While Youth Month commemorates the sacrifices made by the Soweto youth in 1976, it also celebrates the kind of tenacity and unswerving commitment that is often synonymous with the idealism of youth. Both Yolanda and Itumeleng will be graduating at the end of the year, and while their chosen career paths may differ, they share a common vision of being part of the change they want to see in South Africa. The dreams in their pockets are plenty, and these two young leaders in the making believe that dialogue and knowledge-sharing platforms are key to realising these dreams.
Yolanda Mussana (YM): We’re both graduating at the end of the year, me in IT, you in financial management. How are you feeling about work prospects given the current state of the economy?
Itumeleng Mnisi (IM): I’ve invested so much in this degree but there are moments when I wonder if it will be enough. There are so many graduates out there competing for a small number of jobs. Right now, I’m feeling that no amount of education is enough – you need to have some practical experience behind you to be sure of getting a good job. These days, you’ve got to be grateful for any type of job. Waitse mos, i-job i-job… ('You know, a job is a job!')
Thankfully, I’ve secured a learnership for next year, something which was only possible for blue collar workers in the form of workshop apprentices. These days, we’re fortunate that even if we feel like the shifts have been minor over the past 20+ years, those of us in the professional service industry can now apply for internships.
Keep the faith chom, IT is a much-desired skill in the market today, so start looking and applying now already for a 2023 internship placement. IT wasn’t even a career option a few years ago, how the world keeps changing… soon we’re going to need to refresh our skills and our qualifications.
YM: In some families, there’s so much pressure to find a job to contribute at home. Have you ever felt tempted to give up on your studies because of that?
IM: Hayyi, never! I knew matric wouldn’t be enough to help me realise my ambitions and that I needed a degree for the best chance at earning a decent living, and enjoying a decent quality of life one day. And besides that, my mentor at the time also made sure I understood the importance of ‘going full circle’ with my studies so that I can better help my family in the long run.
I have a long-term view on helping my family, not a short-term one. Leaving my studies today to find a job for the unskilled or unqualified is a short-term fix, not only for the family I was born into, but also for the family I want to have one day.
IM: Why are you asking about giving up? Have you felt tempted to abandon your studies…?
YM: I never felt like giving up. Ooh, never. If the youth of 16 June taught me anything, it is to never give up, to keep believing in my dreams.
Mina, I’m so focused on creating something of my own, so I knew, quitting my studies was not an option.
Entrepreneurship demands skills, it demands some type of qualification, so I’ve stayed the course. You know, there are certain things you can’t sommer zama zama ('simply take chances with').
The country has many so-called hustlers, so many young people who are trying every possible avenue to live their best lives. And I love that! It is within our reach, with information, an openness to hard work, and undying commitment, there’s very little we can’t do. For ourselves and for one another.
Again, just look at how the commitment of the youth of ‘76 impacted our country’s history… eish!
Did you know I actually wanted to pursue an accounting degree before I got to varsity. But by the time I got there, I didn’t quit, I just switched to IT.
How about you? Did you always know you wanted a career in finance, or did you also change direction at some point?
IM: Actually, back in the day, I wanted to be a scientist, but when I joined the Leaders in the Making programme, I was given the opportunity to do some job shadowing, which happened to be in finance. I fell in love with it when I saw what my mentor was doing – and I decided I really liked the corporate life.
I felt there was more scope for creativity and growth in the corporate environment, and I liked the structure. To be honest, I felt that the pay would be better… hahahaha! For me, this meant a better chance of achieving financial freedom, which has always been a goal of mine. Also, it’s a great experience if you ever want to open up your own business.
IM: Now I’m curious, what turned you from accounting to IT?
YM: I guess it was that I felt there was more opportunity in IT. Technology is moving so fast and there’s so much going on in the industry that I felt there would be a good niche for me there. You always hear people talk about future-proofing your this and that, so for me, pursuing a qualification in IT was one way to ‘future-proof’ my employability. Growing your skills to include those that won’t become redundant in future, making sure you’ve ‘got the goods’ for a wide variety of jobs means you’re insuring your future, isn’t it… ?
YM: I find that dialogue, opening platforms for youth to engage each other, to talk is so important in managing mental and emotional health, but also as a means to innovate solutions, as a collective. What are your thoughts on this?
IM: Young people often get caught up in trying to meet the high standards for 'living your best life' on social media, without realising that so often, the stories and the pics are not real. There are all these people apparently achieving such success while you are just caught in your struggles. I think it can affect one’s mental health, and a lot of people just don’t realise that they have a mental health problem, or are too scared to ask for help. Young people really need to start making use of the resources that are out there to help them when they are struggling. We also need to be more supportive of each other, and share our personal struggles, and share the tools we’re using to overcome them.
We need to be a bit humble and learn from our elders, and find a mentor or two, just don’t stop learning. Don’t stop growing. Be intentional about it.
Things don’t always go according to plan, so we have to be open to what happens and look for the growth opportunities.
Don’t accept any limits.
Noma kanjani… ! ('no matter what')
Yolanda is finishing her a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science while Itumeleng is completing Honours in Financial Management.
MiWay is a licensed non-life insurer and Financial Services Provider (FSP 33970).