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The BEE Chamber’s Yuneal Padayachy offers essential advice for the youth and the significance of Youth Day

Youth Day in South Africa is celebrated on 16 June to commemorate the pivotal role that young people played in the struggle against apartheid and their fight for equal education and rights. The significance of this day can be traced back to the tragic events that occurred on 16 June 1976 in Soweto.

On that day, thousands of black students took to the streets to protest against the then government’s discriminatory education policies, particularly the enforcement of Afrikaans as the primary language of instruction in schools when students demanded to be taught in their native language with access to quality education.

The peaceful demonstration turned violent as the police responded with brutal force, firing live ammunition at the protesters. Many students lost their lives.

Yuneal Padayachy, Chief Support Officer at The BEE Chamber, says the events of that day marked a turning point in the anti-apartheid movement and highlighted the resilience, bravery, and determination of South African youth.

“It galvanised the youth to continue their fight for freedom and equality, inspiring a generation to actively participate in the struggle against apartheid. Today, Youth Day serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by young people in South Africa and celebrates their significant contributions to the country’s democratic transformation. It is a day to honour their courage, activism, and commitment to social justice, education, and equal opportunities for all.”

With this in mind, Padayachy, who is involved in many Y.E.S. Initiative activities for The BEE Chamber, believes it is essential to offer advice to the youth navigating the South African workplace.

“Entering the workplace as a young individual in South Africa can be both exciting and challenging. As South Africa’s future leaders, the youth play a vital role in shaping the nation’s economic growth and development. To thrive in this dynamic environment, South African youth must be equipped with the necessary skills, knowledge, and strategies. We need to empower youth in the workplace with the focus on professional development, networking, workplace dynamics, and personal well-being.”

Padayachy’s five key considerations for the youth are as follows:

Embrace a growth mindset

Cultivating a growth mindset is essential for success in the workplace. Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and learning. View failures as valuable lessons that contribute to personal and professional development. Develop a thirst for knowledge, seek feedback, and constantly strive to improve. By maintaining a growth mindset, South African youth can adapt to changing circumstances, embrace innovation, and seize new opportunities in their careers. I live by the quote ‘Failure is Success in Progress’ by Albert Einstein which helped treat challenges as opportunities.

Invest in continuous learning

In today’s rapidly evolving job market, it is crucial to invest in continuous learning. Acquiring new skills and staying updated with industry trends enhances employability and career prospects. I urge all youth to take advantage of online courses, workshops, and professional development programmes. Leverage off educational resources offered by reputable institutions, government initiatives, or private organisations. By investing in continuous learning, South African youth can stay competitive and position themselves as valuable assets in the workplace.

Build a strong professional network

Networking is a powerful tool for career advancement and is often underestimated. It’s essential to actively seek opportunities to connect with professionals in your field of interest. Attend industry events, join professional associations, and participate in networking platforms. Engage in meaningful conversations, demonstrate genuine interest, and be open to collaboration. A strong professional network provides access to mentorship, job opportunities, and valuable insights. Additionally, support fellow young professionals by sharing knowledge and experiences, fostering a collaborative environment that uplifts the entire community.

Navigate workplace dynamics

Understanding workplace dynamics is essential for success. Adapt to the corporate culture while staying true to your values. Learn to collaborate effectively with colleagues from diverse backgrounds. Communicate respectfully, listen actively, and contribute constructively to team projects. Cultivate strong interpersonal skills, such as conflict resolution, empathy, and cultural sensitivity. Recognise and respect the hierarchy and authority structures in the workplace while also finding your voice and expressing your ideas. Strive for a healthy work-life balance to maintain productivity and well-being.

Seek mentorship and guidance

Mentorship plays a pivotal role in career growth so identify experienced professionals who can guide and inspire you. Seek mentors within your organisation or industry who can provide valuable insights, advice, and support. Establish open lines of communication with your mentors and take the initiative in seeking their guidance. They can offer career advice, help navigate challenges, and provide opportunities for professional development. Actively engage in mentorship programmes or reach out to potential mentors who align with your career aspirations.

As the future of South Africa’s workforce, young professionals play a crucial role in shaping the nation’s prosperity. By embracing a growth mindset, investing in continuous learning, building a strong professional network, navigating workplace dynamics, and seeking mentorship, South African youth can thrive in the workplace.

“Remember, success is a journey that requires perseverance, resilience, and adaptability. By applying these strategies, young professionals can seize opportunities, overcome challenges, and contribute meaningfully to the growth and development of South Africa’s economy,” concludes Padayachy.

Yuneal Padayachy is the Chief Support Officer at The BEE Chamber.