So, you failed matric. What now?

Failing at anything can destroy your confidence – and failing matric can be a devastating blow to your hopes of studying further or getting a job that requires a senior certificate. But failing your exams doesn’t make you a failure – the only time failure is permanent is when you give up.

Failure can be a stepping stone to success if you treat it as a lesson and resolve to avoid the mistakes you made in future. Not having a senior certificate doesn’t mean you can’t get a job – it just means you need to be realistic about the jobs you should look for. We’ll explore some of your options in this blog.

Having a job doesn’t rule out further study

The most obvious benefit of getting a job is having a monthly salary. Once you start earning a regular income, you’ll have more choices, like studying part-time. You could repeat matric through distance learning, or study part-time for a SETA qualification. There are also courses available for various trades that don’t require a senior certificate – for example photography, performing on stage or TV, hairdressing and beauty therapy, and even digital technology. Having a job will help you afford the costs of training in the field where your real passion lies.

Getting a job with no matric isn’t easy, but it helps if you focus on entry-level positions with on-the-job training. Draw on your local resources – approach small businesses in your area to ask if any have vacancies, and don’t be scared to network among your personal and family connections. Tell them you’re looking for work, highlight your skills and the types of jobs you can handle, and let them know that you’re eager to start working and learning valuable skills.

Who knows? They may know someone who knows someone who happens to be looking for a young go-getter in their operation. Social media is another useful resource when you want your message to reach friends of friends – don’t be scared to ask everyone to share your job-hunting posts.

Start at the bottom and learn on the job

Entertainment and food services are a promising area in which to seek your first job. These businesses usually have a high employee turnover in their serving, bar, front-of-house, cleaning, and kitchen staff, and untrained new employees are often shown the ropes on the job by their colleagues. If you work hard and learn by paying attention, you could start in a low-level job in a restaurant or bar and work your way up in time to a senior position in the business.


Remember that your plan for your life is what’s important – not what anyone else says about your choices


The same is true for many industries where hands-on training under experienced mentors matters more than academic qualifications. If you’re interested in trades like plumbing, building or carpentry, for example, you need only to have passed Grade 10 and be at least 16 years old to apply for an apprenticeship. Other sectors to explore for on-the-job training, depending on what appeals to you, include the spa, alternative therapy and beauty industries, pool maintenance, landscaping and gardening services, retail sales, commercial art and media production, and local manufacturing.

Get your driving licence as soon as you can, even if you don’t own a car. Having a valid driving licence means you can apply for jobs as a driver, with more opportunities to upskill yourself while employed – perhaps with an advanced driving course. If you want to drive heavy vehicles of 16 tons or more, you will need a code 14 licence.

Take note – going solo is hard work

If you can’t find a job or you don’t feel passionate about the jobs you can get, you might decide to run your own business as a solo entrepreneur. If you can offer a service or make and sell a product, or even create audio-visual content, you can choose independent self-employment. Social media and shopping apps have opened up a wealth of sales and marketing channels online that will help you build your customer base. If you create online content, you can monetise it on your own YouTube channel – although this takes time, dedication and learning what your audience wants.

Be warned, though: entrepreneurship is not an easy path, especially when you start with limited resources. Many successful entrepreneurs have made a name for themselves without completing high school or university, but the one thing that they all have in common is that they worked hard and never gave up. And although many never completed formal education, they’ve never stopped learning and they continue to upskill and grow, whatever they are doing at any stage.

This is not meant to discourage you – many young entrepreneurs have excellent ideas that just need to find the right market to trigger huge success. The practicalities of getting your idea off the ground and learning how to run a business, however, will take sacrifices and long hours. It’s a never-ending journey of self-improvement. To finance a side hustle, you might have to grit your teeth and stick with a job that doesn’t inspire you until the money, time and passion you’re pumping into your solo business start to pay off.

No matter what your first job turns out to be, remember that your plan for your life is what’s important – not what anyone else says about your choices. The only opinions that should matter are those that will encourage and contribute to your growth.

With or without a senior certificate, you’re young, and your future is in your hands. Get busy and make the most of it.