My Career Journey – Podcast with the MasterCard Foundation

I am so excited to share with you all the podcast interview I did with the Mastercard Foundation’s Baobab. Throughout this episode, I share my long-winded journey to working in tech with a non-tech academic background. Along the way, I discovered that I could not rely on opportunities being handed to me because I was ‘deserving’ but instead, I hd to aggressively pursue what I wanted.

In the words of the host, Halle: “Like many of us, Melissa checked all the right boxes and, in her own words, expected that the right opportunities would find her because she was deserving. That didn’t happen. Melissa has had to be bold and aggressive – and that energy radiates throughout this episode.”

You can listen on Spotify here:

Or you can listen to the episode (without needing to sign up) here:

#Fireside Dreaming with @tanagambura: Dr. Tinashe Mushakavanhu. Baobab Platform Podcasts

Imagine a warm summer evening. Two voices gather around fire, maybe share a meal or drink, and engage in a moment of dreaming. Listen to this ‘fireside chat’, a conversation between Baobab Community Engagement Associate Tanatsei Gambura and Dr. Tinashe Mushakavanhu. In it, they share, memories of home and childhood, offer a reading from “Imagination Library” and discuss the real meaning of building community and infrastructure. This is an invitation to be present and to allow ourselves to be surprised by the poetry of life surrounding us.*****Tinashe Mushakavanhu is a writer, editor and scholar from Zimbabwe working at the intersection of art, design and technology. He holds a PhD in English from the University of Kent. He has co-edited three books: Some Writers Can Give You Two Heartbeats (2019); Visa Stories: Experiences Between Law and Migration (2013) and State of the Nation: Contemporary Zimbabwean Poetry (2013). He is co-creator and lead researcher on readingzimbabwe.com a digital archive collecting, cataloguing, digitizing information on books about Zimbabwe from the 1950s to the present. He is also co-founder of a boutique creative agency, Black Chalk & Co, which brings together writers, artists, designers, academics, and technologists, engendering a new culture and new forms of publishing and creative production. Share your comments on Baobab!
  1. #Fireside Dreaming with @tanagambura: Dr. Tinashe Mushakavanhu.
  2. #TheHustle: Sandra Kimokoti – Senior Project Manager @Dalberg Advisors
  3. #TheHustle: Carryl Masibo – Advisory Associate @KPMG East Africa
  4. #TheHustle: Zaina Otieno – Investment Associate, East Africa @Camco Clean Energy
  5. #TheHustle: Maryanne Masibo – Senior Investment Banking Analyst @Goldman Sachs & Veronica Munyiva – Business Analyst @Morgan Stanley

I would love to hear your thoughts & reflections so please feel free to share them with me either in the comments or via direct messages on Instagram

Podcast: My Open Secrets to Career ‘Success’

The first article I published on LinkedIn, long before I started this website, garnered 2, 993 views. One of those viewers was a Liberian girl named Cyrene Williams.

Unbeknown to me, she was inspired and even went on to find me on Instagram. It wasn’t long before she told me about a podcast she had started, Talkay, aimed at steering conversations on social, cultural & political issues and driving the youth to action.

To my surprise, Cyrene asked me to feature on her podcast and delve deeper into some of my key career insights and hear about my personal career stories.             

In the podcast, linked below, we touch on the following topics:

  • What drives my ambition
  • Career failures I have encountered & how I deal with them
  • My job searching strategy
  • Achieving balance
  • What went wrong the first time I applied to Google
  • How I network without awkwardness

Have a listen and let us know what you think!

As usual, use the hashtag #moredetails if you have any further questions 🙂

I Hate My Job. Now what?

Have you ever been hit by the gut-wrenching realization that you hate your job?

I have. In my case, it was an internship. At the beginning it was exciting, I was learning new skills, meeting new people and being mildly challenged. But about half way in, I started noticing myself looking at the clock more than usual and counting down the minutes until it was an acceptable time to leave the office. On one particular day, I was dreading doing a task that was so central to my role and that’s when I said to myself, “I think I hate my job”.

This was a big moment for me.

I had met countless people who hated their jobs but I just never imagined that it would be me. While I conceived it possible to dislike certain aspects of my job or have bad days at work, I did not think I’d have that feeling right in my gut telling me that I’m in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing.

So if you too have had the realisation that you hate your job, what do you do next? What now?

I managed to work around the situation and ended up loving my overall experience at the company. I want to share how I did that with you 🙂

As usual, I’ll break my approach down into three steps.

Step 1: Acknowledge how you feel and realise you can do something about it

It can be quite disappointing to realise that after going through a tedious job searching process and smiling your way through interviews, you now dislike the very job you worked so hard to get. Also, no one really wants to be that person. The one that’s dissatisfied at work and always complaining about their job.

But the truth of the matter is, it happens. Sometimes your job (or your boss/colleagues or even both!) suck. A surefire way to prolong that dreaded situation is to deny that it exists. Hence step one: acknowledge how you feel.

While having a dissatisfying job is quite universal, the underlying feelings differ for each person. In my case, I was partially disappointed that the job interviews had positioned this job to be growth-driven and wildly challenging but that’s not what I was experiencing. In my professional journey thus far, I had enjoyed my work thoroughly and could easily not look at the time for hours so I despised the fact that I was struggling to be that person at this job.

