluate their current path. While it might seem that there are no options but to throw in the towel, those who failed or under-performed in their first year actually have a number of ways to still realise their dream career, an education expert says.
"It is not a pleasant position to be in if you just finished your first year of study and you didn't pass as well as you had hoped to, or as well as your family and friends have expected you to. Now is the time though to be courageous and honest with yourself and others by re-assessing the situation, and making the changes required to get back on track," says Natasha Madhav, Senior Head of Programme: Faculty of ICT at The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest private higher education provider.
"It is very important for both students and parents to realise that not getting it right the first time doesn't make one a failure. Instead, the situation should be regarded as a temporary – if inconvenient and costly – hurdle, and a wake-up call for thoughtful reflection."
Madhav says the transition from school to higher education is a very challenging one on many fronts, but that those who didn't rise to the occasion on the first try have a number of steps they can take to start their new year with new direction and determination.
She advises students to:
1) MAKE SURE OF YOUR FACTS
It is important that you work out the facts of your situation – are you eligible for a supplementary assessment or a remark on any of the subjects? How will this impact on you graduating? What is the best way to re-organise your curriculum to still graduate as soon as possible? If you really need to change course can you take any credits with you? What are the cost implications of all of this information and how can you fund it?
"While these facts feel overwhelming to gather and organise, the reality is that you will make better decisions if you are more certain about the absolute reality of what you need to manage," says Madhav.
2) MEET WITH A STUDENT OR CAREER COUNSELLOR "The transition from school to college or university can cause many students to feel isolated and overwhelmed during their first year," she notes."For many students, failure in the first year is not necessarily a reflection of their academic ability, but rather an indication of an underlying issue. It is perfectly normal to need time to adjust to the social, emotional, and mental hurdles of university or college life. Even if you feel emotionally sound, talking with a counsellor about ways to achieve academic success can help keep you on track." Madhav says that student and career counsellors will take students through different options to ensure that they have chosen the right qualification and, if not, to identify fields better suited to the student's personality and career aspirations. It may, for instance, be a good idea to first pursue a Higher Certificate, before pursuing degree studies. It may also be that there is a more suited qualification within the chosen field."Knowing what your options are – and making sure you are on the right track before continuing – is an important part of ensuring future success," says Madhav.
3) SPEAK TO THE LECTURERS OF THE COURSES YOU FOUND MOST CHALLENGING"Identifying those subjects that were most challenging, and potentially had a decisive impact on your results, is in an important step," says Madhav.She says that seeking advice from lecturers can help students to overcome past challenges and identify new approaches to areas they found particularly discouraging."Asking your lecturers for additional resources that you can engage with over the holidays can also help better you prepare for success next year," she says.
4) SET UP A NEW STUDY PLAN"To ensure success in the new year, devise a plan to help you stay on track and succeed the second time around. Better note-taking in class and using your smartphone to record your lectures can make it easier to study for exams in future. "Social collaboration can also improve learning," says Madhav.
She suggests creating a blog or Facebook group where students can invite other students to share notes and engage, to keep motivated and learn from peers.
5) TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO YOU
Madhav says that any good public university or private institution is filled with resources to ensure student success, including online.
"Identify online lectures, video labs and tutorials that are relevant to the course you are studying. Also enquire about individual tutoring or assistance available on campus. One-on- one learning, whether in person or online, is a great way to go over tougher subject matter that might not get addressed during class time," she says.
6) IDENTIFY A MENTORMaking a connection with a mentor that you respect can help you feel less isolated, optimise your educational experience and provide you with ongoing guidance and support. "A good mentoring relationship is often characterised by mutual respect, trust, understanding, and empathy. A good mentor will also be able to share life experiences as well as technical expertise. In the end, they create an atmosphere in which the student's talent is nurtured and fostered. Seeking help from an expert will make your studies seem less scary and more attainable," says Madhav.
7) COMMIT TO YOUR MENTAL AND PHYSICAL WELLBEING"Don't allow what should be a temporary setback to impact on your health," says Madhav.
