200 000 graduates are unemployed according to StatsSA: bosses say they lack assertiveness

Top training company finds high demand from bosses and employees for confidence and assertiveness training

Two hundred thousand South African graduates lack work in one of the most skills-poor nations in the world, and a primary reason bosses give is a lack of assertiveness and confidence.

Shyness is not always an impediment, it can be an imperative for growth. Liza van Wyk, CEO of major training organisation Biz Tech has always battled shyness but for many of South Africa’s young graduates a lack of assertiveness is costing them work.

“It’s something I’ve taken deliberate measures to deal with,” van Wyk says, “but it is a major problem for many people young and old, and if they don’t learn how to manage it, it can delay progress. We’ve found intense demand for our course Mastering Confidence, Influence and Assertiveness Training Skills.”

In 2004 Stats-SA reported that there were 60 000 graduates without work in South Africa. Last year that figure had jumped to 200 000 graduates who could not find a job. CEO of Tsogo Sun, Jabu Mabuza recently told young accounting graduates that a human resources director told him “that HR people are spoilt for choice when they seek to appoint someone. There are so many people looking for work. He said that having a degree doesn’t mean you can do the job; all that it says is that a person can complete an assignment. He said that there is more to work than donning a gown and saying I graduated.”

Tshidi Mokgabudi who is a director of KPMG and was this country’s first black woman CA, last year obtained a list from the President’s Office of unemployed graduates. She interviewed dozens of hopefuls with degrees in advanced tax, accounting and finance, but most failed the interview. In a report to deputy president, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka she noted: “It is not enough to just have a degree, people have to have life skills to get jobs. There were many that, despite having a degree, were not work-ready and lacked the soft skills of interpersonal communication, comprehension, listening ability, assertiveness or self esteem. Almost uniformly the graduates spoke of sacrifices often made by single mothers to send them to university.”

Mabuza warned students too that, “your belief that you will be discriminated against because you are black/female/Jewish/Muslim/disabled/a white male, can lead to your own fears realising themselves, not because of the discrimination of others, but because of your own negative self programming. Know yourself, know the things that you do to hold yourself back and work on changing them. I have learnt that profits are derived from relationships, and not from transactions.”

Van Wyk points out that some of the most successful people in the world are shy – “Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and many of the world’s most famous comedians and actors, Johnny Depp, once said that, ‘As a teenager I was so insecure. I was the type of guy that never fitted in because he never dared to choose. I was convinced I had absolutely no talent at all. For nothing. And that thought took away all my ambition too.’ He did what we all have to do if we want to succeed, he swallowed his fears, projected self confidence and became better than the best at his chosen career.”

She said that the type of people who came onto their training course were often staff whose bosses wanted them to move onto greater things because of their talents, but a lack of assertiveness and confidence was holding them back. “Some people become confused about assertiveness, as an example, they think it is about being loud and dogmatic. In fact, assertiveness is about taking responsibility and respectfully asserting your rights. The dictionary meaning of assertiveness refers to affirmation and a positive statement.

“For example, it is aggressive to say, ‘you always interrupt me’ – an assertive statement, isn’t blaming, the individual takes ownership and will say something like, ‘I would like to say what I need to without interruption.’ As another example, an aggressive boss will say, ‘this is sloppy work’, whereas an assertive individual will respectively make the firmer point, ‘the punctuation in your document does not work.’ He or she makes a statement the individual being addressed can learn from and go away not feeling humiliated or angry.

“We help people to set goals, give them problem solving skills and do group work in confidence building and assertiveness training. The results are often dramatic.

The mind is an incredibly powerful mechanism and we teach people how to use affirmations, role acting, visualisation and to reprogram their thinking so that they can project greater confidence even if their tummy is filled with butterflies. There are also obvious image considerations they have to use too, better dressing, walking tall, speaking clearly make them feel good and also ensure they are taken more seriously,” van Wyk said.

She noted that a few months ago Minister of Finance, Trevor Manuel observed: “We need to recognise the importance of pushing our limits, of identifying and testing new relationships, of finding causal linkages between economic outcomes and inputs of less clear, social and political origin. We need to work harder on drawing out the links between institutions, their effectiveness, what goes into creating them and the ways in which they affect long-term economic outcomes.”


Biz Tech Fast Facts:
Biz Tech is an equal opportunity company.
Biz Tech courses include: Mastermind the Perfect Corporate Function; Finance and Budgets for PAs; Business Communication; Professional Office Manager; Project Management for PAs and Administrators, etcetera…

LIZA VAN WYK, CEO BIZTECH 011 997 9800 or liza@biztech.co.za

Issued by MediaOnLine mediaonline@global.co.za