Work Experience is Required: Students’ Stories of Employment

According to official statistics, 96% of young people in Kazakhstan are employed. However, these statistics do not say that each of them have fair wage and a promising job. Unfortunately, more often it is just the opposite. Meruert Zholdybai, a contributor to Manshuq, shared her personal experience of searching for a job and interviewed students from different cities. She also sought advice from an expert on what to do when you have no work experience.
By Meruert Zholdybai

January 24th, 2022

I am 20, and by that age I have gained a diverse work experience: from a promoter – a classical teenager’s side work – to a freelancer and a blogger’s assistant. However, none of my four jobs were official, which means that I worked at my own risk of being let down. I believe that this is why a lot of students have to work as cashiers, couriers or consultants: not in their profession, but officially employed. After all, not everyone live with their parents until they graduate from a university, and they need to provide for themselves somehow.

Job searching has always been stressful for me due to constant rejections. I scrolled through HeadHunter more often than my Instagram feed in an attempt to find a job which did not require at least three years of work experience. On the face of it, I am vigorous and enthusiastic, but nobody hires me. 

Where should I gain experience if everyone ignores me as a candidate because of lack of work experience? This is a vicious circle
The most memorable and traumatic work-related experience was my dismissal on the first day of work. I was starting off as a designer and my superior knew that I had no background experience in this sphere. And they decided to dismiss me after my first small mistake. It appeared that I either should have had work experience, or should have worked on par with experienced colleagues from the very first day. I have a lot of questions about this situation and no replies.

Another similarly interesting situation happened when I was hired as an assistant and was asked to perform duties of an SMM specialist: to create a content editorial calendar and designs of posts and to be available 24/7. Actually, these duties must be performed by several people. The situations when employers take advantage of students’ weakness and blatantly exploit them are not rare.

On the one hand, young people might benefit from such situations and have an opportunity to try themselves in various roles. On the other hand, if you are required to perform as an expert without a mentor’s support, you might feel that you are bad at all these jobs. You become a kind of a one man band, knowing everything but superficially.

Ulpan Zharylkhasyn

I live in Shymkent, but study in Almaty. During the quarantine we started studying online. So, I have been living in my home town for a year and am searching for a job here. I have applied for various positions relating to my education, but employers find every reason to reject my application. The main reason for rejection is that I would leave any time when online study is cancelled. I believe this is ridiculous because not only young people may apply for a job without guaranteeing long-term work. It may happen to every employer that an employee resigns at an inappropriate moment.

work experience, students, employment, professions, youth
After I resigned myself to the fact that ambitious young people were not welcome in my town, I sent an application for a position of an SMM manager at a shop selling men’s shoes. Imagine my surprise when I found out that my duties would also include keeping the cash register! By the way, the position was low-paid and I had to refuse. Employers often use compliant students as an opportunity to save on staff, and this is sad.

I gave up my attempts to find a job and decided to improve my skills while I had some time for this. I do not sit idly around and am going to start working as a freelancer. I hope that I will not face such situations when I work on my own.

Karina Abat

In the last year at university, students start thinking about finding a job. Job searching has been always stressful for me. I started working at the age of 19, when I studied physics for technology at university. Needless to say, I had no work experience in this sphere. 

Therefore, I had to apply for the most popular positions for young people: waitress, shop assistant or operator at a call-centre
But I had gone through all circles of hell before I got the job of a shop assistant. The most common situation during job searching is a total disregard on the part of employers. I reply to a vacancy announcement, send my CV and receive no reply.

Another problem is that many companies require that applicants have work experience. I always mention in my CV that I am still a student but am willing to develop my skills and make my contribution to the company’s business. In response, they nod and say nicely that they do not have time to nurse novices. This means that they want to hire a shop assistant to a fashion shop, aged 18-20 and having work experience. At such moments I always wonder: if I have just left school, which work experience could I have? How to stop being a novice, if nobody hires me?

Even now that I’ve changed my profession to journalism where it seems easier to find a job, I face companies’ reluctance even to answer a letter.

Anastasiya Boltovskaya

No official employment is my pain when it comes to work. In particular, this is true for all young people under 21 in my city. Another equally significant problem is that it is almost impossible for students or graduates to find a job in the job market: everyone demands a minimum of three year experience. 

It is easier to get an employment with the help of acquaintances than to find adequate employers
Speaking about SMM in particular, this job is often underestimated in Ust-Kamenogorsk. Only few would appreciate your services, which discourage many to work in their profession. I worked as a marketing professional in a local agency, and my duties included maintaining profiles in five (!) different spheres, and my efforts were evaluated at a mere 120,000 tenge. I have found a side job which is not related to my profession, and I earn far more.

Stories of these respondents sound surreal: here they are, work-ready personnel, full of energy, ideas and up-to-date perspectives. They should be in high demand like freshly baked bread, but instead young people have to give up their aspirations and stagnate on dull jobs for money. 

Hence their apprehension about the future
Where should young people search for jobs after all? How can they be employed without having work experience? How to spot unethical employers? Nazym Aliyeva, HR expert at Terenoi, gives answers to these questions:

Which platforms, apart from HeadHunter, can young people use to search for jobs?

I agree that HeadHunter is a powerful job search engine, however, it is not much relevant now.

· In addition to this platform, they can search for jobs at career and employment centres at universities. Many companies co-operate with such centres. Universities must notify students and graduates of hot jobs at such companies.

· LinkedIn is another option. Here young people can not only find a job, but also create necessary and useful business connections, follow companies of their interest, find their HRs and email them directly.

· Instagram is a third option. Our company, for example, posts about hot jobs using targeted advertisements on Instagram. This is very convenient, fast and easy. One should only follow the account of a company they are interested in and view their posts.

How to increase the chances of getting a job if you do not have work experience?

If someone does not have work experience, but are highly motivated and willing to work as well as have good self-presentation skills, then I would recommend them to start with traineeship, and then build their career gradually. The main objective here is to prove oneself.

In my practice, there was a person whose CV was not suitable for a position, but he wrote such a sincere cover letter that we could not ignore this candidate. The cover letter prompted us to meet him in person and find more about him. Hence another rule: present yourself right and add strong arguments at the end of the following statements: “I want to work here because…”, or “I am worthy of this position because…” The arguments may include, for example, the following: “I took certain training courses” or “I learned it myself on the Internet”.

What are the questions to ask an employer before taking a job?

· First, you should ask if you are employed officially. A lot depends on this. For example, if you are not employed officially, no pension savings and medical insurance will be paid for you. You will also get no paid leave or sick leave. This is why I believe that this is the key question.

· Second, ask an employer about the incentive system for the company’s employees. This is important because we are not robots and may have burnout or loss of motivation. For example, our company has the following incentive plan: if an employee reads specialised books, take relevant training courses and applies new skills to work, his/her salary gradually increases. It is very important to encourage employees to develop their skills.

· Third, ask about the company’s values and traditions. They foster a healthy corporate morale..

· An additional piece of advice from me: learn the company’s history and values before an interview. Do not disregard the need to get prepared for the first meeting. And do not feel discouraged if you did not get the job. Remember that you can always try again after you gain new skills and build up your strength.

Illustrations: Aziza Kireyeva
This project is supported by a grant provided by the U.S. Embassy in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. All opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Government or the U.S. Mission to Kazakhstan.

Данный проект реализуется с помощью гранта от Посольства США в Нур-Султане, Казахстан. Мнения, выраженные в материалах, принадлежат их авторам и не обязательно отражают точку зрения Правительства США или Дипломатической Миссии США в Казахстане.


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