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7 Ways to Position Yourself for Your Next Big Career Opportunity

prepare for career opportunities

Captain Jack Sparrow might like to wave opportunities as they pass by. That’s because he’s a pirate. And he lacks the drive to look to the future. 

While saying “yes” to career-defining moments is important in moving you forward, setting yourself up for a “big opportunity” requires more effort than just passively waiting which means a great deal of initiative.

Get clarity on your career

Driving forward full-force is important in reaching the next level in your career, but it is far more helpful if you are headed in the right direction. Sitting down and really thinking about what it is that you are after is crucial in setting yourself up for success.

Pin-point what you want your career to look like and make sure all of your objectives are aligned to that. This can mean thinking about things such as whether you want to work with a small team or be leading a major organisation. Positioning yourself in the right direction right now will make a huge impact on your career ten years down the line.

Be intention and stay focused

Once you have an idea of what you want in your career, keep that idea in the forefront of your mind. Even go so far as to write it down and stick it on your desk. Work done with laser-focus is much more likely to help land your ‘Big Opportunity’ moment. 

Work with excellence in mind

When you work, it should be done in such a way that you can’t help but beam afterwards. “Now this was some outstanding work” is something you should strive to think about – and often. Not only will it equip to work excellently more often, but it will also give you a sense of pride and satisfaction. Who can’t help but want that?

Take care of yourself

This is advice one often hears, but seldom takes. While making sure you are doing your very best work professionally, also make sure you do very best to take care of yourself outside the office too. This means ensuring that you are keeping a healthy balance in all spheres of life. If you are feeling strung out on a consistent basis, it’s possible that you are going to miss an important moment. 

Flaunt your strengths 

If you are looking to move forward in your career, make sure that ‘Be Humble’ remains a song and not your motto. Showing that you are confident in your abilities will do wonders in the way that you see yourself. Not only is the resultant work remarkable, but it also shows executives that you know that you are good and they’ll see it too.   

Stay on the radar

This goes hand-in-hand with that sweet, sweet confidence. Speak up in meetings and throw in your two cents. It doesn’t have to be a sales pitch every time you voice an opinion, but if you are able to back yourself in what you think, your ideas will be able to speak for themselves.

We know, putting yourself in a position where you are seen, heard, and acknowledged can be scary. But it will help get you to a place where decision-makers will think of you first for those Big Opportunities. 

Build positive relationships

Find people that you can rely on to build you up. The best way to find an amazing opportunity is to connect with a person who knows where it might be. Take time to meet up with those you consider key leaders in your industry and get to know their journey; it’s likely going to end up helping you on yours.

Gaining Mentors and Becoming One

Believe it or not, you might have had a mentor from the moment you were born. They came in the form of mothers, fathers, grandparents, or whoever raised you while growing up. These mentors probably helped guide you through your schooling era. However, once you enter the workforce, you’ll need a different type of mentorship.

When you think about mentorship, the image of drinking coffee, and receiving sage business advice from the high-flying CEO might come to mind. While this would be the perfect scenario, it is not usually the case. Your mentor isn’t necessarily someone in a senior position. It could be someone sitting within another department or Karen from HR.

Discover how to find your ideal mentor and how you can mentor someone else.

Three tips to help you find your mentor

To start with, your mentor should provide you with honest feedback on your skillset. Try to determine the following:

What are your goals?

Perhaps you’re looking to become a manager within the next few years. Your instinct would be to make a beeline for the manager within your department. Before you follow your manager around like a lost puppy, stop and think. Does the manager reflect the type of manager you’d like to become?

You need to identify the skillset necessary to lead. Maybe you need to be more creative or more decisive. If this is the case, find someone who has these strengths.

Scan your network

Your potential mentor might not be in the workplace, it could be someone you studied with or a former colleague. Reflect on what you admired about them, whether it’s their leadership skills or someone who held their own during a challenge. Remember that these people need to be familiar with your working style and your personality.

Attend industry events

Your ideal mentor could be waiting at a seminar or networking event! The good news is that you don’t have to look that hard to find networking events – a quick online search will help.

Make a fun night of it – rope in some of your colleagues and expand your network!

Once you’ve compiled a list of potential mentors, it’s time to pop the big question. So, how do you approach the lucky candidate? Instead of asking: “Will you be my mentor please?” try something along the lines of:

“Part of my five-year plan is to become a manager. However, I do need to build my skillset. Do you mind if I pick your brain sometime?”

