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March 15, 2016

Sub-Saharan Africa: Is It a Job? Is It a Career?

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What is it?

Photo by Freeimages.com/Alex Santos

When exploring the definitions:

A career is ‘’the pursuit of a lifelong ambition or the general course of progression towards lifelong goals, requiring special learning that includes individualized components that develop abilities beyond that of which training is capable.

A career may not mean stability of work as it encourages one to take risks. The risks are often internal and therefore planned’’.

A career is long term and can best be described as follows:

* An occupation or profession, especially one that requires special training, followed as an individual's lifework. 
An individual's progress or general course of action through life or through a phase of life, as in some profession or undertaking.

A job is ‘’an activity through which an individual can earn money. It is a regular activity in exchange of payment of which education or special training may or may not be required; it is “safe”, as stability of work and income is there. However shifting priorities, especially in resource jobs, can abruptly change the demand and require relocation which is an unstable factor. Risks may be completely external.’’.

A job is short term and can be best described as follows:

A piece of work, especially a specific task done as part of the routine of an individual’s occupation or for an agreed price. 
A post of employment, a full-time or part-time position. 
Anything a person is expected or obliged to do, a duty, responsibility. It usually is considered to pertain to remunerative work and sometimes also to formal education. 

When reflecting on the above, the inclination is that a job is there only to support an individual’s basic daily needs. A career however, allows for specialised skills, experience, imagination and innovation to unfold - in the right environment of course.

Back in the day, many of our parents took up a single lifelong position, a place or role in the workforce, and the concept of an evolving career had little or no meaning for many. So our folks stayed at ‘’the firm’’ for 30 plus years. It is rarely heard of nowadays. Previously, you were judged adversely if your CV showed ‘’job hopping’’. It now goes without saying that the CV is deemed viable if it reflects a ‘’colourful pattern’’.

In an increasingly technologically developing world with access to the internet, the mindset has changed. By the late 20th century, there were choices comprising different streams of education that allowed an individual to plan a career from a very early stage in life. In a contemporary context, growing trends in employment are indicative of individuals that hold multiple careers, where individuals may manage two or more careers at the same time or individuals switch careers by changing positions or engaging in different projects. This includes contracting, temping or temporary project work.

What does this mean in the context of the exhibition and events industry? 

Further to the above, an individual may take up a job to fulfill the daily needs but this may not be the course of action that they want for life.

The question that must be posed is: Can an individual adopt the approach of ‘’it’s just a job’’ and still remain in our industry?

There are so many facets to the industry – it is completely distinguishable from other sectors - and the result is that an individual has to develop (or in some unique and highly sought after cases), utilize inherent skills that are technical, problem-solving, aesthetic, emotional and information-processing in their nature. The very structure of the industry is fascinating and challenging with a range of dynamics at play. 

The industry is certainly not for ‘’sissies’’.

There are contextual and operational characteristics that impact directly on individuals working in this sector. 

There is TIME – it is bound, hectic and deadline driven. And there is never enough of it. 

There is LOCATION – some exhibitions and events overlap or are nationwide and even international, presenting logistical ramifications.

There are varying EXPECTATIONS which are determined by the nature of the exhibition or event. At times, there is protocol. 

There is MANAGEMENT – at times, the nature and scope of work will entail the use of ‘’foot soldiers’’ that have to be managed - they have a highly compressed exposure to the unique skills that are required for the industry to function at optimum.

Some fail, others shine and once truly bitten by the industry bug, never leave…

Why do some fail and others excel? Why does an individual stay? It is often about the individual’s psyche. Their core values are also a major consideration.
The industry is constantly changing, developing and never routine. 

Certain individuals thrive on the high that is experienced upon successful project realisation and excellence. It is a dynamic environment and it is challenging. The successful candidates work hard, play hard, have fun (whilst doing it) – they are driven beyond comprehension, like-minded, organized and result oriented. Boredom has no place in this industry.

We call these individuals ‘’old school’’ for valid reasons – they were taught never to give up. Stayers and stalwarts. Their upbringing involved the instilling of self-respect and pride - and by ‘pride’, not the negative connotation.

There is the sense of ‘’pride of place’’, recognition for the individual’s contribution in ‘’the service of others’’. These are the hunters. Completing the task, as hard and as grueling as it may be at the time. Sitting back and enjoying the fruits of the labour, whilst every bone aches and screams for rest. The mind is still strong and active, the flesh is weak. 

Adrenalin block ticked √.

Rare gems of our industry, indeed. The Yiddish term of reference is a ‘mensch’: a person of integrity and honour, holding a sense of what is right and what is wrong, a noble character and someone to admire and emulate.

There are valid reasons why individuals enter the industry and these reasons are why they remain. Adrenalin junkies for the fast pace, the constant ‘’on edge’’ excitement, an evolving and unfolding sequence of an individual’s work experiences over time, where the individual takes control of their career path, self-directed, reflecting their developing portfolio of skills and personal employability. 

In today’s terms, there is a psychological shift in the contract between the employing organisation and that of the employee – performance in exchange for skills transference, learning and marketability - career enrichment and instilling of core competencies with performance rewarded by responsibility and accountability. 

We call it ‘’quid pro quo’’ – a wealth of experience and skills with career advancement and in some unique instances, ownership or equity, in exchange for confidentiality, loyalty, performance, quality of service and professionalism.

Is there any other way to sustain a successful symbiosis between organisation and employee than to offer them vested interest?

The truth is that the rare gems will be ‘butterflying’ across the industry sectors until they find their place to prepare for their final metamorphosis that will complete them. They will continue to taste the nectar until such a time that they feel at home, able to continue into the next realm of their evolvement.

They are not ‘job’ seekers, they are in fact, the prestige.

And the prestige is the very quality that distinguishes a brand from any other.

Fait accompli.

Source: Diffen and People and Work in Events

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