As with many young people in the country who grew up impoverished over a decade ago, the prospects of me pursuing a higher education qualification post my matric year were quite slim due to limited funding opportunities This was before the free education era, I knew there and then that my saving grace would be seeking employment to sustain myself and my younger sister. Fortunately, I did not have to do much job hunting because my former school principal took me in as one the school assistants. 

Going from being a top student to a junior employee was quite a transition for me. I was used to receiving praises for my academic achievements, but now I had to adjust to strict instructions and criticism, which took a toll on my mental health.

Now that I’ve been in the workforce for a while, I want to share some tips with all of you who are starting your first job. Apart from the technical skills we learn in high school, it’s essential to have interpersonal skills that can help us thrive in the workplace. Besides a few lessons during Life Orientation classes, there is hardly any mention of how much of an impact other skills inclusive of interpersonal skills can  have on whether we can sustain what we have attained through grades.

Adjusting to the work environment requires applying what Dr Carol Dweck, author of “Mindset”, calls the ‘NOT YET’ principle. You will not immediately grasp everything, she describes it as not a failure but rather look at it as one being on a learning curve. And to also acknowledge the process and efforts to  build resilience and perseverance. Dr Dweck subscribes to the growth mindset, believing that basic human abilities can be grown. The skills below will not only help one survive but also thrive and succeed in the workplace .

Time Management 

First up, time management! I had to enroll in part-time tertiary education to upskill myself, and juggling work and academics was not a walk in the park. Make a to-do list, prioritize the essential tasks, and stick to it. Remember, you’re building your career, so don’t waste your time on unimportant things.

Financial Literacy 

A crucial part of growing up is responsibility. For many of us, getting a job comes with expectations of helping our families and  satisfying our own needs. Wasting money is not an option; drawing a monthly budget and sticking to it will be handy. Make a list of all your expenses, calculate them against your income and make adjustments so that the former does not exceed the other. This means there are times you will need to sacrifice entertainment for transport fare if the need arises. And remember to leave a reasonable portion for your savings.


Communication is another critical skill that you’ll need to master. Clear and effective communication is essential in the workplace, and it’s advisable to keep most communication in writing for future reference. Also, listening is equally important to avoid misunderstandings.

Career Growth/ Further Development 

Unlike school where the teacher sometimes breathes down your neck every now and then about your future, this time it is you who has to identify how and what you need to improve on.The onus is on you to take responsibility for your own development. You are the one that has to take the initiative and actions that will lead you towards a path of growth. Do not be afraid to enquire about the training available and how else you can improve.


Have you ever heard the saying, “your health is your wealth”? That is it right there, the status of your health, whether physical or mental determines whether or not you will perform at your optimum best. You need to develop mechanisms that will help in balancing the work and home life to avoid stress. Prioritising your well-being by practising healthy eating habits and regular physical activity is also vital. A well-functioning  body is your best investment.


How you navigate the work environment will also depend on how  you relate to others. Being an introvert, it has always been a challenge for to express my feelings. However, learning to do so has saved me from being misunderstood as someone who does not want to engage with others.

Working as and within a team allows us to draw from one another’s strengths and learn to achieve the best results. Characteristics of being a good team player are  being considerate and helpful and understanding we ought to strive towards the same goal as a team. 

Always remember that discipline and consistency are key to managing all the skills mentioned above. There’s always room for improvement, and with the right mindset, you can thrive in your career!

Tell us: What gets you pumped up about starting your career? Is could be the prospect of gaining new skills, meeting new people, or making an impact in your field – we want to know what drives you towards the working world. Share your excitement with us!

If you enjoyed this article, read here about other practices to develop yourself for the working world here.