In a webinar by Bi Tech Africa on 31st July, president of African Women in Energy and Power (AWEaP) Bertha Dlamini shared her story of changing her career from marketing to energy. She gave some great advice which we summed it up in 5 easy steps for you. And because we couldn’t get enough, we called her and asked some more questions. Listen to the interview here.
1. Do your homework and learn all you can
Learning is easy these days. The internet gives us access to knowledge and research from experts from all over the world. If a topic interests you, the means of becoming an expert in it are there; you only have to want it and get started.
Especially when changing careers or starting a career, it is your own responsibility to prepare yourself. Of course, you can’t know everything and reading books will not make up for experience on the job. But see it as a sign of respect for the workplace and a fail-safe way to boost your success.
2. Ask the stupid questions
After you have done your homework, do not feel afraid to ask the stupid question. There are often company or industry-specific ways to deal with things, specific language that is used or established processes that cannot be found in a book or on a website. Sometimes it is necessary to just bite the bullet and ask.
Bertha said, she did ask questions in a room full of engineers who rolled their eyes over her questions. But even if they laugh, so what?
There is something called “impostor syndrome”; many women and especially women of colour suffer from it. It is a psychological pattern that makes people doubt their own accomplishments, they do not believe in their own skills and constantly live with the fear of being exposed as a fraud. As a consequence, people put irrational pressure on themselves and limit their own capability.
Part of growing and developing your career further is overcoming such fears and doubts. Yes, you do need to be prepared but there is a limit to it. There is a point where only active participation brings you forward and asking questions is a great start to see that mistakes do not harm you but make you better.
3. Find your own value
When you are new in an industry, it is often difficult to see your own value. All the engineers know more, all other installers have more experience and you actually don’t belong to them. But that’s not true! Stop analysing your own shortcomings, focus on what you have and what you bring in.
Stop your inner impostor from holding you back and take your space. At the beginning you are over aware of your shortcomings and lack of knowledge. But at one point you have to let go of your fears and accept that there is this period of incompetence. Bertha says, “acknowledge the gap as first step to close it.”
And then focus on your strength and start making an impact. Coming from marketing? You probably have better communication skills than an engineer. Coming from management? Those messy technicians will see what real structure looks like! Coming fresh from varsity? You have an open mind and new ideas.
Networking can be a real career booster and LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools for networking. Brushing up your LinkedIn profile doesn’t take long but might open some interesting doors.
But networking is not about having the most LinkedIn contacts. Bertha made it very clear in the webinar that networking is a reciprocal flow of value. That means it is a give and take. For valuable networking, seek understanding, find synergies, and eventually find value together.
Not every connection is a big value right away but building a network is also about long-term planning. If an opportunity is not for you, pass it on and next time you might get an opportunity back. Collaboration and supporting each other brings you much further in most of the cases than competitive thinking and resentment.
5. Find passion
After all the practical tips, the last one is about motivation. Find passion in what you are doing. Bertha said, at the end of her marketing career she was no longer excited for her daily job and she said that was her personal trigger for the career change. And when she looked at the energy industry, she was hooked by the socio-economic impact of energy access and the variety of jobs and opportunities that the industry offers. So, she invested in herself, built up the skills and brought herself to the top of the African Power Industry.
Feeling passionate about a job makes a huge difference in your approach. When you are new to the industry, you need to work extra hours to research, do your homework and close your knowledge gaps. You can’t get away without hard work, but it is your personal choice if you want to hate it or enjoy it and thrive.
Talking about topics like motivation, career choices, personal development is important. Everyone has own experiences in the field and can relate. And once you realise that you are not alone, that other people struggle with the same issues you gain self-confidence and can start learning how to deal with the problems. Watch the whole webinar with Bertha on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hG2NOOz5KV8
And because we had more questions for Bertha, we had our own interview with her. Listen to her sharing her thoughts on the energy industry, what job opportunities there are and a beautiful advice for women in energy.