Manoeuvring the limited formal job space in Zimbabwe

I am yet to fully grasp the actual statistics as to the unemployment numbers within the reality of the Zimbabwe formal job space.

By Andrew Kahari IN my more than two decades in the recruitment business, which has also simultaneously travelled in the same space with the now seemingly unending woes of the formal job space in Zimbabwe and globally for the new graduates and sadly also for the laid off workers who are being recycled back into the big broken tumble dry because of the effects of Covid -19.

I am yet to fully grasp the actual statistics as to the unemployment numbers within the reality of the Zimbabwe formal job space.  My being left in the doldrums has been how the man in the street defines unemployment vis a vis Zimstat definition. Lightly speaking, the man on the street considers unemployment as the number of people not being absorbed in formal employment, whereas Zimstat, defines it otherwise from their very understanding which has indeed left Zimbabwe with a highly encouraging unemployment rate after a very strictest definition of unemployment rate of 5.2% as at 2021, (according to Zimstat 2022/07 — includes “subsistence farmers, who consume all their own output” as employed) yet ironically with such level of employment  at least 41% ( according to the World Bank)  of the population fall under the poverty datum line which in 2021 December stood at $8 000.57 and as at July 2022 stood at $23 479.44 .

The statistics game is further again distorted by Unicef’s press release (Harare 23 July 2021), which stated half the population of Zimbabwe faced extreme poverty, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and poor harvests. Thus, a fair share of the substance farmers also categorically fell under the unemployed category during the period to now, as they are also still relying on the same crop or harvest affected, hence are left with no employment as there is no reward for their labour.

Taking all these numbers and correlating them to the number of youths we see in the neighbourhoods, having graduated or not, it becomes an open cracked egg, that the yolk is yellow, even if we pretend it not to be so. Why this is of concern to me firstly as a father and as an accomplished senior associate recruitment advisor, is that every day I am seeing the scale being raised as each day progresses for those who are not in formal employment to be always raised way high up on the see saw of the job sector. It is only a matter of time, if it has not already happened to many a youth and old supposedly to contribute labour force to Humpty Dumpty their hopes and forever dwindle into oblivion swallowed by vices increasingly surrounding those who have lost hope.

It would also be unjust for us to conclude, we are all meant to be entrepreneurs, subsistence farmers etc. The very limited formal opportunities available have been left in a very competitive dog eat dog employment space. It has been survival of the big biters. Those with minimum experience, job knowledge, exposure, education etc. have further and further been placed beyond the top dog food chain, waiting for cramps, which even now the so called graduates are competing for. However, as biblical as it was, there is no rich man willing to let the crumbs fall below the tables. Every crumb, dust and droplet counts. As such, there seemingly is no hope for the new graduates, with the Zimbabwean education system channelling out thousands of Ordinary and A’Level students annually, before we even consider those being spit from the tertiary institutions annually.

The danger or the tragedy is hard hitting to the one who does not secure an opportunity during the first year of graduating. As I have observed over the years, after a period of say two years after graduation, the tertiary graduates become desperate to secure employment, leading to a number of them vying for junior unskilled opportunities which the high school graduates were hoping to secure, yet where with their own Advanced level counterparts were already in a tug of war for, and now the tertiary guys also are in the battle to secure the limited opportunities. It now becomes the learned and the unlearned fighting for a single space.

It also becomes more tragic, as years goes by without securing employment, armed with a tertiary skill which has no practical relevance, as such the more the years pass, the more your education’s relevance start to phase off from the employers radar. Who will employ an individual with five years of idleness after graduation? This becomes a bitter bullet to explode in one’s mouth as the truth is one is left a difficult situation.

This is the reason I have decided to share with you, if you are in a similar space, the skills or technics I have shared and seen working on candidates over the two decades in the Recruitment business.

A lot of job seekers commit the cardinal sin, of rushing to prepare a Resume and send it through to potential employers, without considering the fundamental processes of securing a job, after education.

Preparation is one of the most under-rated step in job search, which many job-seekers fail to consider at all. Out of 30 graduates I spoke to 100% of them did not even consider its necessity.

Preparation is the art of understanding your current status of being zero experienced for the intended formal sector. Understanding this should provide you with the immediate need to prioritise the preparation process. A lot of graduates fall into the trap of how they have seen or heard from their family or friends, who also upon finishing college or school, were dimmed to think they were the only ones reading a job spec in the media, and have thus rushed to draft a dubious Resume’ and send it through. This in essence has been a mere waste of time on their part as well as the recruiters time, who in this instance is unfortunate to have his work load unnecessarily burdened, and from experience there is nothing as irritating to a recruiter as to find what  I term job fishers. They cast their web of broken nets and crooked hooks on every job they see, without the knowledge of the etiquette of the job market.

I have heard others who have argued that they were prepared, because during the school years they attended industrial attachments or they participated on a on the job school program for 7-14 days. Well and good there is nothing wrong with that; but everyone also who studied your program also have done that. So how unique are you from them? Employers are looking for someone with a unique quality from the rest. They are looking for new fresh blood, with new ideas and new visions. How good can you therefore be, if you are like everyone who was in your class of 2021? Come to think of it, how valuable will be your attachment, if you fail to secure employment within the first year or two of your attachment or on the job school program?

