Gearing oneself for a post-pandemic world


Do we ever stop needing to constantly reinvent ourselves? Evan Kagan, who completed his MBA at the UCT GSB in 2010, doesn't think so. But by trusting ourselves, working with our passions, learning and connecting with others, and following the latest industry trends, he believes we can all gear ourselves for the post-pandemic world.

Employees across the globe are facing unprecedented displacement and unemployment. And redeployments, furloughs, and layoffs will likely continue throughout 2021.

This is forcing countless workers to refresh their current skills, and more importantly, build new ones. Not many of us know where to start — and both time and money are in short supply.

There is no doubt that the future of work is officially with us, and to thrive in this environment will require us all to continuously reinvent ourselves. The readings and fearmongering stories of robots taking over us, are a reality now and we all need to be asking ourselves, “What is my relevance in the workplace and how do I make it a reality?”

I completed my MBA at the UCT GSB in 2010. I was teaching at a local Cape Town school at the time and had very limited business experience. Considering how I was going to add value to the class dynamic was a question I toiled with, but as I engaged with the subjects, I quite quickly found myself and my areas of passion and insights. I became a valued part of the class and found my niche in discussion.  This was an important step in the journey in re-inventing myself, to open myself up to learning new concepts, but also to listen to what areas excited me across the many topics and subjects presented in classes.

After the MBA, I interviewed with a few Management Consulting companies and landed a job at Deloitte Consulting. Based on the passion in the Human Capital sphere and a broad amount of knowledge I had developed on the subject, I applied life experience and knowledge to get me through the interview rounds process. I don’t think I knew a lot more than other candidates, but what I do believe stood me in good stead, was my inquisitive nature. Living with passion and energy is tantamount to success and is what companies are looking for in an employee. (I later experienced being on the other side of this process by interviewing for my teams).

I was now in the chapter of building my career in Human Capital. Being good at what you do is extremely important. Applying knowledge and thirsting for more knowledge are critical for career progression. But a fundamental aspect is to build networks. Put yourself out there. Be vulnerable. Take on projects or activities that take you out of your comfort zone. If I look back at my own success at Deloitte, it was the networking that gave me the edge. I became the go-to person for Human Capital for different parts of the organisation and I leaned on others whom I could trust and who were genuine when I needed to get things done. Connections and diverse interactions are critical components to building ever-changing careers.

Whilst at Deloitte, I mentored small businesses. Applying one’s specialised knowledge and using it to help others is a gift that we should all use. I also learnt a lot from these businesses, and it was there that I got stung by the entrepreneurial bug!  

In mentoring one of the businesses, I built a business that completely veered off from the Management Consulting route. I ventured into government where I found low hanging fruit for revenue generation, which would ultimately build up the municipalities and for them a better society. Once again, I found myself jumping into the deep end and building myself up from nothing, having to learn a new trade. The vulnerability, inquisitiveness, networking, and genuine desire to make a difference played a critical role in getting things started.

Is there an end to the journey, that is, do we ever stop reinventing ourselves? I don’t believe so, and that is prevalent in today’s reality. But, building core skills and solid foundations are essential to the process and constantly networking allows one to showcase skills and become a feature in other business people’s lives, which could lead to other doors opening in the future. By trusting yourself, working with your passions, learning and connecting with others, and following the latest trends in your industry, you will certainly gear yourself for the post-pandemic world.

Evan Kagan graduated from the UCT GSB’s modular MBA programme in 2011.

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