"While you may feel very down at this stage, commit to keeping fit and eating healthy foods. Not only will this positively influence your ability to handle this challenging time, but it will also ensure your brain is in tip-top shape when you resume your studies."
Greg Sithole graduated with an IIE Diploma in Information Technology Software Development from The IIE's Varsity College in Sandton (Class of 2015).
Today he is a Junior Software Developer at Empire State, and can boast of having developed apps for such major companies as Barclays.
The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE) is SA's largest and most accredited private higher education provider, and its graduates are highly sought after in the workplace.
Here, Greg tells about how his childhood dream became a reality with the assistance of The IIE and Varsity College, and about his brilliant vision for his future.
MY DAILY DUTIES:
My daily duties include developing mobile and web applications, improving existing systems and working with various clients as well as team members to build great projects. We also assist interns from The Digital Academy which where I started, and that led to me working for Empire State.
I CHOSE MY QUALIFICATION BECAUSE:
From a young age I was fascinated by computers and gadgets, and it has always been my dream to be in the IT Industry making software and creating amazing applications, which can and will be utilised by the people around me.
MY GREATEST CAREER SUCCESS TO DATE:
My greatest achievement was that during the time of my Internship (November 2015 – January 2016) at The Digital Academy, I was named as The Best Developer of the Quarter and since then I have created a variety of applications for companies like Barclays.
HOW THE IIE VARSITY COLLEGE CAREER CENTRE HELPED ME ACHIEVE MY GOALS:
The Career Centre Coordinator helped me to secure the position I am in now by giving the students studying my course an opportunity to go to The Digital Academy, and because of that, I was given the opportunity to be a part of the internship, which led me to Empire State.
WHAT STOOD OUT MOST FOR ME ABOUT VARSITY COLLEGE:
It is the amount of support I had from my lecturers because without them I would not have been as committed to becoming a really good software developer.
WHAT I WANT TO ACHIEVE IN FUTURE:
I plan to pursue further studies, i.e. BSc IT Computer Science. Career wise, I would like to grow as a Developer and become a Senior Developer, ultimately creating my own video game development & media company.
MY ADVICE FOR YOUR FIRST JOB:
I would advise students that the most important things after school are dedication and hard work, as this is only the beginning and the harder we work, the further we go.
Senior high school learners and students can make a huge, positive impact on their future career paths if they spend a few days of their holidays job-shadowing, an education expert says.
"Although job-shadowing is not yet as formally structured within companies in South Africa as they are abroad, young people should nevertheless commit to finding shadowing opportunities and then using those opportunities to their full potential," says Peter Kriel, General Manager of The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest private higher education provider.
Additionally, companies should consider introducing structured job-shadow opportunities over holidays, to enable as many young people as possible to experience the reality of the world of work, and to consider their career options, he says.
Kriel says that too often prospective students make decisions about their careers and the qualifications they want to pursue based on a limited insight and understanding of what a field entails, based on general perceptions and even media portrayals.
"That is a contributing factor to students quitting their studies within the first year, when they realise their ideas about a career were far removed from the reality," he says.
Other students push through, but become disillusioned soon after graduating and entering the workplace, when they realise they would never have chosen a specific career if they knew what it entailed.
"Job shadowing – not to be confused with an internship – is usually an opportunity that lasts for only a few days, when a student or learner gets to accompany someone in a specific role going about their daily work," says Kriel.
"Ideally, young people should do a few job shadowing stints, in different companies and in different fields, whereafter they will have a much better feel for what potential future gets them truly motivated and excited."
In addition to providing invaluable insight into potential careers, job shadowing also allows young people to start building their CVs and their experience. Especially during the early years after graduation, when all employers want "experience" but few candidates are yet able to display any, job shadowing shows commitment and drive. On top of that, job shadowers may indeed even be able to add some actual experience as well, in cases where they were given some tasks to fulfil.
"Job shadowing also allows young people to identify mentors and start building networks and contacts in their field, which could become extremely useful later, particularly where they make a favourable impression," says Kriel.
To make the most of the experience, he advises job-shadowers to:
The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE) is a division of the JSE-listed ADvTECH, Africa's largest private education group.
