Wednesday, March 26, 2008

One year on: four lessons from the World of Work program

It is one year since I was part of the World of Work program and I try to think hard what I took home from the one month of seminars and workshops that were to equip me with a better understanding of the business world, my place in it and how I can and should relate to it.

While I was in the program, I was offered a permenent position as a researcher with the South African Institute of Race Relations. So things turned out well for me: I landed a job.

Perhaps the most important lesson is that it requires constant work to figure out what it is that I want to do in my professional life. The program fostered in me the understanding that it foremost depends on me what job I want to do. It is much more than getting ready for employment and applying. The crucial question is what do I want to do? Or in the phrase of an advertising campaign: where do you want to go today ?

The second most important lesson is that in order to function in the workplace, and to land a job, is to fit in. This is in a sense a terrible lesson: do we not want to express our individuality and be recognized as such before we fit in? Yet as a member of an organization, we have to fit in. And so we do. I think the trick is do so but also to cultivate one's personal touch to the tasks you do.

Third, network, network, network. Be out there, meet people, leave an impression. New encounters sharpen your sense of what the possibilities are. Don't settle into a passive routine. While you do your work, you already plan your next move.

Finally, look at yourself as an entrepreneur. That is, your attitude is positive, be on the lookout, everyday offers new opportunities to make things happen. You may have to settle with your circumstances, but something better is around the corner. And this, you only reach with the right attitude. So you choose your attitude.

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