On a cold winter afternoon in Maseru, dancing my heart away, belting out the chorus of one of my favorite childhood songs, “I love you, daddy, you are my hero, you are my superstar” by eighties pop star Ricardo, I looked up, and there he was, the first love of my life, an audience of one, my dad, standing by the window sill, witnessing what I can call one of the most beautiful and precious moments of his life. I stopped singing, and he asked me to come and help him pack the fireplace.
Lesotho winters are brutally cold, so to warm ourselves up in the living room, on a daily basis, we had to make a coal fire. As we put the layers; paper, cardboard, wood then coal, dad asked the question, “Nkhono, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I hesitated and seeing as my dad was my favorite person in the world, I wanted to be just like him. “A doctor,” I said. He was impressed. Then I added, “and a singer too,” and dad chuckled.
“That’s not a real job, it’s a hobby.” So of course I counted all the singers I knew. But ultimately my dad convinced me that every single subject that I took after school was an extra-curricular activity. Things that I could do to pass time, like dancing, painting, singing and taking pictures -- which I loved and got straight A’s for -- but my father focused on the Mathematics, Science, and English grades. Those are the only ones that really mattered on a school report. “To be a doctor, you need maths and science,” he would always say.
As a recruiter, during interviews, listening to people answer the question “Tell me about yourself?” I picked up that nine out of ten times candidates selected their career paths based on a successful relative or person in their community. “Aunt Josephina was the first black female chartered accountant in our neighborhood. She has a double-story house and a BMW X5. That’s how I knew I wanted to be an accountant,” was a common response.
My follow-up question was usually, “Growing up, what did you want to be?” -- and most candidates have no idea. Then I probed further by asking what they loved to do, what comes naturally to them, what single activity they can get lost in, without feeling time pass, something that they do easily, and others praise them for doing it so easily.
After 11 years in recruitment, having conducted more interviews than I can remember, I can tell you that, 99 percent of the people that I have met, are winging it, and have pretty much studied whatever course they were told their high school grades would get them into.
I truly believe that one of the reasons people are unhappy at work is because they don’t enjoy what they do. Some people were simply told to go and become Engineers because they would be guaranteed a job when they graduated, and get paid a lot of money. After all the hard work, sweat, tears and cheating at University, they come out into a world that is flooded with their skill set, and realize that there is no such thing as “job security.”
I dare say that in Africa our career choices are driven by poverty and politics, we just want to cover the basics. We do not have the luxury of dreaming, our reality determines what we will do to earn a living.
Which is why I find the Ikigai concept particularly interesting. According to Gallup, Millennials don't just work for a paycheck - they want a purpose.
For millennials, work must have meaning. Their compensation is important and must be fair, but they're motivated more by mission and purpose than a paycheck (2019). In the same way that we want to work for companies whose values align with our own. We should pursue our Ikigai - find that single thing that we love, that we are good at, can get paid for, and definitely something that the world needs.
And then find those companies whose purpose matches our own. I believe this would create the synergies that we need between workers, in order to create socially cohesive workplaces, and could potentially be an explosive culture transformation model for organizations. Purpose-driven hires, for purpose-driven companies, to create meaning for all.
When I grow up, I want to live a life in pursuit of my God-given purpose!!