Wednesday, 31 October 2012

When the going gets tough: 5 creative ways to succeed as an unemployed graduate

Have you ever heard it said, if it doesn't kill you, it will make you stronger? While it's not always the most wonderful thing to hear, history seems to have proven that it is true. People facing challenging times learn not only from their mistakes, but they're forced to get creative and come up with new ideas and solutions. Oftentimes, a new and greater success rises from the dust. 

During times of heavy unemployment and economic challenges, necessity often forces people of all ages, races and levels of society to get creative and find a unique way to make a living.

In South Africa, young graduates are finding it harder to get their feet on the career ladder. Job ads always seem to ask for “experience”, but it’s not always easy to get that experience when you’re just starting out.

Here are a few options available when the doors are getting slammed in your face:

  1. Sign up: take time to do unpaid volunteer or intern work in your chosen industry. This approach can help to solve the “experience” problem and will show potential employers that you’re committed to developing your career.
  2. Research and write: after graduation, it’s easy to let everything you’ve learned slip away, especially if you haven’t used it in a while. So keep on researching new trends in your field of study and writing about what you’ve learned and noticed. 
  3. Use social media: social platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn and a blog can be very useful in networking with others in your chosen field and potential employers. Take time to engage in conversations about your line of work.
  4. Think about following up your degree: getting an additional diploma in another field might just help you to get started in a job, even if it’s in a different direction to what you studied for your degree. You can always try to make your way back to your chosen career later when you have more work experience.
  5. Make money: instead of waiting for that dream job to come along, take time to think of how you can utilise the knowledge and talent you have to start earning income all by yourself. Your entrepreneurial path might not follow your intended career path, but somewhere along the line you will be able to put the knowledge you gained from your degree to good use. And you never know – your micro-enterprise might just end up making you happier!

If you have any other suggestions that might help unemployed graduates find a way to make a living, let us know in the comments section below.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Exam time is the worst time for students: what can you do to eliminate stress?

“I’ll fail no matter what I do.”
“If I don’t pass there’s point in carrying on.”
“If I don’t get top marks, my family will lose all respect for me.”

These are just some of the thoughts that go through the minds of the students who are writing exams. The correct term for this is exam stress, suffered by many students who are unsure about their future. Exam stress can end up debilitating students, leaving them unable to put across what they have learned to paper during an exam. The good news is that there are techniques you can use to reduce exam stress and get on with passing your exams.

Exam stress-busting tips:

Believe in yourself. If you prepare for the exams properly you should do fine, meaning that there is no need to worry excessively.

Don't try to be perfect. It's great to succeed and reach for the stars, but keep things in balance. If you think that "anything less than a distinction means I've failed" then you are creating mountains of unnecessary stress for yourself. Aim to do your best but recognise that none of us can be perfect all of the time.

Take steps to overcome problems. If you find you don't understand some of your course material, getting stressed out won't help. Instead, take action to address the problem directly by seeing or talking to your course tutor or getting help from your classmates.

Don't keep things bottled up. Confiding in someone you trust and who will be supportive is a great way to alleviate stress and worry.

Keep things in perspective. The exams might seem like the most crucial thing right now, but in the grander scheme of your whole life they are only a small part. Interrupt negative thoughts with positive ones. Examples:  “I can do this”, “I will do my best”, “I can pass this test”, “I will focus only on the question in front of me.”  "I have done it before, so I can do it again."

Plan your study time. Too much material + Too little time = Anxiety.  Plan your studying with regularly scheduled study sessions about 50 minutes long separated by 5 – 10 minute breaks.

Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Anxiety increases when one feels tired, run down and overwhelmed. Overall resilience depends on one's physical and mental health.

Get accurate information.  Check your course syllabus and get an understanding of the grading procedure. If you don’t understand, ASK. Well before the exam; make sure you know where it will be held, the start time, how long it will last, whether extra time will be allowed. Ask your lecturer whether it is an open-book exam or not, when the marks will be available, what materials can or should be brought into the exam room.

Plan. Rest well the night before the exam. Plan to arrive at the test location early. If you can pick your seat, choose one away from the doors, windows or other distractions. Plan to monitor the time during the exam so wear a watch or sit where you can see the clock. Plan to wear layers of clothing so you can adjust your need for more warmth or coolness. Check out the examination room ahead of time if you can. 

Avoid bad things. Give coffee and other stimulants a miss the night before the exam or on the day of the exam. Avoid anxious or talkative students. Avoid other people or things that may disturb your self-confidence, focus and level of relaxation. Definitely avoid arriving late.

In the Exam Room:

Avoid panic. It's natural to feel some exam nerves prior to starting the exam, but getting excessively nervous is counterproductive as you will not be able to think as clearly.