What happens if they decline? Accept gracefully and don’t take it personally. Not everyone has the time to be someone’s mentor but you can still keep in touch. Now, you move on to the next person on your list.

Two tips on becoming a mentor

What happens when someone asks you to become their mentor? You do a little dance! 

On a serious note, you need to be an amazing mentor and provide your mentee with the relationship that will help them develop professionally and personally. 

Sounds like a lot of pressure? Don’t stress. It’s really simple:

Set expectations from the start

Decide on times to meet, how often you’ll be meeting, and the duration of the mentorship. This will help you decide on what you’ll be discussing during the meetings.

Take an interest in your mentee

The mentorship will only work if you’re interested in providing guidance. If not, then the relationship won’t be as effective and you’re probably wasting your mentee’s time.

Get to know them to discover what they’re looking to achieve. This way, you’re able to help them develop personally and professionally.

Mentorship is a rewarding experience – whether you’re a mentee or mentor. Receiving the first-hand experience from someone you admire is the best way to develop your skillset. Being a mentor is also the best way to refine your leadership skills.

Another way to develop your skills? Through online learning. Sign up for our Business and Management short course to further develop your leadership and management skills.

What is Personal Branding and How Do You Start?

personal branding

Imagine how great it would be if ‘personal branding’ was as simple as sticking a label on your nose and saying you were that thing.

While it might sound ridiculous, that’s kind of what it is.

Personal branding is the way you promote yourself and the way that other people perceive you. Think of a personal brand as an online business card, where you can tell the world what you do and why you’re good at it.

Equip yourself to make your personal brand shine

It might have the connotation of belonging to influencers, but having a personal brand is something that anyone can do. Developing a personal brand can be hugely beneficial in marketing yourself in a social or professional manner on a public platform.

Simply put, to have a personal brand is to tell a story and, if it is told well, it can help boost a career to brand new heights. 

Developing a personal brand

Before diving into the exciting, daunting, crazy world of self-branding goodness, make sure you go in with some idea of where you want your brand to go. ‘Winging it’ might sound like a fun, easy-going way, but it probably won’t help develop any tangible results. Going in with a clean, adaptable strategy is the first, crucial step to find the right voice.

Be authentic

There’s no better way to be unique than to be genuine! Identify an aspect of yourself that you like, and you’ll find it far easier to apply it to your brand. Being authentic will also make it easier to relate to your target audience. Customers can tell if someone is insincere, so showing them who you really are is the best way to win them over.

Speak to your audience

Speaking of your customers; you should be doing your best to speak to them wherever and whenever possible. Engagement is one of the best ways to attract people to your brand and there are tools and features where this is possible. On social media, take advantage of ways to get feedback from your customers and cultivate your content accordingly.

Choose a platform wisely

Focusing on fewer forms of media could help your message and your brand go further, counter-intuitive as it might sound. Personal branding takes time to grow and develop, and trying to nurture your brand across too many platforms can actually weaken your overall image. 

There are many different platforms offering different perks and unique features. Explore which ones suit you and which ones you enjoy using and go from there. Once you’ve discovered how your brand can be a niche on one platform, maintain a steady stream of content, keeping your audience satisfied and up to date.

Grow, develop and adapt 

Over the past 40 years, Coca Cola has changed its logo five times. This is arguably the world’s most recognisable brand, and the company’s marketing team knows that it’s important to make tweaks to stay up to date. Developing a personal brand is no different. It takes small changes over time to stay relevant and fresh. 

Brush up on your knowledge

Make sure you know what you’re talking about. If you are an advocate for strong women leaders, act like one! Or at least promote those ladies who you think are getting their personal brands right. If you are able to say something with authority, you’ll find your customers will be more willing to listen.

Be consistent

If you take anything from this: Keep at it. Those who succeed at building a reputable, strong personal brand have failed numerous times leading up to success. Developing a personal brand is a process with crucial, time-taking steps along the way. Being consistent in both the image you portray and how often you post or engage is essential. 

6 Powerful Strategies For Female Managers To Excel

It’s only natural that a woman might have a different leadership style than a man. However, when a woman is in a position of leadership, because of history, she might not command the same amount of respect as her male counterparts even though they have the same title.

Because of this, being a woman in leadership can be a challenge. However, with these killer strategies, you can move from being a leader to a “we need her” in no time.

1. Surround Yourself With Confidence-boosters

Women are often told that they need to work harder than men to be recognised for the same tasks or positions. This can have a significant impact on the way that a woman might see herself and her achievements will always be compared to her male colleagues.

