Despte the pomp and ceremony of a graduation, graduates across the country are faced with rising unemployment. 

grad fine print

THREE CHEERS FOR THE NEW GRADUATES: Wits Education graduate celebrates victory with each other outside the Great Hall last week. Photo: Wits Vuvuzela.


Congratulations you made it. You’ve got the edge. You’re a Wits graduate.

Soon after the glamorous preparations, soon after your glorious victory lap across the Great Hall stage, and soon after the beautiful euphoria of your family celebrating your wonderful achievement, reality sets in.

In just 24 hours you go from being the celebrated minority of young graduates, to officially joining the multitudes of unemployed youth.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Here are some facts that should help you come to terms with your new situation. These facts might even help get you employed or even change your life.

First of all everything that the speaker at your graduation ceremony said is true. You’ve done well and everyone is very proud of you. But this is also true of all the other new graduates from institutions across South Africa. So you’re not as special as you might like to think.

SA has a 36.1%  unemployment rate according to StatsSA. Some of those people also have degrees. In the professional working scene having a degree of sorts is a minimum requirement.

As they say in therapy, the first step to solving a problem is acceptance. So accept that the chances of you landing the first job you apply for, with your own office that has a view of the city and comes with a nice R20 000 plus salary is rather slim.  

“We can’t all be DJ Sbu, Forbes only has 100 places on their list.”
The alternatives – graduate programs or apprenticeships

A more realistic goal is getting into a graduate program. Private companies, small-to-medium enterprises (SMMEs) and various government departments offer these annually.  These programs are designed to give you a more practical idea of what your job entails and give you some experience.

An alternative could be an apprenticeship, which is more of a one-on-one relationship with a mentor who grooms you to one day fill their shoes. In any of these positions you will do the worst jobs, you’ll work the longest hours and you will earn the least amount of money.  This is called “paying your dues”.

As a young graduate you need to realize that in the industry nobody knows what you’re about or what you’re capable of and you haven’t yet formed any relationship that could count in your favour. Basically you’re not worth much … yet.

What if you hate your first job?

Secondly, once you do get a job, there is the possibility that you might hate it. Maybe not what you do but rather the idea that you must wake up everyday at a certain time and do what you are doing to earn enough to get the basics and maybe a Big Mac nyana. You might hate your boss or the company you work for. Truth is at some point most people don’t like their jobs. This is what being a grown up is about, you do what you must to do to get what you want.

Finally, even after slaving away for three to five years at Wits and working for another two to three years you may just realize that the system is not for you. This is not the life you were made for. But before you run off to be the next big thing remember this. Whether you like it or not the system has been around forever, it works and there is a reason it works. We can’t all be DJ Sbu, Forbes only has 100 places on their list.

But if you really do have a ground-breaking new idea or a burning passion don’t let me stop you. Go be great, flourish after all not so long ago you were the privileged, educated cream of the crop.