Entering the job market after your training contract
It is that time of the year when final-year trainees are preparing for their future jobs. The last few months of your training contract is a stressful period mainly because you are entering uncharted territory – life after a training contract.
Friends and family want to know what your plans are for next year, colleagues want to know if you have started going for interviews, and recruiters give you questionnaires longer than a CTA question paper to get your pedigree. This is a constant reminder of the change that is about to happen.
It is important to face the facts – you are entering the job market as a newly qualified AGA(SA)/CA(SA) with no post-articles experience. And the reality is that it is not that simple to find a work opportunity with no post-article experience and that the AGA(SA)/CA(SA) qualification will not guarantee you job security.
Even before COVID-19, securing a job was not easy. I applied for various positions in different markets including audit supervisor, audit manager, head accountant, financial controller, financial manager, cost accountant and forensic accountant. I started applying for positions six months before the end of my contract; in these six months I was invited to three interviews and got only one position.
I spent my evenings applying for on average 20 applications per evening via websites such as Careers24, Indeed, Pnet and Placement Point. I also used company-specific websites and LinkedIn, and emailed recruiters to apply for positions.
So, it is normal to be stressed. And to start applying for job positions six months before your contract ends is NOT too soon. Begin the process of transitioning into a new life sooner rather than later − complete the recruiters’ forms and update your profile on career websites. Take the calls from potential employers and answer their questions honestly.
Why is it important to start too soon rather than too late with your job applications? Because you need to give yourself time to work on Plan B. Consider which of your hobbies you can turn into a business opportunity, or maybe you have the resources to start a small firm to source clients. Maybe you can start a new venture with a colleague, or you can arrange to work for a friend/relative for the time being until you find another opportunity.
If you have just completed your training contract and a position requires “two to three years post-article experience”, take a chance and apply! You will never know if you do not try.
When you are applying for positions, do not sell yourself short. Often a recruiter or potential employer will ask during the interview about the salary you expect. Do market research and take note of what the salary expectation is based on the requirements of the position and experience, as well as the academic history of the candidate.
Mentioning a salary that is not market-related will not increase your chances of getting the position − you will only be putting yourself at a disadvantage. Your answer should be a benchmark (remember, chances are they will go for the lowest bracket) or specific to the position you applied for. “Market-related” is a good answer, but then you leave it open to interpretation.
Enjoy the last few months of your training contract. This is the last time you will be in a familiar environment for a while, but be excited about what the future may hold. Be proactive in searching for new adventures and do not be afraid to create your own new endeavours. Be assured of your self-worth and do not settle for second best − and most of all, do not be afraid to take chances!
AUTHOR │ Chantal Potgieter AGSA, Registered Tax Practitioner, BComp Acc Science, is Audit Manager at Diastoleus Professio Incorporated