When I Grow Up – Bold & Beautiful African Dreams

On a cold winter afternoon in Maseru, dancing my heart away, belting out the chorus of one of my favorite childhood songs, “I love you daddy, you are my hero, you are my superstar” by eighties pop star Ricardo. I looked up, and there he was, the first love of my life, an audience of one, my dad, standing by the window sill, witnessing what I can call one of the most beautiful and precious moments of his life. I stopped singing, and he asked me to come and help him pack the fire place. Lesotho winters are brutally cold, so to warm ourselves up in the living room, on a daily basis, we had to make a coal fire. As we put the layers; paper, cardboard, wood then coal, dad asked the question, “Nkhono, what do you want to be when you grow up?”. I hesitated and seeing as my dad was my favorite person in the world, I wanted to be just like him, “a doctor” I said, he was impressed, then I added “and a singer too”, dad chuckled.

 “That’s not a real job, it’s a hobby”. So of course I counted all the singers I knew. But ultimately my dad convinced me that every single subject that I took after school, was an extra-curricular activity, things that I could do to pass time, like dancing, painting, singing and taking pictures ~ which I loved and got straight A’s for, but my father focused on Mathematics, Science and English grades. Those are the only ones that really mattered on a school report. “To be a doctor, you need maths and science” he would always say.

As a recruiter, during interviews, listening to people answer the question “Tell me about yourself ?”, I picked up that 9 out of 10 times candidates selected their career paths, based on a successful relative or person in their community. “Aunt Josephina was the first black female Chartered Accountant in our neighborhood, she has a double-story house and a BMW X5. That’s how I knew I wanted to be an Accountant”, was a common response. My follow up question was usually, “Growing up, what did you want to be?”, and most candidates have no idea. Then I probed further by asking what they loved to do, what comes naturally to them, what single activity they can get lost in, without feeling  time pass, something that they do easily and others praise them for doing it so easily.

After 11 years in recruitment, having conducted more interviews than I can remember, I can tell you that, 99% of the people that I have met, are winging it, and have pretty much studied whatever course they were told their high school grades would get them into. I truly believe that one of the reasons people are unhappy at work, is because they don’t enjoy what they do. Some people were simply told to go and become Engineer’s because they would guaranteed a job when they graduated, and get paid a lot of money. After all the hard work, sweat, tears and cheating at University, they come out into a world that is flooded with their skill set, and realize that there is no such thing as “job security”. I dare say that, in Africa our career choices are driven by poverty and politics, we just want to cover the basics. We do not have the luxury of dreaming, our reality determines what we will do to earn a living. 

Which is why, I find the Ikigai concept particularly interesting. According to Gallup,Millennials don’t just work for a paycheck – they want a purpose. For millennials, work must have meaning. Their compensation is important and must be fair, but they’re motivated more by mission and purpose than paycheck (2019). In the same way that we want to work for companies whose values align to our own. We should pursue our Ikigai – find that single thing that we love, that we are good at, can get paid for, and definitely something that the world needs. And then find those companies whose purpose matches our own. I believe this would create the synergies that we need between workers, in order to create socially cohesive workplaces, and could potentially be an explosive culture transformation model for organisations’. Purpose driven hires, for purpose driven companies, to create meaning for all.

When I grow up, I want to live a life in pursuit of my God given purpose!!

Henley Business School – Outro!

When I was looking to study further, I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go, I just knew that I needed to develop myself further. In many ways I felt like my mind was rusted. I always appreciate working in the corporate world as there are always learning and development interventions, while they may be company oriented, it’s always great to learn something new.

So, I asked my career coach for advice, and they recommend I go to Henley, they told me I would fit right in and that their methodology would suit my personal style and I would never be bored.I applied. The application process was intimidating, it required so much. When I was accepted I sang and danced and was super happy.

Day one, I had more energy than the energizer bunny. Very excited to be back on campus after a long time. It just felt good to be amongst other people who were also keen to embark on the Post Graduate Diploma journey. We formed groups that we would work with as part of our Action Learning Project, and I was part of the “Building Blocks” which was a group of dynamic people from different industries. What I enjoyed the most is that we were diverse; one was from Mozambique, another Portugal, one from Botswana, and the rest from South Africa. We quickly bonded. We stormed and normed. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to go on a journey with. I learnt a lot about myself from my community of practice, as well as the lecturers.

We started last August, and had no idea what 2020 would look like. When the Covid19 pandemic struck the world, Henley quickly adjusted to virtual learning, which was not easy for me because one of the things I loved the most about being on campus was walking around and getting hugs from my class mates.Never could I ever imagine writing an exam online, and will have to wait and see what a virtual graduation ceremony will look like.

I just can’t believe the year is over (time truly flies when you are having fun) and that I don’t have to submit assignments every fortnight. I never thought I would miss that and all the reading that we did in the last 12 months, as a graduation gift I bought myself a few books to keep me going.

When I went to Henley, I thought I was going to business school, so expected to learn about strategy, innovation, shared value and anything that would make me a hot shot business person, I had those modules, but more than anything, Henley gifted me with self- awareness.

An incredible journey!