It therefore becomes clear the job space only has space for those who have gone the extra mile to be different from the rest of the pack. It is crucial that more effort is put in to this exercise, perhaps more effort than those nights endured practising industrial cram pass and forget as we called it during my college days in the 90’s (ICPF- read to pass, without recalling anything a day after the exam) This technique unfortunately does not work at this point in your career search.

It has always been my advice to graduates and job seekers to find organisations, associations, clubs etc. where they can volunteer their services, if feasible on a daily basis, if not 3 or 4 times per week.  This allows them to have an ongoing job experience. Remember there is nowhere it says a job should be a paid for job, though it’s what most of us impliedly or subconsciously think. Imagine a person who has studied accounting, crying foul that he or she lacks experience, when he or she is surrounded by endless small businesses, who are struggling to come up with trading balance sheets, Profit accounts, etc. and he is also a member of a church which is running into 5 digit collections on a weekly basis, which all needs to be accounted for in books. You also find a graduate teacher for example, losing opportunities, because they have no experience, when in their neighbourhood they are a number of schools he or she can volunteer time, and hold extra or support classes for kids who are educationally challenged.

Many instances exist, where one does not need resources to act, yet one fails to include current job experience on the resume’ because one is not proactive in preparation. Everything needs planning, just as I always advice journalist graduates, to never wait for job opportunities, but to throw themselves into the fray, and start looking for stories, writing articles, knocking doors offering solutions and opportunities to media houses and not looking for opportunities from them. Gone are the days, when companies would focus on non- direct revenue employees.  Out of 10 clients I currently deal with, they all operate under performance based salaries or earn as you produce strategies.

More and more who employ Sales people have already based their salaries on low basic total cost to company supported by a high returns commission structure.  Others are opting to scrap the basic at all, and offer very high lucrative commission structures which are enticing to the high production result oriented and target achieving sales guys. Basic salary married to a Retainer is also on the fore front; meaning, should you not be bringing in sales, a certain amount is paid for in advance as part of your salary, which will be deducted from your commissions, when you do make the sales.

This actually saves the company from paying for non -productive months.  With all these measures in place, companies are just not going to rush to employ a person with no sales history. Hence the importance of the future generation to bulldoze themselves into this new niche of employment opportunities through taking up 100% based commission opportunities. This gives them the opportunity to have their name associated with a reputable company, as the company, will be feeling they are not running any risk of financial loses. What I have learnt is, should you be a good sales person, bringing in sales regularly and meeting targets, I assure you, there is no company dull enough not to identify a good sales person bringing in the dollars. Eventually you will be identified from your own initiative. This is what I refer to as opening your own doors, when the rest are waiting for Father Christmas, with free gifts.

Planning involves strategy and sweating and sometimes working for what the professionally challenged perceive as nothing, to achieve your dream. Unfortunately this is a quality our nation is not yet accustomed too, as we do not believe in “Kushandiswa” as we call it yet ironically all work is “Kushadiswa”, for in all honest who can acknowledge a perfect parity between performance and reward?

My point being; Preparation involves self -introspection, submission and or humbleness to take on challenges without expecting a reward to prepare your future path, as there is no one who is willing to give it to you.  As such we must desist from being a fisher, by just rushing into the next river we see, before we have given it time to consider, what we can really offer and whether we are willing to do it, with self -motivation, as money is a limited motivator, as Maslow explained in his hierarchy of needs

The Point Man

Now that you have humbled yourself and have got two critical tools (education failed/ passed and company name on your back) you are ready to prepare a rewarding job search Resume’.

Sadly this is an art many a job seeker has not mastered to give due consideration.

A lot of job seekers seem not to understand a resume’ is a representation of self. It speaks on your behalf in your absence. It is actually the Point Man of you cavalry. How your resume’ is designed in 90% of the time reflects on the type of an individual who owns it. Over the years and with the experience I have gained in the recruitment business, I have been able to profile an individual just by looking at the Resume’; that is how it is designed, language used, presentation etc.

A simple instance is how you can easily tell an untidy, disorganised, and not responsible person, from the resume, they send through via email or mail, but which will appear as if it was being faxed or photocopied in a dilapidated ink dripping and faint tonner. They do not even care how it appears, and what it will reveal upon them.  Others you can tell, they are fast but are not thorough, and those you can significantly tell, by the omitted information on their resume’. A lot of them do not include contact details, yet on qualities they will say very attentive to detail, leaving the recruiter to wonder how attentive they are, if they do not wish to be reached.

Others will give you all the details and not give you the company details, or positions or duties they held, leaving the recruiter to guess I supposed.

If your point man is suspect, in this case weak, then the battle is lost before it even starts. Every recruiter has got points that they are looking for in a resume’, with every Resume’ received they quickly peek through it to pick out the pointers, before giving it due attention. The reason being that there is hundreds of Resume’s awaiting short listing, so there is no time to waste on fishers.

  • Kahari is a senior associate recruitment advisor within a company which handles international recruitment assignments in South Africa. You can contact him on [email protected]

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