On Tuesday 21 April, my friend and former colleague TK Mcopele of TK of Africa Change Convenor held an important conversation on Instagram Live titled “Jobs and Career Planning now and in the future”. TK was joined by the phenomenal Eva Gush, who also happens to be a former colleague of mine. Both ladies are passionate about bringing about change in society and paying it forward. The topic being discussed could not have been more relevant under these unprecedented times we are living in. 

Having extensive experience in identifying and nurturing talent, Eva boasts over 20 years of experience in HR at various financial institutions including Merrill Lynch, Barclays and Absa, Eva now runs her own career and coaching services firm.

 

TK is an International Analyst at Absa’s Investment Bank division and has also founded her own company in which she provides corporate and events conversation services.

The discussion touched on everything, in particular within the context of the impending fourth industrial revolution. With previous fears around automation replacing “human capital”, such fears have undoubtedly been heightened as the Coronavirus has expedited the pace at which automation will most likely take place. With this in mind Eva and TK unpacked a range of topics including what job seekers should be looking out for in the job market, how to keep yourself relevant in your current role, critical skills for the future, the gig economy and what it means to take up space as a woman in the corporate environment. If you missed the conversation, fear not, we will be sharing some highlights from that conversation below. 

Looking to make a career change or currently in the job market:

If you are looking to make a pivot in your career, whether it is outside of your current organisation, switching departments or a move outside of your field, the starting point should always be to identify what your strengths are and lead with those. Focusing on what you are naturally good at will help you thrive. Self-awareness is therefore so important. Take the time to assess if the values and culture of your current organisation or the organisation you wish to join are in line with your own. It is important to do your research and consider what your options are in order to make the desired change in your career, e.g. if you want to move within your current organisation you must understand what the internal processes are and where your strengths will be best utilised. Regardless of what your plans may be, proactivity and planning are crucial to carve your way out into the role most suited for you. It is also important to manage your expectations, specifically in terms of timelines, the results may not necessarily be immediate. 

Remaining relevant in your current role:

If you are concerned that your company may be gearing up for retrenchments after this confinement period ends, Eva shared some advice on how to keep yourself relevant. Eva advised that remaining focused and consistent delivery of high quality work  may help you avoid retrenchment. If you are indeed concerned that your role may be made redundant, reach out and have an honest conversation with your manager. By showing vulnerability this may create an opportunity to help you understand the situation from your manager’s perspective. Lifelong learning and constant upskilling throughout your career will keep you relevant in the market regardless of industry. If you have taken up courses to upskill yourself in the past but have not been able to use your new skills in your current role, find examples in your day to day responsibilities that may be linked to that training e.g. managing people to show your managers the ways in which you have been adding value. 

Critical skills for right now:

When asked about what skills employers will be looking for going forward, Eva recommended the following skills and constantly working towards this will help differentiate you from the competition:

    • Soft skills / interpersonal skills are going to be so important e.g. emotional intelligence which tech and robots can never have 
    • Resilience – Be able to show examples of where you have been knocked down but get up and what you were able to learn from that experience 
    • Flexibility and adaptability – It will become increasingly important for employees being open to different kinds of work, different methods of getting the job done etc. 
    • Creativity and critical thinking – The ability to create new ideas, how to do things differently, questioning ways to do things better 
    • Entrepreneurial skills – There will be less and less traditional corporate jobs 
    • Intrapreneurial skills – Linked to creativity and critical thinking, developing ways to add value within your current role/organisation

Being a lifelong student does not always have to be in the strict academic sense e.g. a Masters or PhD, it could be through constantly upskilling yourself through courses and training offered within your organisation or even online.  If you do decide to go the traditional academic route and pursue a Masters or PhD this can indeed give you an advantage because it shows you possess the resilience it takes to successfully complete them.

Taking the plunge and applying for that new job: 

Eva advised that your personal brand is so important, people will look at your LinkedIn profile before they even have a conversation with you, it is therefore super important to keep your profile updated. The old ways of job searching are not going to land you a job i.e. sending the same CV and cover letter to 20 different companies. You need to know how to sell yourself. Eva advises the following:

  • Customise your application to each company you are applying to – 
  • Your intro email/cover letter needs to have something personal to the company you are applying to showing them how you can add value and why you would be a good fit for the company
  • Your application needs to have the keywords for the job description or else the recruiting software will throw out your CV
  • Look at the job description and roles that are similar to that job, to find the keywords that you should incorporate into your application
  • When selling your soft skills prepare a story/example around your core skill and newly acquired skills to crystalize the skill in the mind of the recruiter 
  • Never talk about money in the beginning of the interview process, you only want to talk about money further into the process when you can sense that the company is moving towards the direction of “this is the person we want”
  • From a salary perspective, do your research and see what the market standard is so that when you do enter into salary negotiations you are speaking from a place of facts.

Gig Economy: 

With COVID 19 people are going to have to become more creative in terms of how they generate income. Looking at SA with its high unemployment rate, Eva agreed that it is beneficial to get into the gig economy and into freelancing activities. By starting small this will help you build up a repertoire of new skills through learning and exposure. If this is an avenue you would like to pursue full-time, you have to be clear about your “Why” upfront. Preparation and planning is key, specifically financial planning because there are no company benefits in order to cover medical aid, retirement savings, etc. you have to factor all those things in for yourself. You have to be purposeful in how you go about it and how you allocate your time because you will be sacrificing a lot of your time, finances, etc. Having a vision, self-awareness and a long term plan must be top of mind because that will help you stick it through and persevere. 

Taking up space:

We all watched with pride as Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi sent out an impassioned plea for all women who have been overlooked to take up space. In as much as the winds of change have been steadily blowing, taking up space in male-dominated spaces remains a challenge. We are all familiar with the misogynistic labels assertive women are too often subjected to. Eva advises that regardless of industry, the manner in which you show your assertiveness matters, we must all  have wisdom in how we apply our assertiveness. Emotional intelligence is important in order to be able to read people, some people will be more receptive to your assertiveness than others. Some people are prickly and you may not know what is driving their agendas. Unfortunately there will always be people that are just difficult, it may not be worth getting into an argument or proving your point with them, there are people who just love to argue or be disruptive and it may be a waste of energy to spend more time with those people. Very politely exit the conversation. Be purposeful about about the battles you choose to take part in.

This is a conversation we will most likely be returning to as we begin to see the impact of COVID 19 unfold. Share your perspective on your experiences with us in the comments below.

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