Changing my career led to my purpose
A complete career overhaul can but it’s oh-so necessary for personal growth, as these five professionals discovered
By ONDELA MLANDU
Published in True Love magazine, March 2019
There’s no limit to the amount of times you can make a career transition. A 2017 study conducted by McKinsey found that over 375 million workers worldwide regularly switch their careers. A career transition can be defined as the process of finding and moving into a new field. This path is no walk in the park, though — think having to give up the comfort of a salary and returning to school, or having to start at intern-level even though you may be way older (à la Robert De Niro in The Intern). One of the biggest drivers of this change is the urge to pursue a career that will align with someone’s passion at any given time. A career should never be viewed as a life-long commitment because as we evolve as human beings, so do our interests.
KIBA BAM, 36, FASHION TO BUSINESS CONSULTING Kiba was exposed to the business world through her parents. At nine, she worked at her father’s shop, which later led her to being a retail fashion buyer. With nine years’ experience under her belt, she felt the urge to go it alone. Having previously worked for major retailers such as Woolworths, Clicks and Edgars, she discovered that her underlying passion was to help businesses and people. She’s the founder of two businesses, Kiba Bam Consulting and Online PA. Both companies deal with growing corporate businesses, their revenue and business structures. She’s passionate about creating sustainable business strategies. Kiba is also doing her MBA at Wits University this year to advance her skills, and admits that changing a career was far from easy, saying she lost many material assets that she had accumulated over the years.“The transition was the most difficult thing I’ve done to date as I had to build new networks, which was not easy,” Kiba says.
LESSON LEARNT: “Never take anything or anyone for granted during a career transition. Be kind to everyone because you never know who you could be sitting next to,” Kiba advises.
CHARLOTTE LUZUKA, 36, HEALTHCARE TO FINANCE Charlotte was working for a healthcare start-up that was undergoing dire financial struggles, when she suddenly found herself retrenched. Fortunately, being laid off opened up her options in ways she could have only dreamed of. “I needed to make money, but didn’t want to go back to corporate, where they still have archaic definitions for what constitutes productivity – and not to mention bureaucracy and red tape slowing down projects,” she shares. These reservations pointed her in the direction of entrepreneurship. She currently runs two businesses in the finance industry — Dazzle Angels, where she sources funds from female investors to invest in female-founded enterprises. Through Oya Ventures, Charlotte conducts due diligence on financial technology and educational investments for companies looking to diversify their investment portfolios. Pursuing her happiness has given her self-efficacy.
LESSON LEARNT: “I wish I’d been more patient about choosing a career when I was younger. My decisions were literally driven by the fear of being homeless. My biggest lesson was having a great work ethic during my tenure of accounting articles. I don’t regret the career paths I’ve taken, but starting afresh is always easier when you’re younger with less responsibilities,” Charlotte says.
MOLEBOGENG JANE, 35, ACCOUNTING TO HOSPITALITY Molebogeng runs a catering company that she founded in 2009. She provides on-site staff restaurant management for corporates, and caters for events and functions. She also manages a restaurant and conference centre in Bryanston. Her shift from accounting to hospitality was inspired by her love for food. “I’m able to express my creativity and love for food while also running a business that has positively impacted my own life and that of my employees,” says Molebogeng. She studied BCom Accounting and became a Certified Financial Planner prior to carving out a career in the hospitality industry. She went on to work for two big banks and an insurance company, then started her catering company while fully employed. “Food was always something I wanted to pursue, but my parents would not hear of it. I pursued accounting because they approved, and I also had the academic aptitude for it,” she explains. Molebogeng believes a career is not a till-death-do-us-apart sentence.
LESSON LEARNT: “Studying accounting and working in corporate equipped me enormously to run my company professionally. I’m not intimidated by money and relationship management. It’s better to do what you’re passionate about as it brings a great sense of satisfaction,” Molebogeng enthuses.
BONGIWE BEJA, 32,
FINANCE TO SOCIAL ENTERPRISE Bongiwe’s passion and fascination with the African continent is what led her to switch careers. Having completed her Masters in Development Finance from the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business, she quit a nine-year investment management career to pursue the role of general manager at Silulo Ulutho Technologies. She currently oversees 46 branches, spanning across South Africa, through the technology and education enterprise space. Bongiwe says the lesson she learnt is that passion points to purpose. “The work I do has a lasting and positive impact in the lives of many deserving South Africans. I’m playing a role in the development of my country,” Bongiwe explains. The invaluable journey she has been on since her career change has humbled her – this includes getting to learn more about the realities African citizens face on a daily basis.
“The biggest and most rewarding lesson is that I moved from a specialist role to a generalist one, which meant exploring areas I hadn’t explored before. I also gained experience in aspects of management,” Bongiwe says.
LUSANDA MAGWAPE, 33, LAW TO NON-PROFIT SECTOR Lusanda remembers sitting on a leather chair as an admitted attorney at one of the top law firms. She knew she loved law, but also knew that being an attorney wasn’t up her alley. She ventured into the non-profit sector to chase a higher purpose. She’s now the founder and executive director of an NPO called Dream Factory Foundation, which unlocks the potential of the youth to lead purposedriven lives. “I’m not practising as an attorney anymore, but I use that training to run the foundation,” says Lusanda. She believes that the only way a career can be a permanent setup is if it’s aligned with your purpose.
“Relationships have been my greatest capital – all opportunities have come from people I know. Maintaining them is my biggest investment,” Lusanda says.
Top tips to consider when making a career switch, according to Ann Werner, an industrial psychologist, career and life coach:
Stop and pause before launching into anything. Sometimes, there’s a desperation to just want to change, but doing so without sufficient thought may yield an even less desirable outcome.
Know yourself. This allows you to re-acquaint yourself with who you are at this particular life stage. It allows you the privilege of getting clearer about who you are and what you want, which is something you never had to do before.
Know your market. What careers pique your interest out there and where do you feel you could shine? This also includes new positions, and where you might need to upskill a little.
Weigh the facts — aligning logic with gut. Look at possible obstacles to see if they are truly insurmountable.
Get support. Especially from a life coach or an objective party – a person who can encourage you to be more accountable.