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Is it who or what you know?

When it comes to job hunting, the answer is a bit of both

There's no simple equation for how much time job seekers should spend getting skills and qualifications instead of cultivating contacts. Ideally, they should be doing both because in the modern world both are crucial to landing that elusive first job.

Why it's what you know

Once upon a time, people didn't need to worry too much about getting a job. Whether they were the child of a king, blacksmith or farmer, they would go into the family business.

But we've moved from a world where people inherited their careers from their parents to one where it's impossible to get a job in many fields without undertaking long periods of study beforehand. It now doesn't matter if both your parents were doctors or all your friends are electricians – they can't arrange a job for you unless you have the required qualifications.

Until a generation ago, it was still common for people to leave school in their mid-teens and go straight into the workforce. Nowadays, to even be in the running for an entry-level job, you often need to have made yourself job-ready by doing a course at TAFE or elsewhere. So what you know is now more important than it has ever been.

Why it's also who you know

If what you know is a highly specialised skill, such as brain surgery, you probably won't be short of job offers. The catch is that most of us possess a skill set that plenty of other people have as well. If candidates X, Y and Z all have the same qualifications, but the employer has previously got to know and like candidate X, or they come highly recommended by a respected colleague, guess what? X gets the job.

Why studying at TAFE covers both bases

The advantage of doing a TAFE NSW course is that there is a big emphasis on ensuring you know what potential employers want you to know and also encouraging you to make industry contacts through your work placement.