As a woman in leadership, make sure you are always surrounding yourself with something which excites your confidence. This can be anything from an encouraging internal mantra to a hype-friend who can help you get your way through a tough day.

2. Take Soft Words Out Of Your Vocabulary

‘Soft words’ take power from a statement, making them carry less weight than they deserve.

These are the “just”, “sorry”, and “I think maybe” terms you might have heard or used before:

“I just wanted to check in”.

“Sorry, we need to start the meeting.”

“I think maybe we should conduct this research.” 

You are the leader for a reason. Don’t weaken what you have to say, just because you think it might sound more friendly. You don’t need to be impolite to talk powerfully. You need to back what you say. And you certainly don’t need to apologise for it.

3. Don’t Push Other Female Leaders Down

Leadership is not a competition, and bringing other women down to climb the ladder doesn’t actually help your case. In fact, it weakens your position.

Despite what it might seem, teaming up with other women in the office is a power-play and a complete game-changer. One practice is called amplification, and it’s used everywhere from businesses to the White House

Try this: When another woman in your office has a good idea, repeat it while giving her credit. Not only does it promote a supportive culture in the office, but it also means that the credit for the suggestion won’t go to another staff member. Now, you’re developing credibility to all the women in the office.

4. Train Your Strengths; Don’t Only Work On Your Weaknesses

Think back to your school days, where we were told to work hard on our weaker subjects so we could be well-rounded little academics. Now, forget that lesson.

Imagine you were a professional football player and you could find the back of the net like Messi. You wouldn’t spend the majority of your time becoming a better goalkeeper, would you?

In leadership, it’s the same. Your primary energy should be spent on aspects which make you excellent, and your weaknesses should be your secondary focus.

5. Embrace That Sweet, Sweet Oxytocin

You might have heard of oxytocin. It’s also known as the ‘Cuddle Hormone’, and it helps create social bonds between people.

No, we’re not advocating for a cuddle party during the lunch hour. We’re saying you should use the way nature works to your advantage to develop warm working relationships with your team members. 

Having a good relationship with your team can help motivate them, which, in turn, can result in more efficient work and more creativity and innovation in the workplace.

6. Take Time To Take Care Of Yourself

Focusing 100% of your time on one thing sounds unhealthy, doesn’t it?
That’s because it is.

Taking time to do things that are not work-related, such as going on a vacation is good for you – which is ultimately good for your work life. Challenge yourself as a leader, but don’t burn yourself out doing it.

5 Phenomenal African Women in Leadership Roles

“… the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.” – Oprah Winfrey

This year, we’ve seen an increase of female leadership in business, with a staggering 29% of women taking up senior management roles. While the rise brings good news – compared to the 24% of last year – there’s still much to do to change the landscape.

In celebration of Women’s Month, let’s take a look at five African women, who are changing the game when it comes to business and leadership. 

1. Sibongile Sambo

If we’re talking about trailblazing females, then Sibongile Sambo should be on your list. Having the right skill set to lead a business is one thing, but to tackle a male-dominated industry takes guts and determination. This is exactly what Sambo did when she founded and led the first 100% black female-owned Aviation company – SRS Aviation. 

Founded in 2004, Sibongile Sambo showed an interest in aviation at a young age – watching air crafts flying above her home. “I’ve always loved aeroplanes – I wished that one day I would have access to these machines that would fly by.” 

Although she started in human resources, her dream of being involved in the aviation sector never died. When the South African government passed the Black Economic Empowerment Act in 2003, Sambo grabbed the opportunity to fulfil her aviation dreams, leading to the establishment of SRS Aviation. 

2. Basetsana Khumalo

We know her as the former Miss South Africa and former Top Billing presenter, but these days, Basetsana Khumalo is a formidable business leader. The philanthropist is one of the most influential female entrepreneurs in South Africa. 

Born in Soweto, Khumalo’s entrepreneurial spirit began when she and her siblings kept their family afloat by making and selling sandwiches at soccer matches every weekend. Her pageantry career began in 1990 (aged 16) when she entered and won Miss Soweto. 

Four years later, she would go on to win Miss South Africa. Since her win, she’s been using her platform to establish a foundation and lead businesses within the media, travel, and telecommunications industry.