The IIE is the leading private higher education provider in South Africa, and the only one accredited by The British Accreditation Council (BAC), the independent quality assurance authority that accredits private institutions in the UK.
By law, private higher education institutions in South Africa may not call themselves Private Universities, although registered private institutions are subject to the same regulations, accreditation requirements and oversight as Public Universities.
The IIE has a history in education and training since 1909, and its brands - Rosebank College, Varsity College, Design School Southern Africa (DSSA) and Vega - are widely recognised and respected for producing workplace-ready graduates, many of whom become industry-leaders in their chosen fields. The IIE offers a wide range of qualifications, from post-graduate degrees to short courses, on 20 registered higher education campuses across South Africa.
*DID YOU KNOW?
IIE - The Independent Institute of Education is South Africa's largest private higher education provider. (Think #PrivateSchools, but in the university space).
By law, private higher education institutions may not call themselves Private Universities.
But all registered private institutions are subject to exactly the same regulations, accreditation requirements and oversight as Public Universities, which means that your IIE qualification completed at any of the institution's outstanding and respected brands, such as Varsity College, Vega School, Rosebank College, The Business School and Design School SA, is as valuable and is recognised locally and internationally.
With the academic year well underway, and the first tertiary exams looming for 2017's rookie students, many of them are having to face up to the fact that things are not going as they imagined when they entered varsity at the beginning of the year, and the possibility that they may become a drop-out statistic. But an education expert says it is never too late to turn away from impending disaster, and that there are ways in which young students can overcome challenges to get them back on track.
"Many of the challenges faced by first years can be ascribed to one or a combination of the seven hazards that most commonly confront students," says Peter Kriel, General Manager at The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest private higher education provider.
Statistics vary, but it is estimated that as many as 60% of students drop out during their first year. Of those that do make it through their first year, it is estimated that only half of them eventually graduate.
"Apart from failing, which have substantial implications for students and their families, many students don't just fail academically, but drop out completely," says Kriel.
"However the good news is that it is not too late for first years who feel that they are losing their grip to do something about it," he says.
Kriel says most students struggling at this stage may be doing so because of one of the seven stressors generally found in the first year:
1. DIFFICULTY ADJUSTING TO THE ACADEMIC CLIMATE
You have been selected at the institution of your choice, but right from the start you find it difficult to fit in. You feel that you are not keeping up at the same level of performance as your fellow students.
The reality is that many of your classmates are probably feeling the same, so it is always a good idea to talk to someone you trust about your experience and feelings.
Having said that, some people simply just find fitting into the traditional university environment a challenge – larger classes, less rigid structure and so forth. If you are 100% sure that you fall into this category, it is worth investigating your alternatives, for instance in private higher education where classes are generally smaller, or distance learning.
2. ACADEMIC UNPREPAREDNESS
Our schooling system doesn't always adequately prepare learners for higher education, and some students struggle rising to the challenge of higher academic demands. If you feel overwhelmed, speak to your institution's support centre. Any good institution will have measures and programmes in place for this kind of scenario.
3. WRONG CHOICE OF QUALIFICATION
Most of us have a dream – to be a lawyer, pharmacist, engineer, doctor or teacher (or whatever the case may be). But it is important to be realistic as well. If you barely passed maths at school and are now pursuing a degree where maths is a key factor for success, you may want to reconsider your options. It is better to make a change sooner rather than later, and often you will be able to carry over some credits from one study path to another.
4. WORKING WHILE STUDYING
Many students have to work part-time. On the one hand, this will benefit a student not just financially, but also later when experience can be indicated on their CV. On the other hand, the additional responsibility and time demands can negatively impact studies.
It is therefore important to plan your days very well if you are a working student. For instance, when you have gaps between classes, use this time as constructively as possible. Spend this free time in the library doing homework, pre-reading for an upcoming lecture or engaging with other students in your class on the topics covered in the lecture.
5. PERSONAL ISSUES
Sometimes unexpected life events can throw up a major obstacle, for instance death in the family or serious illness. When these occur, speak to your institution's support team as soon as possible and get the help you need, whether that is to put your studies on ice for a while, delaying assessments, or getting psychological care.
