The sequence usually goes… go to school, graduate, get a job and build a career. But what happens when your ambitions aren’t aligning with the job you’re currently in? Well, if you thought you were alone, perhaps these stats may interest you – according to a report by Universum SA, over 47% of South African employees have applied for new jobs. Amongst those are people who want to make a career transition to a completely different industry. 

Is a career transition as easy as people make it seem?

In these uncertain times, is it even a good idea to take that leap of faith? Gear up for today’s #CareersTuesday as we examine what it really takes to successfully transition into a new career through the lens of various women.

“Honestly speaking, I was bored with Marketing. It was monotonous and I had very little workplace reward”- Princess Mbonambi – Chef, Lecturer and Hospitality Consultant

Princess Mbonambi is currently running a hospitality consultancy business which offers services in hospitality and lifestyle. Prior to that, she worked in the marketing department at a university. “I worked in corporate soon after I matriculated and had my eyes set on a career in marketing,” she says.

“I fell pregnant and had to take leave. It was that period, when I was on maternity leave, when I would cook and make dishes for people’s parties, and dinners to keep myself busy. As more interest was developing, I started charging and I realized that I actually enjoyed cooking. I figured if it was something that I could get paid to do, then why not,” she adds. 

Mbonambi says that leaving a stable job for something with no guarantees was scary. “I used up all my savings for culinary school, a few months after giving birth. Learning the technicalities of being a chef was tough but fun, and exciting at the same time. I have no regrets so far, just natural development and growth,” she says.

“Everybody asked ‘what do you mean you’re going to be an actress?’, yet here I am” – Keabetswe Mashugane, Actress and Professional Make Up Artist 

As the only girl out of four boys, Keabetswe had always looked up to her brothers, especially the eldest, who is an investment banker and academic. “That’s what I’ve always known and grown up seeing; study, work hard and get a job, which is exactly what I did. That’s how my journey in corporate started,” she says. 

“My experience in corporate was good for the most part, in that it taught me a lot about who I am as a person. The reason why I left was partially because of my relationship with my previous boss. Outside of that, I was feeling very unfulfilled and unhappy in the space I was in. I wanted a creative space and felt very limited,” Mashugane further shared.

She continued to expand on why she decided to leave her corporate job, ‘’my decision to transition from corporate to the arts came from feeling unhappy in the monotony of everyday life – getting up in the morning, sitting in traffic, getting to work, sitting behind the desk, answering calls, attending meetings – I just became bored and mostly thrived when I was given the opportunity to be creative. Leaving a comfortable job and salary was difficult but it was a decision I made on a whim. I didn’t have a discussion with anybody – everyone around me was shocked. While I was still working, I heard about auditions for a new show. I went to the audition and two months later, I got a role. If that wasn’t a big enough sign, then I don’t know what was. I have never looked back since. Being on set everyday feels like home.’’ 

“My ex-husband and I had to be disciplined enough to save up for a year” –  Namritha Sivsanker, Businesswoman and Philanthropist 

Namritha Sivsanker went through multiple career transitions. “When we realized it was so expensive, we decided to use the same money to invest in our own training centre,’’ Sivsanker began telling her story about how she ventured into owning a computer training centre, from running a video store. She reminisces about how her computer training centre became successful back in the day, ‘’we started small and grew to a bigger training school doing IT sales, and even supplying computers to underprivileged schools in Nkandla, this was back in the day around 1999-2001.’’

Sivsanker did not end her career at her computer training business, she saw a need in the property market and although she had no experience in property, she pursued it. “We learnt along the way how to apply for bonds, then build and sell property,’’ she stated. Sivsanker’s decision to venture into property is a prime example that career transitioning shouldn’t always be about something that you are passionate about. You may have a transition or expand your career when you see a need or a gap in the market. 

She has now moved on to do what she loves most; helping people live better lives. ‘’At Hope SA Foundation, we distribute food parcels, provide winter warmth blankets and clothing to street dwellers, and support women with our Safer Women drive campaign,” she concluded.

“I lost  a lot of clients due to Covid19 which resulted in my business becoming financially vulnerable” – Yamkela Njingolo, Candidate Property Practitioner 

Yamkela’s decision to leave her public relations firm was due to losing many clients because of the global health pandemic which crept up on us in 2020 – COVID 19. This then resulted in her business becoming financially vulnerable. “I then had to think fast and decide what industry I can get into, in order to maximize my set skills,” she says. The chaos and financial predicament landed her in her new found passion, property. “It took me a good four weeks to adapt mentally and emotionally, having to run my own business for over six years and now dealing with the reality of being employed in a new industry and environment was a bit unsettling,’’ Yamkela said.

Currently, she is now a Candidate Property Practitioner, specializing in residential property. “Having nine listings under my name in a matter of just three months proved that was indeed an industry that bears lessons on a daily basis and I see myself growing from strength to strength as the years progress,” she shares. 

Through her transition, Yamkela has learnt so many lessons in just this short space of time. 

Here’s what to keep in mind if you’re thinking of taking up a new career:

  1. Have an accountability partner

Having an accountability partner will keep you on your toes as they will hold you accountable and provide feedback on your progress. Your goals and objectives must be shared with them, so that it becomes easier to craft a strategic plan.

  1. Leverage your strengths 

Focus on what you are good at. You need to understand your strengths and your unique abilities. When you know where your strengths lie, you can use them to your advantage in order to perform better and be more productive. Focus on daily tasks and set goals to advance in your position.

  1. Make sure you do your research 

One of the biggest mistakes you can make during a career transition is not doing thorough research. Have a good idea of the industry that you wish to penetrate and be prepared to always learn something new.

  1. Seek professional advice

Whether it’s a mentor, financial advisor, or any other expert in the field of your choice, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into, have a good support system, and guidance from a reliable source. 

  1. Follow Your Passion 

You can’t fake what you are not passionate about. Be clear on your WHY and that will keep you going even when you hit obstacles. 

Always keep this in mind; a career transition can be a difficult and lengthy process. However, the rewards are immeasurable once you have finally succeeded. Do not get discouraged, as the late Nelson Mandela said, ‘’it always seems impossible until it is done.’’