Self-Employment is the (only) way of the Future

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates both dropped out of college.
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates both dropped out of college. | Source

Many of you have probably figured this out by now, but getting a job in the real world is tough. It’s always been that way – but now more so than ever before. You can blame it on the recession; you can blame it on overpopulation; you can blame it on a lot of factors. But the workplace and employers are adding more complications.

Qualifications seemingly just aren’t enough anymore. In my dad’s generation, back 50 or 60 years ago, you could have a senior certificate, if that, and still find work. In my brothers’ generation, 20 or 30 years ago, you went to a technical university or college, got a certificate, diploma or a degree, and chances were good that you’d find a job.

But what about nowadays? Increasingly often I read or hear about stories where people who have these qualifications cannot find proper work. Someone might have a master’s degree in a subject, and yet they work as a bartender, if that. There has be a point when there are even no more bars left to tend... because they’re all ready being tended to. More often than not these 20 and even 30-something young adults just end up being back at home going through perpetual adolescence because they can’t get ahead; can't get a break.

Where I come from, and perhaps in other countries like the United States, there exists something called “affirmative action”. And in South Africa, all this essentially is, is giving jobs to the previously disadvantaged; people of different colours who were discriminated against during the decades of apartheid under the National Party’s reign. But while this might seem fair – to give jobs to those who weren’t able to have them before – it’s being done the wrong way. People are given jobs based just on race it seems, and not qualifications. And it doesn't hurt to have a little status or money either. The excuse at times is that the workplace must be demographically representative of the country’s population, which is a just a politically correct way of phrasing to cover up an arguably racist agenda. Just take a look at our government, and you will find it riddled with politicians who are not qualified, who don’t know a damn thing about running this country properly and often don't bother, and are only out to selfishly satisfy their own ends, clearly. The saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” applies here. It’s what one might humorously call a “buddy system”. Favours are done for friends. If that means putting a "friend" in a comfy position where they can earn millions every year with benefits for sitting on their seats doing nothing, then so be it.

In a perfect world, we would all have an equal chance of getting an education, of gaining employment. It's not that I don't acknowledge that apartheid was a dreadful, despicable thing - but we had a chance that started nearly 20 years ago, to put things right; to have peace; to make amends. And we blew it, not surprisingly.

"Giving jobs to the previously disadvantaged might seem fair, but it’s being done the wrong way."

Qualifications alone seemingly won't get you very far today.
Qualifications alone seemingly won't get you very far today. | Source

In my opinion, qualifications don’t matter any more. Not like they used to. It was almost guaranteed years ago that if you’d been through school, and tertiary education that you’d find employment. Unemployment is a major problem in South Africa. There are too many people and not enough jobs – and even if there is a job opening and you want to fill that position, and are more than qualified, chances are you may not even get it. It’s like some people here, some of whom I know personally, have said: the only way forward is self-employment. You can have all the tertiary qualifications you want – it won’t make much difference in most fields, likely. Some are even calling it a scam nowadays. People (often parents) paying all their hard-earned money to go to college or university, thinking it'll get them a job. And it doesn't. The wise folk out there all ready know this.

And it's odd because in the classifieds and the job sections of various newspapers, there seem to be hundreds of positions available. The truth? Most of these are scams; unconscionable parasites preying upon the weak and vulnerable. In fact Kalahari Ads' (online and now partnered with OXL) main draw is that it reportedly filters out a lot of the scams that make it in to the papers every day. Hey, as long as the papers get paid to run the ads, they don't mind. And the government releases statistics saying that unemployment is decreasing and there are more jobs. The truth? Lies, accompanied by a fantastically skewed way of looking at things. Hey, at least they see the positive side of things in a sort of glass half full (of ****) kind of way.

It's even been reported that immigrants, mostly illegal, that flee from the the upper reaches of Africa and elsewhere, who come here, falsify identity documents and commit identity theft, are the ones who end up getting the jobs. They're robbing all South Africans; stealing our livelihood, and the government does nothing about it. They would seemingly like to retain their shaky relationships with these other countries, that are too precious to lose. It's kind of like when Eskom at one stage told us that there wasn't enough power and we suffered outages galore, and had to cut down on electricity usage – and yet Eskom was selling electricity to Zimbabwe, of all places, when WE needed it.

"The government releases statistics saying that unemployment is decreasing and there are more jobs. The truth? Lies, accompanied by a fantastically skewed way of looking at things."

So what do we do, getting back to this problem of unemployment? The answer has been around for some time. When we were in school years ago, we had entrepreneur’s day. It was almost as though schools back then knew what was coming. They knew that with the fall of apartheid, and the beginning of democracy, things were destined to change. Maybe they didn’t foresee the recession and the financial, economic woes that the world faces today. Maybe they didn’t see the cesspit of corruption and nepotism that South Africa has become. But entrepreneurship training at a young age was probably the best thing that was taught at school. If you learned nothing else, you learned this. In hindsight, it was the most valuable of all subjects. It came under Economic Management Science, or Business Economics (Studies).