When personal problems are of a less serious nature, for instance being dumped by someone you thought were the love of your life, try to objectively assess the importance of this event in the greater scheme of things, and don't let it ruin your future.
6. LACK OF ACADEMIC SUPPORT, ADVICE AND GUIDANCE
Any good institution must be able to offer their students advice and support services. Unfortunately, many students are either not aware of these services, or don't make use of them when needed. Whatever your problem is, the chances are extremely good that the professionals who are there to help you have seen and supported many students before you who dealt with the same. So whether your issue is personal or academic, seek out the people who are there specifically to help people like you.
7. THE PARTY LIFE
Having fun and partying is an integral part of being a student, but too many first years go off the rails because of their almost unlimited new freedom. If things have gotten out of control, stop the train and stop it now. Get back to your books and your sanity by focusing on what your original goal was, and by visualising your future. And yes, your institution's support structures should be able to help you even with this problem.
You spent hours crafting your first CV, showcasing your school years, qualifications and experience, but employers don't even give it 9 seconds of attention before moving on to the next one. Although the job market is tough even for people who have years of experience, it is particularly challenging for young graduates applying for entry-level positions, and first-time CV writers must put in extra effort to develop a stand-out CV, an education expert says.
"Research by the UK's youth programme, National Citizen Service, found that applications for junior positions have skyrocketed, increasing pressure on employers who have to wade through hundreds of CVs. In South Africa, the competition for entry-level positions is even fiercer, and the need for your CV to facilitate a foot in the door can't be stressed enough," says Wonga Ntshinga, Senior Head of Programme: Faculty of ICT at The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest private higher education provider or "private university".*
"You are at a tremendous disadvantage if your CV is poorly written and does not sell you effectively, and it is almost certain that you won't be invited to an interview if that is the case," says Ntshinga.
He says the best route for graduates is to approach their public university or private higher education institution's career centre for assistance in writing their first CV, to ensure it ticks all the boxes before being dispatched to the HR manager's inbox. In addition to ensuring that one's qualifications and experience match the technical criteria of an advertised position, first-time jobseekers should:
CRAFT AN INDUSTRY-SPECIFIC CV
An application for a position in finance will look very different to an application for a position in advertising, Ntshinga says. "As always, Google is your friend. Do an image search for CV examples in your industry, and demonstrate that you are in touch with the culture and approach to business in your chosen sector."
SHOWCASE NOT ONLY COMPETENCE, BUT ALSO CHARACTER
Demonstrate that the employer can trust you and that you are a perfect fit for the position. Show, don't tell. Raise relevant examples from you student or school career to prove your value in addition to providing qualifications details.
KEEP IT SHORT AND TO THE POINT
Less is certainly not more. Give yourself 9 seconds to scan your CV. Do your main selling points jump out at you? Is it clear from a first glance that you are suitably qualified for the position? Gone are the days when CVs stretched over numerous pages with personal details filling the first two. In 2017, the very first page (and there should be no more than two), has to give an employer a solid, positive overview of who you are and what you have achieved.
FOCUS ON FACTS AND FIGURES
When demonstrating your experience, don't just speak in general terms. Use facts and figures to prove what you have done. For instance, if you gained work experience or interned during your student years (which ideally you should have done), don't just say "Worked for Company Y" or "Was involved in Project X". Instead, say: "Company Y: Production coordinator on R5 million project with responsibility for a, b and c".
Ntshinga says all CVs, regardless of whether they are from first-time jobseekers or experienced professionals, should demonstrate that the applicant understands the position and business of the prospective employer, which means generic CVs are out of the question.
"Each CV must be tailored to the position being applied for. While this does take time and effort, a generic CV will not take you anywhere. Looking for work should be treated as work in itself, so make the investment."
Ntshinga says that another way to highlight oneself as a candidate, is to demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning.
"Show that you are proficient in the latest software required in the position you are applying for. Don't just list your existing qualifications, but also indicate if you are enrolled in any short courses or programmes to expand your skills."
