"Follow your passion. If you really love something, find a way to make it into your career." - journalist Margaret Harris
Where on the planet are you currently located? Johannesburg, South Africa.
Your career as a journalist has been an awesome one, how did it all come together? I did a Bachelor of Journalism, with Honours, at Rhodes University. I specialised in video and film production and my first proper job after graduating was as a production assistant with a small video production company. However, I found that it was not as much fun as I had hoped and moved to a financial newspaper as a sub-editor. Sub-editors check all the stories before they go to print, making sure that the grammar and spelling are correct and that the story makes sense, they also check whether the story is factually correct and write the eye-catching headlines that make people want to read the story. I worked as a sub-editor, writing the odd story, for about 10 years before moving to writing about five years ago. I have found that my years as a sub-editor, also called a copy editor, have helped me in my writing.
In terms of your writing career, you have had a special interest in the Careers and Employment sector. What are the common challenges that you see with individuals motivating and tackling their careers? There are many issues – right from young people battling to find work or even working out what they want to do with their lives, to older people feeling stuck in a rut. Young people need to begin thinking about what they want to do and how to get there much earlier. One of the best ways to prepare yourself for a job is to get experience anywhere you can. Volunteering and part-time work are just some of the ways you can bolster your CV and show a prospective employer that you understand at least the basics of having a job.
The planet's youth seem to be either panicking or not interested with their careers. What has changed over the years that young individuals aren't more settle with their careers? I am not surprised at their response. There is enormous pressure on them to be a success – but breaking into the world of work is not easy. They are told repeatedly that they need experience to get a job, but no-one will give them a job to get experience! Often panic and disinterest are really just the two sides of the same coin – panic is the frenzied approach and a lack of interest is a way to protect ourselves from rejection. The truth is that the route to finding work is paved with disappointment and a few unexpected invitations. To get a job, you need to stay calm and not let the “no’s” set you back. It really is very like the dating game – finding Mr or Ms Right takes time. (FirstStep.me says well put!)
If you could add any additional component to global education systems what would it be? More real workplace experience – we need to give young people an idea of the kinds of jobs that are out there and teach them how to handle themselves in the workplace.
Do you think that the careers market both in South Africa and globally is under strain and if so how can it be improved? Absolutely, unemployment is rife which makes people feel insecure and desperate. What’s more, many of the courses offered at university are no longer relevant in the workplace. Young people are being told to work hard and get good marks so they can get into university, but then they end up unemployed. I believe that we need to train young people, and even the older generations, to run their careers as they would a small business. The days of having one employer for life are long gone – working for 35 years then being handed a gold watch is an outdated goal. Rather, we need to see our employers as “clients” who have particular requirements. This forces each of us to take greater responsibility for the work we do and the relationships we forge at work. It also makes us take greater ownership for the work we do. (The FirstStep.me team is takeing notes!)
Okay serious questions over…we promise!! What has been the coolest part of your career so far? I get to meet and talk to some really interesting people – from Big Time management guru types and CEO's to young people who are just starting out in their careers and are filled with enthusiasm.
Funniest moment of your career? I once was due to meet someone for an interview, I was waiting at reception for them at their office when someone else came downstairs looking for their “next meeting”. We spoke at cross purposes for a while until we realised we were not the people the other person was expecting – both embarrassing and funny!
If you could name a planet what would you call it? Wordworld!
Your message for the youth of the planet? Follow your passion. If you really love something, find a way to make it into your career. Don’t let other people tell you what you should be studying. Also, remember that even if you do qualify as a lawyer or doctor or entomologist, that does not mean you have to do that for the rest of your life. As our lives change, with marriage, children, middle-age or whatever, different jobs will be more suitable.
About: Margaret Harris tweets here @HarrisMargie