And while nowadays I might be a bit old to sell sweets or lemonade on the street corner (even though at least one clueless financial advisor has urged me to do so - I would rather die), it was a start. And it should be taken more seriously by the coming generations of children making their way up through the grades. At the time we didn’t take it that seriously. It was much like we didn’t take Life Orientation class seriously. But we should have – and the teachers should have too.

We face a lot of poo-pooing and denial though from previous generations who only have their own experiences to work from. There’s that all too familiar proverbial generation gap at work. They either don’t understand or won’t acknowledge the issues present in today’s society; the challenges that the current and future generations face. They also fail to acknowledge and accept responsibility for their actions – they’re the ones who helped put us in this mess. Who had a nice time spending on the credit card and getting in to debt that they couldn’t or wouldn’t pay off? Who took loans on cars and mortgages on houses that they couldn’t pay off? Who took loans to start a business that ended up failing, and the owners filing for bankruptcy, unable to pay all that money back? An entire generation, or most of it, living on borrowed time. Borrowed everything. They owned nothing. They contributed in some way to the major economic collapse several years ago, and we’re paying for the sins of our fathers now as the world still hasn’t managed to climb out of this hole. And to think we may even be expected to support our elders now that they're old and they've had their fun and have little to show for it. With what? We have nothing. Whose fault is that? Yours, probably. Everybody blames the banks most of the time, who had in a hand in it, sure. But there were plenty of other people involved.

And to add insult to injury, the government is having a lovely time spending what’s left of tax payers’ money on inane events like massive parties (for themselves), youth festivals, and spare airplanes that end up being of no use to anyone. They’re riding the gravy train and enjoying it while it lasts before this country eventually inevitably ends up like another banana republic of Africa. No points for guessing which one I’m referring to in particular, either.

Your only hope as a young person nowadays is to either have a skill of sorts that you can use to start up your own business, whether it be training dogs or building walls or something. Have a product that you can sell; a service you can provide, or have some other form of employment. Years ago you may have looked down upon people who ran garden services, cleaned pools, walked dogs, or fixed your plumbing – but they’re the ones who may still have a chance of getting work. Some time you have to weigh up your situation: would you rather be proud and poor, or throw away your dignity, self-respect and at least survive on what ever scraps the fat cats might give you? Someone has to wipe the bottoms of the rich. It's like I've heard before: without losers, there wouldn't be winners. Everybody has a place in society, then. Even those people who don't want any part of society, perhaps.

And as for tertiary education, if you can afford it, you might rather consider a technical university, formerly referred to as Technikon, as opposed to a mainstream university. Practical skills are favoured above having theoretical knowledge – especially nowadays. Then once you've done this, try your hardest to take up an apprenticeship or an internship somewhere, because work experience is what counts nowadays. Forget qualifications. You won't make much money, probably nothing at all, but you'll get the experience, and you may even make some contacts who might throw you a bone.

And if you drop out or don't make it there somehow, just take comfort in the fact that some of the most famous, successful people out there made it without much in the way of qualifications. They made it by working bloody hard, and not giving up. If you can do that, you can do anything.

In my case, I’m sorry to be such a defeatist, but I am technically, and maybe even technologically inept. I’ve also been told again and again that I don’t have the patience or the interpersonal skills to work with people, so I have to resort to forms of employment online and freelancing opportunities. Writing and criticism is all I’m good for, it would seem.

So what must you do in that case? Scrap any money you have together, get an internet connection, get online, get legitimate work of some sort (or create work), and wait and hope – maybe even pray you get paid at all.

But of course we don't do it for the money in the end, anyway. Do we?

Are you self-employed in some way?

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© 2012 Anti-Valentine

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CraftytotheCore 2 years ago

I worked in a professional career for 12 years before choosing to stay home with my children. I can say for certain one thing that has changed in a huge way from the time I was working is the fact that today it seems all about the networking and who you know. It's easier to get a job today by knowing someone. When I was a teenager, I applied at a store that my grandfather's family owned (his cousins). They wouldn't hire me because I was related. But now a days, I believe they would hire me because they know me.

When I started staying home with my children, I didn't need to work because at that time I was married to a professional who made enough money to support the household. (I'm since divorced and remarried.)

But I always had a drive to work. I've been working since I was a 15. I worked at a retail store and a doctor's office after school and on weekends. I saved my money and paid my way through college. I also attended a local business college at the same time I was going to a university to study courses in law. While at the business college, I had a straight A+ average. So they hired me to do their book ordering and small tasks that I could juggle while studying.

When I started staying home after my career, I decided I wanted to work even though we didn't need the money. And I started an online store. I was very successful at it. I had no car. I used to walk down to the post office daily with my two babies in a double stroller. It was a lot of work, but it afforded me to buy groceries and diapers on the money I made myself. It was a very rewarding experience for me.

And it taught me I can be my own boss. So this is a testimony to what you are saying in this article about self-employment. It takes strength, courage, and attitude to make it out there, but with determination it can be achieved!

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