And finally, a short, well-crafted cover or introductory letter should round off the application.
"This is an opportunity to let the hiring manager get to know you – so make sure the letter is concise but contains personality, and make extra sure that there are no spelling and grammatical errors," he says.
The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE) is a division of the JSE-listed ADvTECH, Africa's largest private education group. The IIE is the leading private higher education provider in South Africa, and the only one accredited by The British Accreditation Council (BAC), the independent quality assurance authority that accredits private institutions in the UK.
Hundreds of thousands of newly graduated young people from the Class of 2016 are currently considering their next steps. While the obvious next step is throwing themselves into the business of searching for work, there are other options available which can make them bridge the gap between the world of study and the world of work, an expert says.
"For various reasons, it is not always – or even often - a straight line from lecture room to office for students who have graduated," says Dr Gillian Mooney, Teaching and Learning Manager at The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest private higher education provider.
"It is important that graduates and their parents realise this, particularly as there may be expectations that a degree or other qualification will automatically guarantee employment. Of course, that is not always the case in South Africa, given our high unemployment rate, sluggish economy and fierce competition in the job market," she says.
"Additionally, even graduates who performed well may find that prospective employers want someone with both qualifications and experience."
According to the 2016 South Africa Survey's second quarter results, one's chances of being absorbed into the workforce with matric stood at 49.8%, while tertiary education raised that number to 75.6%. That means that although one's chances were vastly improved with a tertiary qualification, there were still more than 24% of graduates who were not employed.
Mooney says the realisation that a degree does not instantly bring stability and financial success can be a bitter pill to swallow when young people come from communities or families where they may be the first to have studied. Additionally, enabling their study often came with great sacrifice.
For these and other graduates, it is important to know that building a career takes time, perseverance, and constant strategising, she says.
"So while this may be unwelcome cold water for those who thought they would get their degree, fill in some job applications and walk into the career of their dreams before the year is out, the good news is that the situation is not hopeless, and that there are many options in terms of next steps."
Mooney suggest that graduates consider the opportunities the following paths could offer:
Community service will allow you to make a difference in your community, it builds confidence, experience and real-life skills, and adds to your CV. Additionally, you are likely to encounter people and networks that could create new avenues of opportunity.
2. Working part-time or freelanceFreelancing is a way to obtain work experience outside of the formal "8 to 5"-job. Industries open to freelancing include writing, art, web development, branding and marketing and information technology. Or if you studied accountancy, for instance, start offering your services on a small scale in your community. Often these options can lead to more permanent employment.
3. Start your own businessThere are numerous support structures and government programmes available to those who have good ideas and the skills and confidence to implement them. Yes, a secure position and a regular paycheque may have been your first choice, but you may be surprised at what you can accomplish if you courageously cast the net wider.
4. Continue your studiesDoing an additional year of specialisation in your field, or investing in a few short courses to broaden your skills set will not only make your CV stand out from the crowd and broaden your career options, but will also help you remain visible and involved in your industry. Network and freelance while you continue your studies, and you may find yourself in a significantly more empowered position before long.
5. Investigate options abroad
If your financial means allow, consider teaching or volunteering internationally. There are countless opportunities which will help you gain valuable experience and allow you to see the world.
Finally, any higher education institution worth its salt should have graduate assistance available to help their students plot their next moves, says Mooney.
"If your institution has a Careers Centre, it is worth approaching them for guidance. They may know of graduate placement programmes, internships that are available or coming up, or other opportunities in your chosen field.
"Additionally, they will be able to help you polish your CV and hone your soft skills, which are highly sought after by employers," she says.
The Independent Institute of Education is South Africa's largest private higher
education provider. By law, private higher education institutions may not call
themselves Private Universities.
But all registered private institutions are
subject to exactly the same regulations, accreditation requirements and
oversight as Public Universities, which means that your qualification from The IIE's outstanding and respected brands is as valuable and is recognised locally and
The IIE is a division of the JSE-listed ADvTECH Group, Africa's largest private education group. The IIE is the only institution accredited by The British Accreditation Council (BAC), the independent quality assurance authority that accredits private institutions in the UK.
