During 2009, Therapeia has worked with seven dynamic first year trainees on the CA(SA) programme at Nedbank – each with a unique story on CPD. I have asked four of them a few questions on how they view their own learning. Thank you to Mashudu, Brad, Barend and Zen for sharing (sometimes not all four are quoted):
Why is it important to be a lifelong learner from the start of your career?
Mashudu: I feel it is essential as an emerging business leader to invest in CPD. In so doing, you become more competent and more effective. It is a competitive world out there. Through CPD you will be better equipped to deal with a world that is constantly changing.
Brad: If you aren’t learning, and keeping up with new developments, you are standing still. You become as obsolete as the typewriter. The key is to keep moving forward.
Barend: I think it is very important always to be on top of new developments as well as not to lag behind. As soon as you lag current developments you are not being optimally effective in your job and not delivering optimal solutions.
Zen: Lifelong learning is your CPD, which should consist of leading a balanced lifestyle and the culmination of a variety of experiences, not just work related ones. To be a true professional, you can’t be one dimensional. One of my mentors has an excellent saying that goes: “If something doesn’t grow, it’s dead”. When you stop learning and challenging yourself, you stagnate, while everything else keeps moving.
What is workplace experiential learning for you?
Brad: For me, this is trying to “feed” off the experience of people who have greater skills than I do, and to take on-board positive attributes they may possess.
Barend: There are two parts to this for me. Firstly, to get involved with projects that will expose me to situations that I have not encountered before and secondly to gain access to people that have a lot of experience, from whom I would like to learn more.
How have you approached your on-the-job learning in your first year?
Mashudu: Hopefully proactively. I’ve taken a lot of initiatives; asked a lot of questions, because I’ve realised that most of what I learn is actually my responsibility and not necessarily anyone else’s.
Zen: I take charge of my own learning. Very rarely does someone ask you to learn something. You have to put yourself in the thick of things, not be afraid to work overtime, ask questions and, most importantly, listen always, not just when people talk to you. And don’t ever go anywhere in the office without a pen and notebook.
How do you see your role as a mentee in your mentoring relationships?
Brad: I think it is important to ask a lot of questions. You have got to pull your weight, and appreciate your mentor’s time. The relationship has to be give and take. You work hard for your mentor, and you get his/her time and experience in return.
Barend: I have to take the initiative to meet with my mentor on a regular basis and ask most of the questions. I also have to make it worthwhile for my mentor by listening attentively to what he/she wants to convey to me, and then go and apply that in all areas of my life.
What skills do you believe are important to develop from the start of your career?
Mashudu: In addition to the technical skills, it is very important to develop and invest in your “people” skills, your soft skills. Research shows that your softer skills are an important part of your contribution to your success and the success of your organisation.
Zen: How to sell yourself. Find a balance between confidence and humility. If you don’t believe in yourself, neither will others. But if you think you know everything, how can you learn anything? At the end of the day, it’s all about relationships and how to build them, with people below, at and above your level.