The quickest and most effective way to eliminate feelings of stress and panic is to close your eyes and take several long, slow deep breaths. Breathing in this way calms your whole nervous system. Simultaneously you could give yourself some mental pep-talk by mentally repeating "I am calm and relaxed" or "I know I will do fine".

If your mind goes blank, don't panic! It will just make it harder to recall information. Instead, focus on slow, deep breathing for about one minute. If you still can't remember the information then move on to another question and return to this question later.

Survey what’s in front of you by doing the following:
·         Read the instructions carefully
·         Quickly survey every page of the test
·         See what will be expected of you
·         Re-read the instructions a second time
·         Prioritise what needs to be done

When surveying the test, place a mark beside all questions you know you can answer

Divide up your time according to the importance of the questions

Answer the easiest questions first to guarantee marks in the least amount of time

Do not rush through the test

Regularly check time left for the rest of the questions

Give yourself time to proofread what you have written; you should not still be writing at the invigilator’s “5 minutes remaining” announcement.

Remember to breathe deeply and if you feel as though you’re not coping, contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, who have specialists in their call centre to help students suffering from anxiety and depression during exams.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

In the spotlight: A part of our dedicated customer service team – Takalani

This week on our blog we interview one of Eduloan’s customer service agents, Takalani Tshamano. He’s the person who phones you within a few minutes of your leaving a query on our Facebook wall or tweeting us on Twitter. Efficient, friendly and professional, we wanted to put Takalani in the spotlight to show you who you’re dealing with and to talk about customer service as a worthwhile and rewarding career.

How long have you been working at Eduloan and what exactly is it that you do?

I started working for Eduloan on a temporary basis in October last year, I then joined the team full-time in March this year. My role is to assist clients who are looking for a study finance solutions. The kind of query differs from client to client.

Did you study further after Matric?

Yes, I studied further and received my degree in Economics. In addition to that I also studied towards a diploma and have a qualification in Business Management.

How important a role do you think customer service plays in the overall functioning of a company that deals with the public on a daily basis?

Customer services play a very important role, if not the most important role in a company that’s specifically customer-oriented. We’re there to inform and assist people who are in the dark about how exactly to apply for a loan. We have to walk them through the contracts they enter into and make sure everything crystal clear.

Do you think that being in a customer service role is rewarding as a career and why?

Yes I definitely think it’s rewarding. I think it’s rewarding because you aid the development of students.

How many people work in your team and how many people/queries do you deal with on an average day?

We’ve got 8 members in our team. The roles are divided; each person handles a specific type of query. I generally deal with about a hundred queries a day.

How important is it to work as a team in the customer service department?

It’s very important to work as a team as it’s not easy to deal with all queries - that’s why each team member focuses on a specific part of the loan application. The team handles outstanding documents requests, SMS queries, refunds, loan quotes and repayment calculations.

What advice would you have for anyone considering customer service as a career?

Well, my advice for anyone wanting to enter into customer services is that patience is a key factor. Other than that you have to be very diplomatic. You have to be able to sympathise with the client as a lot of them are in a tough spot.

What qualities would they have to possess in order to be successful at this type of job?

You would have to have a lot of patience and you should be willing to work with people. You should be concise and articulated. You need to be analytical and responsible when you answer queries because it’s very important to supply the correct info.

Finally, what is it like working at Eduloan? Do you believe that Eduloan makes a difference to the lives of ordinary South Africans?

I find it fulfilling to be a part of Eduloan. I’m proud to be working here as I believe we are contributing to an important aspect of South African people’s lives. Education is extremely important in society and Eduloan accepts its role of assisting in the upliftment of not only people but also of communities.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Five reasons why employee salary deduction agreements are beneficial for employees

For many South Africans, higher education is out of reach simply because it is not affordable. Even though billions of rands are set aside each year by government for the NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) programme to finance students from low-income households, little help is available to students who come from slightly higher-income families.

Eduloan’s employee salary deduction service, initially only available to civil servants, has now been made available to corporate companies as well. Employees whose companies make use of this service will be able to have their study loans deducted straight off their salaries.

So why is this method of paying back loans so beneficial?

  1. There’s no risk of spending too much money before the debit order comes off because the money goes straight towards paying off your study loan without first going into your bank.
  2.  Eduloan’s employee salary deduction agreement for businesses gives you access to an extremely low interest rate on the loan making the repayments affordable. That means the amount will be paid off faster and will cost you less.  
  3. It shows that your employers care about you as an employee. There is an increasing trend towards employers seeing education as an employee benefit, like medical aid or pension funds, and any employee that studies towards a degree or a diploma is contributing positively towards the company’s skills and knowledge base. 
  4. You can also use the employee salary deduction arrangement to fund the education of your dependants or indeed anyone who you would like to sponsor. 
  5. The employee salary deduction arrangement is easier than applying for a loan at a bank because the credit checks are less stringent.

If you would like your employer to consider implementing the employee salary deduction arrangement with Eduloan, more information can be found on our website.