The transition from student to professional is certainly a strenuous period in every person’s life. One is suddenly forced to meet crucial deadlines, add value to a company and grow as an expert in his or her sphere. Read Below as Mosa Thekiso, Attorney at a Top 5 South African Law firm, shares steps which she believes every young woman should take in advancing their career…
Do not downplay your abilities. I wish someone had told me this when I started off as a candidate attorney six years ago.
I love following social media for various reasons, but I find the current self-affirmation/encouragement trend quite fascinating. Maybe calling it a ‘trend’ is an injustice because it could be argued that it is a revolution of sorts, the “I can revolution”, if you will. We have recently seen this revolution embodied in pop culture and I think it is time it made a bold arrival at the reception desks of our professional lives.
I would like for young professionals to take it a step further than an Instagram post or ‘like” and actually start to live confidently in their professional lives. I can only speak from the perspective of a young, female attorney because that has been my corporate experience – but my hope is that my attempt at professional “wisdom” which follows below, has a broader appeal.
- Take your training seriously – your first 3-6 years in as a professional are crucial, make sure you are exposed to good quality work. Nag your managers about it and make yourself as available as possible.
- Be aware of your development – this is not to say watch your peers like a hawk to see what kind of work they are getting and constantly compare yourself. Set realistic goals for yourself, speak to people who are a bit more senior than you are, to determine what is expected of you versus what you are currently delivering.
- If you are in professional services – make sure you get client exposure from day one, insist on going along to meetings and after these meetings, produce a meeting note (within a day of the meeting if possible) which you and your manager can use for ease of reference. The note will encourage your manager to take you to more meetings and it will help you track your exposure
- Build relationships – so many young professionals take this for granted. You are only doing yourself a disservice by being shy and behaving like a hermit. Engage with your colleagues, even if it means going to the canteen for lunch with your colleagues when you would rather eat at your desk or catch up on your novel in the car. I have seen how self-alienation can hinder one’s promotion prospects.
- Keep updating your professional skills – this can be done through in-house training offered at your workplace or through short courses available at surrounding academic or training institutions. As lawyers, we are always encouraged to keep abreast of new legislation and market trends, not only in South Africa but across the continent so we are constantly reading.
- Contribute to the advancement of knowledge in your field – it is always a pleasure reading articles written by, or going to lectures presented by young professionals.
- Always look for secondment opportunities – the experience of working and living in another country is second to none. You literally come back not only as a different professional, but also as a different person. Personally, it was important for me to work in East Africa because of the strides that have been made in the ICT sector (specifically, mobile telecommunications transactions i.e. M-PESA) in that region.
- Be open to being wrong – about your career, your goals and your timelines. This is the only way that you will be able to pick yourself up and re-evalute when you fail because there will be a lot of failures. To state the obvious, climbing the corporate ladder is not the only way to build or advance a career.
- Don’t rush – ambition is great, in fact it is encouraged but do not put unnecessary pressure on yourself. It is foolish to compare yourself to your friends or anyone else for that matter.
- Be bold – this is fundamental and I have learnt this the hard way. There is no point in your education and the painfully long hours spent at the office if you cannot speak up and take the lead when you are required to. There is really no room for self-doubt and nobody has ever served the world by playing small.
I cannot emphasise enough how important it is for young professionals to not downplay their capabilities. That is purely a waste of time.
Article by: Mosa Thekiso
Occupation: Associate at Norton Rose Fulbright
Qualifications: Bachelor of Laws (University of the Witwatersrand); Master of Laws (Communications Law) (University of the Witwatersrand)
Image provided by Mosa Thekiso