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This is a two-part story about my journey from Med student to Marketing professional to where I am today (banking): the obstacles I’ve faced and the sacrifices I’ve had to make.

It’s 19h00 on a Sunday and the Carte Blanche theme song goes on. How are you feeling? Do you slowly start drafting your suicide letter as the thought of spending yet another week at “that place” becomes a reality? Or are you jumping up to make some popcorn because the 8pm movie is only an hour away?

I call it “The Job Love Test”, as in “do you love your job?” Ok, maybe love is too strong a word because I mean, who of us stays up at night writing love letters to our jobs like “Dear Job, if this isn’t love, I don’t know what is…”?. I once had a chat about job satisfaction with an Executive from work and she said that job satisfaction is not necessarily about being in love with your job () but rather about fulfilment: Are you learning? Are you growing? Are you adding value? Are you surrounded by the right people? These are questions I now constantly ask myself and as long as the answer is “Yes” to all four, I’m happy. But this wasn’t always the case…

I came to Johannesburg with the aim of being a doctor because that’s what all the grown-ups in my life had envisaged for me.. Halfway through my first year of Medicine (MBBCh) I wrote a letter to my parents telling them that my relationship status with my degree had changed to “It’s complicated”. I wasn’t convinced that this was my path. I did not want to be there learning how to be a doctor. Three weeks later they received the letter which I had posted (snail mail) and my dad, convinced that the city of Gold had consumed his daughter, demanded I return home immediately. I was like “Naah fam” (translated: No way family). Ok, I didn’t really say that to him. I told them that I had already applied to the Commerce faculty and would know the outcome of my application in September of that year; so it would be in everyone’s (my) best interest to just let me finish my first year in MBBCh. In the interim I went to companies, seeking sponsorship for a degree I was not yet accepted into. I did not get a single yes. September came and I got accepted to study for a Bachelor of Commerc (B.Comm)degree but I still didn’t have funding and my parents didn’t have money to pay for my tuition. My last resort was the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). My application was successful and I was granted a partial bursary. Half the battle was won. And that is how my first, first year (or should I say first-year-point-one) ended.

A month into the first year of my B.Comm degree (first-year-point-two) I got a call from a lady who worked for a FMCG company looking to sponsor students: full sponsorship plus pocket money and get this; no work back obligations! What? I took a deep breath in and waited for Ashton Kutcher to jump out the phone and tell me I’d been Punk’d. No Ashton. This was real! The deal was that the company would cover me for my undergraduate degree for as long as I passed. They however, didn’t cover post-graduate studies. Towards the end of my third year, I wrote them an email telling them that I wished to pursue an Honours degree and asked if they could cover me for one more year as I wanted to read my Honours in Corporate Finance. They agreed. Final results came and I fell shy of the required minimum mark to make it into the Finance Honours class. Since I didn’t want the sponsorship opportunity go to waste, I decided to pursue my honours in my other major, Marketing. During my Honours year, me being me, I still applied to every Investment Banking graduate programme and only two Marketing graduate programmes. At the time, all I wanted was to work for JP Morgan. Even though I was competing with top students from the Finance Honours class, I managed to be the only person from my university to make the final round. However, when it came down to final offer I lost it to someone else. It simply was not my time yet. A week later I received an offer from one of the FMCGs I had applied to.  I accepted the offer and a month later I moved to Cape Town.

The Cape Town experience was a weird phase of my life. At first I couldn’t decide whether it was the job or the place that I didn’t like. Then I started to make friends with my colleagues and it became clearer that it was the job. So comes my second go-to test. Look around you. Look at the most senior person in your team? Do you aspire to be that person? Is it something you’re working towards and willing to put in the hours in for? Look, I worked with some really awesome people but come that Carte Blanche song on a Sunday, my eyes would start to well up – not with tears of joy by any measure. I decided to call up the company that had sponsored me in university and asked for a job. They flew me up to Johannesburg (Joburg) for an interview and a week later I had an offer as Assistant Brand Manager for Strategic Innovations for the biscuits category. I packed my bags and moved back to Joburg. Now that I knew that I didn’t like the first job, I needed to test if I liked the industry at all. The new gig was ok but still not at the “no-Carte-Blanche-theme-song-on-a-Sunday-formed-against-me-shall-prosper” level. Then one day in a strategy meeting I sat back and thought to myself “does the world need another biscuit?”.

Part two of the journey to follow next month!


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About the author:

Ziyanda Khumalo is a Johannesburg based Zulu girl, who is the reigning lip syncing champion in her neighbourhood and is an Investment Banker on the side. After spending three years as a Marketing professional, she decided to take a leap of faith and pursue a career in the financial industry. She can survive on minimal sleep provided she is fed ice cream at regular intervals. She is passionate about education and enjoys reading, working out and writing about stuff that is on her mind.

Twitter: @zeezilz || Instagram: @ziyandak || Blog: http://themegazeen.blogspot.com/

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