This blog reflects on life at work at comments on the latest news that shapes my 9-5 working day in a Corporate Communications consultancy.

About Me

I am a born and bred South African who has always loved to read and write. As a child my mother used to read to me and my siblings, from classics like the “Lord of the Rings” but later also from her own stories. She would write children’s stories and then use us as her test audience, but I loved to hear what she had written long after my siblings had tired of it. So I grew up in an environment of reading and writing, which inspired my love of these things. I hope to write a great book some day, and have learnt first hand the determination and will that it takes. My love of English inspired me to continue my study of it at university. I majored in Law and English in a BA degree at UCT where I found that I took to English much more than law. I enjoyed learning about South Africa’s history and the development of our liberal Constitution, which increasingly made me committed to the hope this country has for the future. Ideally, I’d like to find myself in a job where I am able to write; that allows a good mix of time spent with people and being able to work on my own.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

The Entrepreneur

Marius Venter from the University of Johannesburg involved our group in thinking creatively about entrepreneurship. The most important starting point of being an entrepreneur is to know ourselves. He illustrated this by asking each of us to describe ourselves with words that begin with each letter of our first names.

In the human treasure hunt, we were each given a worksheet of things and had to find someone in the group who had done that, for example: had he/ she ever made a personal greeting card, or won the lottery. Once we had completed the search we discussed what each of these experiences meant for the entrepreneur. For example, entrepreneurs need to be competitive, have clear goals, have the ability to budget, and be able to add a personal touch to their business.

Our final task was to break into teams and draw a picture that represents all the characteristics of the entrepreneur. My group drew a lion, because it is both a team animal while displaying the characteristics of a leader, it has an instinct to survive, just as entrepreneurs pursue the goal of profit making for their survival. One group drew a tree, with the many qualities of the entrepreneur displayed on its branches, and the final group drew a man who had many things, from a thinking mind to some money in his pocket to begin his business.

The session allowed us to explore what it takes to be an entrepreneur through active participation. South Africa needs more people who will take the initiative and create jobs for others, so we learned some valuable lessons that we will hopefully utilise in our future careers.

Leaders everywhere

In many of our sessions, particularly Brad Arden’s, it has been emphasised that everyone can be a leader. And not only that, but that everyone at a point in their working lives will be required to lead. When Eileen Maleka from CCDU was doing her workshop with us, we each picked a piece of paper with a skill on it at random from a packet and spent five minutes thinking about whether we felt we had that skill. To my surprise, I got ‘leadership’, something I do not feel comes naturally to me. But during this course, I have begun to realise that there are many ways to lead; while the old philosophy that such people are born, not made, is no longer recognised as true. Everyone has the capacity that can be developed and expressed in his or her personal style.

Today, Kuseni Dlamini from Richards Bay Coal Terminal spoke about the power of personal excellence to transform our environment. To mobilise change in South Africa and on the African continent, he emphasised that it is necessary to foster a culture of achievement and an “I can” attitude rather than one of blame. Beginning the shift begins with ourselves, and by committing to being excellent in all that we do, it will inspire others to do the same. Everyone can lead by example. Benjamin Zander (the orchestra conductor that I wrote about in a previous post) leads by being passionate about what he does, and through this he encourages passion in those around him. The author Marianne Williamson writes: “We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone, and as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.”

The input from the workshops had opened my mind to think more broadly rather than traditionally about leadership, and encouraged me to recognise my personal potential that can only grow by being developed and nurtured.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

You don’t have to throw fish around to make something fly

In Aki Kaliatakis’s presentation, I felt that one of the highlights was watching the video about Pike Place fish market ( Watching the flying fish packers go about their daily jobs with such enthusiasm and energy was truly inspiring. But as the employees emphasised, it’s not simply about the fish. It’s about choosing a way to behave, choosing an attitude and making the effort to be fully present at every moment in the day. To make something fly, it’s about going about our tasks as enthusiastically as they did.

If everyone is in business, as Andrew Hofmeyr reminded us, then everyone we encounter is a customer. If we are building a personal brand, then the product we are selling every moment is ourselves. What kind of impression are we making at each moment in the day? Ali’s notes quote, “They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but then an entire life to forget them”. What are the simple things that will make us unforgettable in the minds of those around us? While we were waiting for things to get started, Ali simply walked round the table, shook each of our hands, and greeted each of us personally. It immediately made me warm to him as someone who would go the extra effort to acknowledge me.

