Graduates with in-demand skills could have high earning potential and flexibility, says Johann van Niekerk, chief executive officer for Africa at a global talent agency Outsized.
According to the firm’s latest report on skills in demand across Africa and Asia, the financial sector alongside the insurance sector saw global interest in South Africans.
Van Niekerk said that while young people no longer want a lifelong career with a single employer, companies are also increasingly looking to harness expertise and skills as and when they need it. “This means there are more opportunities for professionals to choose what work they do, when they do it, and even where they do it,” he said.
Outsized’s Talent On-Demand Report 2022 indicates that the top 10 in-demand skills in Africa this year are in the areas of:
- Data analytics;
- Legal and regulatory;
- Programme evaluation;
- Business intelligence;
- Quantitative analysis;
- Market research;
- Accounting, and;
- Business analytics.
Van Niekerk said Outsized has seen specific growth in project-related skills (23%) such as project and programme managers, a 20% growth in demand for strategy consultants, 18% growth in demand for financial services-focused roles such as quants, actuaries and financial risk specialists – and a 17% increase in demand for tech and data-related roles such as data analytics and data architects.
He said that across its platform, the typical day rate for South Africans with these skills in the Middle East or Southeast Asia is between R5,000 ($350) and R7,500 ($450). The salaries are, however, subject to the years of experience.
Van Niekerk noted that professionals typically have at least seven to 10 years’ experience before becoming valuable as freelance resources and making the leap into the world of freelance work and consulting.
Young professionals should start planning early if they want the option of flexible work later, the talent specialist said.
“If you’re going places and thinking about building a professional career with flexibility and choice, you should have this on your radar as early as possible. Strategically build your experience by taking on a range of projects and challenges.”
Van Niekerk said that freelancers are entrepreneurs, so you must learn skills like time management, sales and marketing if you want to work freelance.
When to make the shift
Before making the leap to freelance, Van Niekerk said that graduates should spend at least a few years in permanent employment, learning and gaining as much experience and maturity as possible.
He said that spending time in formal employment also ensures credibility and is a key opportunity to save cash. “There is a cost to the freedom you get as a freelancer, in that your income can be erratic,” warned Van Niekerk.
“This means your ability to absorb financial variability is also important. If you’re preparing to become a freelancer, you should have a financial cushion. If, for example, you could save 20% of your income, you’d have a year’s income saved after five years, which would make the transition easier.”
He also recommended looking for a longer-term contract as the first move into freelance work, to gain some initial stability.