The IIE has a history in education and training since 1909, and its brands - Rosebank College, Varsity College, Design School Southern Africa (DSSA) and Vega - are widely recognised and respected for producing workplace-ready graduates, many of whom become industry-leaders in their chosen fields. It offers a wide range of qualifications, from post-graduate degrees to short courses, on 20 registered higher education campuses across South Africa.
As Matrics head to exam rooms to write one of the most important examinations they will ever write, some will find themselves in a terrifying situation where they hit that dreaded blank – an inability to recall information despite months of solid preparation and dedicated study.
"Writing an exam can be a very stressful experience for many learners, even when they were diligent in their revision," says Dr Gillian Mooney, Teaching and Learning Manager at The Independent Institute of Education, South Africa's leading private higher education institution.
"Teachers and parents should, as their final act of support before pen is put to paper, empower learners to know what to do should they be confronted with a mental void when they receive their papers," she says.
Mooney says that the clinical logistics of the exam environment can be unfamiliar and daunting.
"The environment is often a formal one, with rules about where to sit, what you can do, and what you can have with you. It is quite normal to experience exam nerves in an examination venue. However, sometimes students can become so overwhelmed that they cannot remember the material that they have spent many hours reviewing. This can lead them to feel even more panicked and stressed," she says.
To avoid runaway nerves, learners should do the following in the minutes before the clock starts:
"Firstly, when you receive the paper, carefully read through all the instructions and every page of the paper. Then re-read all the instructions. This will give you a sense of what is expected of you. Remind yourself that even if you do forget some details, it is unlikely that you will completely forget everything.
"Then, while reading through the paper, mark all the questions that you can answer. Start with these questions first. That will give you some confidence and allow your mind some time to process, as well as to start accumulating some marks for the paper."
If, despite approaching a paper in this manner, a learner still feels overwhelmed, Mooney advises them to take the following steps in order to gain their equilibrium and confidence:
1. DON'T PANIC
If you feel panicked, take long, slow and deep breaths. Doing this will calm you physically. Getting the physical panic under control is an important step in calming your mind.
2. CALM DOWNOnce you have calmed your body, it is time to calm your mind. Give yourself a mental pep-talk by repeating to yourself "I am calm. I have worked hard. I know my work". You can also give yourself this pep-talk while you are taking deep breaths.
3. GET BACK TO BUSINESSOnce you are feeling a bit calmer go back to the questions that you believed that you could not answer. Try to jot down anything and everything that you can remember about the material. You can always cross this out to indicate that it should not be marked.
4. VISUALISEIf you cannot remember any of the material, try to use some memory tricks to assist you. For example, try to visualise sitting in class when the material was covered, or try to picture yourself in your study area with your notes in front of you. Often thinking about the context of the material can help you to remember it.
5. RECONSTRUCT YOUR MEMORIESIf you are able to jot down notes about the material, review these notes and see how the information that you have remembered relates to the question. Try to reformulate your notes into a response to the question that was given to you.
6. REMEMBER THE BIG PICTURE
Keep in mind that what you are usually marked on is your ability to answer the question. In the worst case scenario, where you cannot remember a single piece of information from your course material, simply try to answer the question from a common sense perspective. You may find that you do actually know quite a bit about the question and may be awarded some marks for your general knowledge. Doing this may also prompt you to remember the course material.
"Staying calm is your most important weapon in the exam room," says Mooney, "as is keeping a sense of perspective at all times, and endeavouring only to do your best in whichever situation you find yourself.
"You need to remember that you generally have more than one opportunity to perform in a subject. For example, you may write more than one paper for any one subject, and your year marks also count towards your final mark. If, in the worst case scenario, you do fail the exam papers, and your year marks, you still have the opportunity to apply to re-write the subject".
Nandile Mlambo, an IIE BA Honours in Brand Leadership graduate (2013) from The Independent Institute of Education's Vega School, has made a name for herself in trying to make a dent in South Africa’s incredibly high youth unemployment rate.