Let’s get back to the fish packers. Their company culture filtered to every employee. Every person was required to participate in order to make their working environment a success. Once we get into the world of work, we may just be the intern. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t make a difference. As has been emphasised in previous sessions, every employee can get involved in decision making. Everyone can take initiative and fulfil their task with passion, enthusiasm and a great attitude. And once that shines out, it will affect everyone around us.

Benjamin Zander (, an American musician, conductor, and motivational speaker, speaks about creating leaders everywhere. In the orchestra, the conductor is perceived to lead the group. Those playing the instruments are seated in groups that denote their importance- those in the front play a greater section of the melody. However, under Zander’s baton, he began the practice of getting everyone involved. Practicing a particularly difficult piece, he asked each of the members to turn to their partner and teach them the melody, creating leaders everywhere. He began the practice of putting a white sheet of paper at every member’s podium so that they could give him feedback on their performance. By doing so, he inspired everyone to get involved and express their passion. By being fully present in their performance, each member of the orchestra could lead, no matter where they were sitting, even if it was in the eleventh row.

Zander believes that “a leader does not need a podium”. A leader does not need to be the CEO of a company. Even as an intern, we can lead by choosing a positive attitude that will inspire the same in those around us. We don’t need to throw fish around to make something fly.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

network, network, network!

Over the weekend, I was chatting to a friend who travelled for some time in Korea after he had finished his varsity degree. He has been back for about a year now and has been in a job for seven months. During his job search process, he found that things only really started to get moving once he’d made the effort to talk to everyone he had some form of contact with in his desired industry. He reminded me that it was extremely easy to ignore a CV that has been sent to your email address. Now, even as a relatively junior member of staff, he gets CVs in his inbox regularly. Luckily, the world of work programme is giving us ample opportunity to begin to develop a network from which to draw. It’s so much easier to make an impression on people with face to face contact than on a piece of paper (with the exception of blogs that begin to bridge that divide). Chris Gardner- the main character in “The Pursuit of Happyness”- ensured that while he dropped off his application, he personally handed it to his potential employer. He stood out from the crowd from the start. The movie is based on a true story. Today, Chris is the owner of a successful stock-broking firm and an inspiration to all potential job-seekers such as ourselves!

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

linking to other's blogs

Here's how to link other people's blogs to your site.
1.Click on new post.
2. Click on template. Go to 'add a page element'.
3.There will be a list of things that you can add, one of which is "link list". Click on "add to blog". 4.Type in all the blog addresses where you see "new site URL".
5. Click on "add link" and the URL will be listed at the bottom.
6.When you are done, click on "save changes" and the addresses will be on your blog.

Re-conceptualising the career box

We’ve all been faced with the terrifying prospect of our very first job interview. When the day for mine drew nearer, I grew more and more nervous, until just talking about it would make my hands shake. All this confounded my Dad, who didn’t seem to be able to understand my pain. Until I got fed up with his lack of empathy and asked him, “Come on Dad, don’t you remember how you felt at your first job interview?” He replied that he’d never had one. He wrote a letter while at university to the company where he’d done some vacation work and they were happy to give him a job.

The days of this exceptional ease in finding a first job is long gone. (To give my Dad credit, though, he did take the initiative to find, and hold down, a vacation job). As Andrew Hofmeyr joked, no one’s going to be forming a queue at our door to take advantage of a Latin/ arts/ languages/ politics degree. Re-conceptualising our skills requires some revolutionary thinking on our part. But our opportunities are endless.

Jerry, a family friend, plays computer games all day. By doing this, he makes a fortune. He has paid for their beautiful house in Kommetjie, an exclusive area in Cape Town, in cash. He could afford to spend a year travelling around the world while he worked. Essentially, he sells objects that he has acquired in the game in a shop on e-bay. He can work anywhere were he has a decent computer and an ADSL line. By training, he’s an ichthyologist- a fish scientist.
The Sunday Times carried an article this week about a place where we can all have a second life ( Second Life is a virtual computer world with no sickness, old age or death, and everyone is beautiful. 4.5 million people belong to this community, purchasing virtual commodities for real world money. Everyday, up to $1.5 million exchanges hands. Corporates have caught on to this phenomenon and rented space in the game. A singer has launched her album in this world. Businesses can hold conferences in a virtual conference room.

