Bonolo Ntlatleng

20 Nov 2023
20 Nov 2023

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Taking up free courses really helped add an edge to my service offering as a young professional, and allowed me to think of ways to make an alternative income outside of my work hours.

What do you do?

I am a Corporate Affairs Manager for Thungela Resources. My role entails looking after six coal operations in the Mpumalanga region and coming up with effective and innovative ways to help them manage their risks and impact. I am also responsible for making sure that the communities Thungela operates in are left better off from a socio-economic point of view, and I do this through developing and implementing high impact projects that communities can benefit from. My role also involves a fair amount of stakeholder engagement and management of internal and external stakeholders. In addition, I analyse mine data to ensure the best practice and performance from a social impact point of view.

How have your degrees helped you in your career?

Being a humanities student has helped me think through the complex issues faced by the organisations I have worked in. My international relations and economics majors have assisted in getting me to understand the intersection between politics and business. My degree has allowed me to think strategically and communicate effectively.

What advice would you give to current students?

While a degree is important in helping you think through complex issues and analyse them effectively, being a well-rounded student goes a long way. I was an avid Model United Nations debater, and that experience equipped me with key skills, like negotiation and public speaking, which are crucial in the workplace. It also opened me up to world issues and pushed me to see all sides of an argument. Carve out a career for yourself where you can be of service to others – cultivate a service mentality rather than a “getting” mentality; this makes work more fulfilling.

What challenges have you faced in your career?

Since graduating in 2017, I have worked in four different industries. It used to bother me that I couldn’t find my “niche”, but I think being a generalist keeps life exciting and forces me to constantly adapt to new environments. It is okay to be multifaceted, and it just means that, when looking for the next opportunity, I need to be intentional about demonstrating what I can do and that I am open to learning new things.

How did the pandemic affect your career?

The pandemic showed [everyone] that you really can work remotely – this was a great shift for me and my career because I could suddenly add value without spending hours stuck in traffic. On a serious note, the pandemic allowed me time to increase my skill set. Taking up free LinkedIn and Google courses really helped add an edge to my service offering as a young professional, and allowed me to think of ways to make an alternative income outside of my work hours. I don’t think I would have had that push had it not been for the pandemic.

What advice would you give to graduates on the world of work?

Network, network, network. Send that LinkedIn DM; the worst a person can say is ‘no’. Try to get career coaching if possible. Understand that while your work can speak for itself, it seldom does. Find a mentor and a sponsor who can speak on your behalf in rooms you are not in. Be open to learning and take your career progression into your own hands. Find out where you can job shadow. People hire those with a positive attitude and willingness to learn. The most important advice is to apply for all the roles – even if you do not have everything in the job description.