She has used her training at Vega School to develop a simple checklist that guides school-leavers in preparing themselves for job interviews. This has proven to be a much-needed tool which resonates with young people and has created a tremendous amount of interest. Through her checklist, she emphasises the need for the youth to brand themselves in order to stand out from the crowd.
The motivation for the checklist and other work she does helping the unemployed, stems from her realisation that school does not adequately prepare matriculants for the workplace. Each year, hundreds of thousands enter the job market seeking the few corporate or artisan apprenticeships available. Lacking anything to help themselves stand out, they fail into just another ‘me too’ application.
The 25 year-old Mlambo is no stranger to success as she previously won runner up as the Young Entrepreneur at the prestigious Basic Business Initiative (BBI UK).
“This recognition was for my honours thesis at Vega, which I wrote on ‘The importance of personal branding within the graduate sector’. The main objective was to find the causality between the nearly 600,000 unemployed South African graduates and the 800,000 jobs that were available within the South African private sector at the time,” says Mlambo.
This research pointed to a lack of personal branding among recent graduates in search of jobs and it was for that reason she created the checklist which has been approved by recruiters. The checklist serves as a guide to inform graduates on interview etiquette and personal branding tips within the context of gaining employment.
“I created the checklist to serve as a preparation guide for the unemployed youth to use when preparing for upcoming interviews. It also aids in sharing in-depth insights about the type of interview etiquette expected by potential employers that young people may not be aware of or even realise that they are lacking.
“I have had various young people thank me for giving them guidance and pointers on how to prepare and present themselves for interviews. Many youth have also reached out to me to come and inform their peers at high schools and universities on personal branding,” says Mlambo.
She notes that South Africa’s job market is different to those of other developing countries. She credits this to a mismatch of skills which has resulted in huge skills gaps and an all-time high unemployment rate of 26.6%. In contrast, China’s unemployment rate is at 4.05%.
“India has created a workforce with strong specialist skills in the IT industry. They have carved out a niche, and as a result they have a high labour demand for IT skills from more than 3,100 technology start-ups. India is also one of the world’s major exporters of IT services. India’s unemployment rate as a result is 5%,” continues Mlambo.
The widespread expectation of a corporate job in South Africa through policies such as employment equity, has contributed in job seekers being less innovative.
“In other developing countries such as India and China innovation has largely assisted in maintaining lower unemployment rates,” says Mlambo.
As another result of deficiencies in the South Africa educational environment, few of the unemployed youth who Mlambo encounters are pursuing entrepreneurship.
“I think it is important to inculcate a culture of entrepreneurship at high school level as innovation is one of the ways we can combat having a high youth unemployment rate.”
Mlambo opted to do a BA (Hons) in Brand Leadership as she had always had an interest to ‘marry’ her skills in television production with the art of brand building and to become an innovative entrepreneur in the media industry. She currently has an exciting project under way: acting on a new Mzansi Magic telenovela.
She attributes her success to her studies at The IIE’s Vega School.
“I decided to pursue my post graduate studies at Vega because I felt the institute offers a very unique approach on how to apply creative thinking. I felt that the degree would provide me with the in-depth insights on how to become a successful, creative and innovative entrepreneur.
“Vega has played a big role in making me so passionate and confident about building sustainable brands in every industry I have worked in thus far. It also taught me how to refine my approach on creating and building strong media strategies for clients. Studying at Vega was inspiring, challenging, exciting and the Vega Brand Challenge in particular pushed me to my limits. This experience has shaped my view on what can be done differently when it comes to building brand equity in business. It has also influenced how I have chosen to build my own personal brand,” says Mlambo.
Nicky Stanley, National Marketing Manager for Vega School, says: “Mlambo certainly has the experience, training and vigour and we could not be prouder of her achievements. She truly embodies the Vega philosophy of moulding creative and innovative brand thinkers who use the medium of brand building in an impactful way and in this case, to drive social change.” concludes.
So what is next for the ambitious Mlambo? She beams with excitement and declares that she would like to expand her scope of career guidance services into rural as well as township schools as the majority of the schools in these areas are not privy to such opportunities.
For more information about studying at Vega, visit www.vegaschool.com