In our world, our scope for career options is as broad as our capacity for innovation. How much more exciting this is than the world of my Dad, where he never saw a job interview room, was expected to be a lawyer, doctor, or businessman, and was never interviewed for his first job.

Interviews, CVs, and the World of Work

Raj and Eileen spoke to us about skills in the workplace as well as talking us through handling an interview and preparing CVs. Eileen handed round a packet that had a selection of skills on pieces of paper. We each had to pick one and spent some time thinking about whether we had that skill and why it was useful in the workplace. As a group we discussed each of these skills, such as leadership, management, political awareness, problem solving and action planning, and why it was important for every employee to develop these skills. She stressed that a positive attitude was vital in the workplace.

Raj focused on CVs and interviews. He talked us through some interview strategies, including having a checklist for the day of the interview and the importance of preparing ourselves. In his opinion, the start and the end of the interview are the most important as they will stick in the interviewer’s mind.

In the group we shared some of the questions we feel are most difficult to answer, for example, “what are your weaknesses?” Strategies for answering this question are to focus on weaknesses that can be corrected by education or experience, while showing that we have a commitment to self-development. An interviewer will direct questions that deal with core competencies, such us our ability to work in a team, our communication, and our time and stress management.Raj suggested in the run- up to the interview that we visualise ourselves coping competently in the situation and being able to deal with all the questions calmly and confidently. Several times a day for a few days before, and particularly on the day of, the interview, it is effective to talk positively to ourselves to help quell our fears. And finally, it’s important to recognise that it’s a stressful process and gives ourselves a treat once we’ve survived the process!

Writing competition

For all the budding journalists in our group, I thought I'd share a competition I've seen on News 24. Called "Craft your column", you can send in a column of 500 words on any topic by the 30th of April. The winner of their prize will get a six month contract to write a column for them, worth R6000. On their website they say they have been in-undated with entries, so I suggest we get cracking! I hope our blog posts will give us plenty of ideas.
Click on this link for more info:,,2-2127_2079881,00.html

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Being a great intern

This week, we’ve been discussing our expectations of being a new employee or an intern in a company as well as the employers’ expectations. Being in the world of work is all about being able to present yourself in a confident way. In the movie "The Pursuit of Happyness", Will Smith plays Christopher Gardner, an intern in a stock- broking firm. Chris is the example of a near-perfect intern. When he delivers his application form, he makes sure it is personally handed over to the boss. He knows that he is just one of many applicants and makes sure he is not simply another name on another piece of paper. And by the time he reaches his interview, he has impressed the firm sufficiently so that they are prepared to accept him even though he arrives, due to unavoidable circumstances, in paint-stained overalls.

Once he gets his internship position, he is one of a large group. But he continues to make sure that he is not just a face. He always makes the coffee. He always runs errands even at great cost to himself. And everyone knows his name. Most importantly, he goes on coming to work with a smile on his face, despite personal circumstances that are extremely difficult. By the time the firm needs to select an intern from the group as an employee, Chris is able to greet every member of his panel by name. No wonder they chose him for the job. Chris was prepared to do whatever it took to reach his dream. As he tells his son, “You want something. Go get it. Period.” With this attitude, he was able to triumph. We can all learn something from him about how to stand out in the crowd and get the job of our dreams.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

helpful hint on blogging

How to delete a post: Click on Dashboard link on your Blog page. Click on Manage posts. A list of your posts will come up. Click on the Delete sign next to the post.

Thinking about blogging

I feel a little apprehensive that a lot of other people will be reading all about me and my world. I feel frustrated with trying to get the blog spot to work well but I'm sure I'll get used to it.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Beginning Blogging with the World of Work

I am excited to start blogging as it will give me the opportunity to express myself and order my thoughts as I reflect on the process of entering into the work place. My blog will be my own personal space.