5 successful South African CEOs share their best career advice for young professionals

Thousands of young South Africans join the workforce every year after completing their studies.

Armed with a healthy dose of idealism and quotes like Steve Jobs’ “stay hungry, stay foolish” still fresh in their minds, they arrive at work ready to change the world.

Unfortunately, reality quickly sets in when they are asked to fetch coffee for their boss and are put in charge of sorting out paper jams in the photocopier.

After wiping the tears off their faces, and realising that “follow your dreams” does not mean much in the workplace, some search for real advice on what to do to advance their careers.

MyBroadband spoke to some of South Africa’s most prominent telecommunications and IT CEOs to get real career advice from people who have walked a successful career path.

Here is the best career advice from these CEOs.


Isaac Mophatlane: Have a positive attitude, work hard, and be ready to learn

Isaac Mophatlane

Isaac Mophatlane, Business Connexion Group CEO, said that 80 percent of success is pitching up with the right attitude and a positive energy.

“We have limited opportunities in the job market. When one is employed for the first time, realise that you are one of the fortunate and must treasure the challenge,” said Mophatlane.

He said it is key that workers apply themselves and be prepared to put in hard work, and learn from and be guided by experienced folks.

“Today’s job market is uncompromising and rewards those who consistently apply themselves – those who are diligent, hard-working, patient, and willing to learn.”

“Remember, ultimately the key to a successful and prosperous life is balance – balancing work, loved ones and family, and keeping your mind and body healthy.”


Jose dos Santos: Work hard, and meet and engage with people at all levels

Jose dos Santos

Cell C CEO Jose dos Santos has the following advice for young South Africans entering the job market: work hard, and meet and engage with people at all levels.

“Build a network of influential personalities,” said dos Santos. “South Africa is a country full of opportunities and packed with dynamic people.”

He added that young people should be respectful and good to everyone, and believe in themselves.

“However, above all, remember to enjoy and have fun.”


Mteto Nyati: Get your hands dirty – be a gofer

Mteto Nyati

MTN South Africa CEO Mteto Nyati advises young employees who want to advance their careers to get their hands dirty. “Be a gofer,” said Nyati.

He advised young professionals to seek tough, even unpopular, but fair leaders, and observe their ways.

He also advised that people should continue to learn, and stay positive. “Learn, learn, and learn, and avoid a negative crowd,” said Nyati.


Jacques du Toit: Work hard and be ready to learn

Jacques du Toit

Vox Telecom CEO Jacques du Toit said there are no two ways about it: you need to work hard and be ready to learn. “You can’t be seen as an expert in anything, just because you are young,” said du Toit.

Du Toit also referred to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule – no one can be an expert, or operate with authority, until you have spent 10,000 hours working at it.

He said that too many students walk out of university and into a job thinking that because they have the theory, they have become an expert.

“That self-entitlement has become a trademark of the millennials, and is perhaps good for the entrepreneurial drive in South Africa,” he said.

“But I would urge them to stop and realise that they don’t have the depth of experience – the 10,000 hours – that will drive bigger, better, and more sustainable businesses or careers.”


Shameel Joosub: Always do more than what you are asked

Shameel Joosub

Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub’s advice to ambitious individuals who want to move up the corporate ladder is simple: If you are asked to do x – do x, y, and z.

“You really have to push. You have to make yourself heard and show people that you can do more,” said Joosub.

“You have to build it in such a way that you cannot be ignored. If you are doing that, you will gain success.”

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5 successful South African CEOs share their best career advice for young professionals