3. Shakeela Tolasade Williams

Shakeela Tolasade Williams is making a name on the global stage, with one of the largest hair brands in the UK – Sade Hair. The Nigerian was tired of the 9-5 hustle and decided that it was time to strike out on her own. Williams went from shop to shop, selling hair extension products out of the boot of her car. 

Today, Williams already has a reseller in Canada and Sierra Leone and hopes to further expand in Nigeria. She has employed four members of staff since opening her boutique in 2013 and has had a turnover of £150 000 within her first two years.

4. Patience Maame Mensah

Some business ideas are born out of a need, and this is precisely what Patience Maame Mensah discovered in 2015. The Ghanaian entrepreneur founded Indulgence – a multi-service support business – after realising that people with busy lives need a range of home and personal support services to help them to cope.

The Indulgence founder didn’t start with considerable capital, but her love for problem-solving led her to success. The company offers home care delivery such as nanny services and aged care, plus personal grooming and relaxation therapies, all provided in the comfort of your home. What does the future hold for Patience Maame Mensah? She is looking to establish an outdoor health spa and Ghana’s first aged-facility centre.

5. Sunshine Shibambo

After failure, most will retreat with their tail between their legs. Not Sunshine Shibambo. She picked herself up and started again, and established Cheri Yase Kasi – a successful marketing and advertising agency with big-name clients like Nestlé, SAB, Tiger Brands, and the Bacardi group.

Shibambo had a great idea and was passionate about pursuing it – unconventional and creative marketing strategies to craft a brand. Eager to get started, Shibambo was ill-informed about the fundamentals when starting a business. As a result, she lost money and had to move in with her mom. However, she turned the failure into a lesson, and with a ‘can-do’ attitude, started all over again. 

While the business leadership environment has evolved to include diversity, there is still a long way to go. However, these females  – and a host of others – are ready to change the game. You can make history as well.

Our Business and Management course provide learners with the opportunity to develop their business acumen. Discover modern management approaches and the importance of an effective business plan. Sign up today and refine your business knowledge. 

How To Get Your Boss To Pay For Training

It might make you a little nervous. It feels as though you have flutters in your heart and amphibians in your throat.

No, we are not talking about asking someone on a date or to marry you. We are referring to asking your boss to pay for a short course to help further your training and professional knowledge.

We get it. It is a little daunting.

The outcome can be the difference between you forking out some thousands of Rands or the business footing the bill. 

Although it might be nervy, it doesn’t need to be impossible. Going in with the right plan can help take you from your boss’s door to “Congrats, you’re signed up!” before you know it.

Step 1 – Go in Equipped

Research what will be in the course that you are going to be studying. It might sound a little ‘meta’ but, trust us, it’s vital.

Before you can ask for funding, you should be able to explain why it is that this particular course is necessary for you – and the company – to excel. This means looking at all important information which relates to the course. Remember, you are asking that the business pays for something. Provide as much detail as possible as to what that ‘something’ is.

Use your W-question words as a starting place:

  1. “What” is in the course that I will learn?
  2. “When” does it start and will I need to take time off work?
  3. “How” much am I asking the business to pay?

Find all your information in one place

Step 2 – Explain How Upskilling is a Victory For All

If you go into a meeting armed with reasons why this course is going to benefit the company, then you’re more likely to hear the magic words you want to hear. 

Play the win-win card; it is a strong one: Explain to your boss that anything you gain on the course, will be put back into the business. Discussing how this can look practically also makes your research more impressive. Not only do you show initiative, but you also demonstrate that you think about practical ways you can be a better employee.

Step 3 – Decide On a Convenient Time and Place To Meet

Popping your head into your boss’s office because you have a ‘quick question’ might not be your best strategy here. Instead, set up a time that works for both of you to chat about the prospect and make sure you ready to reach for success. Before the meeting, make sure you have all your ducks in a row and arrive well on time.  

(Pro-hint: Try to schedule the meeting after lunch. People are usually in a more-giving mood on a full stomach).

Find a list of career-changing courses

Step 4 – Knock it Out The Park

It might still be nervy, but whatever the outcome, you’ve got this. 

Just imagine it like this: It’s almost like asking your teacher to go to the toilet – except the bathroom is invaluable knowledge which will add incredible insight to your career. And the teacher, you know, well, the teacher pays your salary.

Bonus:

Don’t Tell Them You’re Walking Away If They Won’t Pay

With all that we can muster, we urge you: Do not threaten resignation. Unless you are very sure that your time with the company exhausted, we 100% do not recommend throwing ultimatums around.