The Running Commentary


A letter to the new seekers of work, particularly the youth of South Africa.

This post stems from a high sense of frustration so forgive me if I wander through it a bit. I wanted to do something that may help the new entrants into the job market.  Something that I hope helps contextualise your need to be gainfully employed, excited about what you are doing coupled with the current world economic situation.  A sort of thought processes that you will need to adopt as you embark on this amazing journey into corporate or entrepreneurial endeavour.

I fundamentally believe that we all, someday, will have the opportunity to pursue our passions in life.  Sometimes these passions actually are able to sustain our economic needs but the cold hard truth, is that very often our passions are not able to sustain our economic needs and we will need to work at something else first. This point is hard to grasp at first, particularly if you have been told by “those in the know” that you can do anything you set your heart too.  Let me be frank, for the most of you this will not be the case, you will not be able to do this, more importantly you will not be able to sustain yourself or those around you.

Bummer – yes this is the truth.

Now I can already hear the noise of the naysayers, to my views, coming. “Look at me, I follow my passion and I am successful.” Yes you may well be but you are in the minority. Capitalism just works that way.  The minority will control the bulk of the wealth and the rest will have to live with the “scraps” coming from the table.

There is however something more important that I want to leave with you.  I am going to sound like the old fart (39 year old) you hate.  Once you have secured a job, you need to work hard at achieving the very best that you can out of it.  The one thing that Capitalism always acknowledges is hard-work.  The very same people who may disagree with me about the fact that we can’t all do what we desire, also share something else in common.  They work really hard at their passion, it does not feel like work, but it is.  They are able to sustain themselves as a result of the passion.  I think though that passion can be cultivated and I believe that if you work hard at becoming the best that you can, you are able to gain passion. 

An example:

I experienced two people recently at Pick ‘n Pay, both cashiers (tellers).  The one person greeted me warmly (they may have been telling me to go to hell in their mind) but they were pleasant to me.  They thanked me for shopping there and seemed, at face value anyway, to care about my impression of them.  The second one held a conversation with her packing assistant the whole time I was there. She did not give a stuff about me and I was just and irritation in her conversation.  She actually needed to finish her sentence before asking if I want to charge my groceries on a budget or straight basis.  I would guess that the both people did not set out to become cashiers, but one is making a good go of it and the other does not give a stuff.  Who do you think will go further?

My advice: Concentrate on your passion and try to cultivate something sustainable out of it. If you are able to, consider yourself extremely lucky, not lucky because you happened on the idea, but lucky that you are able to do the thing you love most, while getting an income too.  If however you are going to be like the vast majority out there, then work at becoming the best that you can be. Show a willingness to try new things, get deployed to outer Mongolia, it will only be a short time and your sacrifice will be noticed. Learn new things, ask to be put on training, bite off a little more than you think you can cope with, don’t do anything life threatening though!

Finally, remember that I may need to work for you someday and remember that I gave you this great advice.

adviceIndividual Successpassionsuccesswork

Mike • November 11, 2010

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  1. Tania November 11, 2010 - 7:59 am

    Well said!!

  2. Roxanne November 11, 2010 - 8:07 am

    I am in the HR and Recruitment Industry, and I have been absolutely shocked at how graduates handle themselves. While a 3-4 year degree should ensure you are employable, in today’s economic environment, it doesn’t.

    The majority of graduates I have interviewed walk into the interview demanding to know what we have to offer them and yet refuse to offer anything up themselves.
    I’ve had graduates say “Oh, no no, I don’t want to do that.”, or “I would prefer to not work in an open plan office”.

    And, no matter how much I advise them on the process of entering the job market, this attitude does not change until they have been job hunting for 6 months, some for over a year.

    The graduates that I have found jobs for are the ones that are eager to learn. They will learn anything, as long as they are learning. They are hungry. It comes out in how they carry themselves into the interview, it comes out in their work.

    They are the true graduates, they are the ones that have something to offer. And they will be the ones that are leading their profession in 10 years time.

    Roxanne Dallas
    Recruitment Officer of the Year 2010 – AMARA

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  4. Jon November 26, 2010 - 1:38 am

    I’ve stumbled on this article a little late, but I’m glad I found it – it is particularly pertinent for me as I am hoping to complete my masters in the next few months and am thus looking to enter the job market.

    Thanks for the advice Mike – I agree with you, and not only cos you’re older and wiser than me, but also because I have already been through this same thought process myself. I do hope to work on what I’m passionate about eventually, but at this stage it’s a case of finding somewhere I can learn, grow and add value. Hopefully that puts me on a path towards a career in line with my passion/s.

  5. Mike November 26, 2010 - 5:45 am

    Hi Jon, thanks for taking the time to check this out. I am glad that you have already given this some thought. I am convinced that your approach will deliver results for, and they will come sooner than one thinks. Cheers Mike

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