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Nandile Mlambo is an IIE BA Honours in Brand Leadership graduate (2013) from Vega School who has made a name for herself in trying to make a dent in South Africa’s incredibly high youth unemployment rate.

She has used her training at Vega School, an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE), to develop a simple checklist that guides school-leavers in preparing themselves for job interviews. This has proven to be a much-needed tool which resonates with young people and has created a tremendous amount of interest. Through her checklist, she emphasises the need for the youth to brand themselves in order to stand out from the crowd.The motivation for the checklist and other work she does helping the unemployed, stems from her realisation that school does not adequately prepare matriculants for the workplace. Each year, hundreds of thousands enter the job market seeking the few corporate or artisan apprenticeships available. Lacking anything to help themselves stand out, they fail into just another ‘me too’ application.

The 25 year-old Mlambo is no stranger to success as she previously won runner up as the Young Entrepreneur at the prestigious Basic Business Initiative (BBI UK). “This recognition was for my honours thesis at Vega, which I wrote on ‘The importance of personal branding within the graduate sector’. The main objective was to find the causality between the nearly 600,000 unemployed South African graduates and the 800,000 jobs that were available within the South African private sector at the time,” says Mlambo.

This research pointed to a lack of personal branding among recent graduates in search of jobs and it was for that reason she created the checklist which has been approved by recruiters. The checklist serves as a guide to inform graduates on interview etiquette and personal branding tips within the context of gaining employment.

“I created the checklist to serve as a preparation guide for the unemployed youth to use when preparing for upcoming interviews. It also aids in sharing in-depth insights about the type of interview etiquette expected by potential employers that young people may not be aware of or even realise that they are lacking.”

“I have had various young people thank me for giving them guidance and pointers on how to prepare and present themselves for interviews. Many youth have also reached out to me to come and inform their peers at high schools and universities on personal branding,” says Mlambo.

She notes that South Africa’s job market is different to those of other developing countries. She credits this to a mismatch of skills which has resulted in huge skills gaps and an all-time high unemployment rate of 26.6%. In contrast, China’s unemployment rate is at 4.05%.

“India has created a workforce with strong specialist skills in the IT industry. They have carved out a niche, and as a result they have a high labour demand for IT skills from more than 3,100 technology start-ups. India is also one of the world’s major exporters of IT services. India’s unemployment rate as a result is 5%,” continues Mlambo.

The widespread expectation of a corporate job in South Africa through policies such as employment equity, has contributed in job seekers being less innovative. “In other developing countries such as India and China innovation has largely assisted in maintaining lower unemployment rates,” says Mlambo.

As another result of deficiencies in the South Africa educational environment, few of the unemployed youth who Mlambo encounters are pursuing entrepreneurship. “I think it is important to inculcate a culture of entrepreneurship at high school level as innovation is one of the ways we can combat having a high youth unemployment rate.”

Mlambo opted to do a BA (Hons) in Brand Leadership as she had always had an interest to ‘marry’ her skills in television production with the art of brand building and to become an innovative entrepreneur in the media industry. She currently has an exciting project under way: acting on a new Mzansi Magic telanovela.”

She attributes her success to her studies at The IIE’s Vega School, “I decided to pursue my post graduate studies at Vega because I felt the institute offers a very unique approach on how to apply creative thinking. I felt that the degree would provide me with the in-depth insights on how to become a successful, creative and innovative entrepreneur.

“Vega has played a big role in making me so passionate and confident about building sustainable brands in every industry I have worked in thus far. It also taught me how to refine my approach on creating and building strong media strategies for clients. Studying at Vega was inspiring, challenging, exciting and the Vega Brand Challenge in particular pushed me to my limits. This experience has shaped my view on what can be done differently when it comes to building brand equity in business. It has also influenced how I have chosen to build my own personal brand,” says Mlambo.

Nicky Stanley National Marketing Manager for Vega School; “Mlambo certainly has the experience, training and vigour and we could not be prouder of her achievements. She truly embodies the Vega philosophy of moulding creative and innovative brand thinkers who use the medium of brand building in an impactful way and in this case, to drive social change.” concludes.

So what is next for the ambitious Mlambo? She beams with excitement and declares that she would like to expand her scope of career guidance services into rural as well as township schools as the majority of the schools in these areas are not privy to such opportunities.

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