The essence of this first step is looking beyond the surface feelings to really understand why you feel the way you feel and understand which aspects of your job are triggering these emotions.

Once you’ve understood your emotions, you can move beyond them. Welcome step 2.

Step 2: Figure out what you want

The beauty and the complexity of “I hate my job” situations is that the best way forward is dependent on you and what your ideals are. Some people want to work part-time and travel the world and others want to strive for mastery and climb to CEO level.

The most important question is: what do you want? What is your ideal lifestyle? What’s your dream job? What are your non-negotiables and what are your priorities?

For example, currently my professional priority is growth. It is both my priority and my non-negotiable. I will not accept a job offer which I do not believe will challenge me intellectually and strengthen or broaden my skill set. What I want is to be able to learn at an accelerated pace and be in an environment which demands excellence.

This clarity of desire made it easy for me to realise that the main driver of my dissatisfaction with my job at the time was that I found it unchallenging. In turn, a key feature of my ideal job is being challenged.

Once you’ve reflected on what you want, we can now move on to step 3.

Step 3: Draw up a plan to get from A to B

At this stage of the “I hate my job” reflection, you should have a clear understanding of the core aspects of your job which are driving the ‘hate’ as well as a clear understanding of what the key features of your ideal job are.

The next step is to figure out how you can get from where you currently are, point A, to where you would like to be, point B. This is also a hugely personal process but I’ll highlight a few alternatives to get you thinking.

A. Find a way to make your job work for you

While I’m sure members of the “I hate my job” community have several valid reasons for disliking their jobs, the positive aspects of a job should not be ignored. As with all decisions, it’s important to weigh both sides before reaching a conclusion.

This is the approach that I opted for as I realised that the company’s culture allowed for me to supplement my role such that I could make it more challenging. I took on extra tasks and even decided to learn a new skill with help from someone in an entirely different department. This re-ignited my excitement for my job and the variety and amount of work I had on my plate created the growth-inducing environment I craved!

Depending on what frustrates you about your job, it may be possible that with a few alterations here and there, you can find it tolerable enjoyable. The trick is to deal with the root of the frustration and be unapologetic (within reason) when going about finding a solution.

B.  Find a new job

I could write an entire article on this but luckily, my friend Rama, who recently secured a job at Google while working at Tesla, already did! You can read it here.

C. Take a leap

Perhaps, you don’t even want a job. Maybe this reflective process made you realise that you want to be an entrepreneur or a full-time blogger. Or perhaps, your ideal is so far from your current that you cannot conceive how you’ll get there from where you are.

I want to encourage you to consider taking a leap.

Take the necessary precautions, of course, but take a large step in the direction of your point B. Whether that’s quitting your job or enrolling in chef school… (I could insert a whole bunch of cliches here about how you never really know until you try and we regret the things we didn’t do etc but I think you get it and you’ll know if it applies to you.)

There you have it! How to overcome the “I hate my job” situation in 3 steps.

I’ve intentionally left each step relatively vague because this is an extremely personal process and the purpose of this article is to help you think about the way forward which would work best for you.

I know how frustrating it can be to feel stuck in a job that you ‘hate’ but you can always do something about it. Take the time to understand and acknowledge how you feel, then figure out what exactly you want and how best you can get there.

Lastly, always remember, it’s just a job and you’re not really stuck 🙂

Crafting Powerful Cover Letters

I vividly remember writing my first cover letter. I was perplexed, there was so much I felt I could say but I wasn’t sure what to prioritise or where to start. Naturally, I binged on “How to write a Cover Letter” articles as I searched for direction. I scraped together a one-page document and submitted it as a cover letter. Since then, I have written and edited more cover letters than I can count as a Career Development intern and a budding young professional.  

I have come to understand that writing a cover letter is essentially telling a story. More specifically, it’s about telling your professional story through which you carefully position yourself as the most ideal candidate for the role.

That still sounds a bit abstract so I’ve broken it down into three key questions. A powerful cover letter frames your story such that it answers these three key questions:

1.Why are you interested in this company?

Of all the companies in the world, why are you applying for this one? I know you don’t always have a deep attachment to the company you’re applying to and sometimes it’s just one of many on a list. Even if that is the case, it’s important to take time to understand what’s unique about this company (whether it be its mission, experience or culture) that attracts you to it and places it, even marginally, above other companies in its industry.

This section is particularly important if you’re applying to a big brand which likely gets thousands of applicants, many of whom solely want to be affiliated with the company and its brand. To stand out, you need to show an appreciation for the company that goes beyond its strong reputation and is rooted in the core identity of the company.

2. Why are you interested in this specific role?

At this stage, the reader understands why you are attracted to this company but why are you applying for this particular role? What do you perceive the key skills of this role to be? What potential impact do you envision making if given this role? This section is an opportunity to exhibit that you understand the expectations of the role and then take it one step further by painting a picture of how you, given the role, can go beyond the job description and positively impact the company.

3. Why should the company select you over all other applicants?

What skills have you acquired that uniquely position you to succeed in this role? What characteristics and soft skills do you possess that make you an invaluable addition to the company? In this section, it’s important to sway away from saying things such as “I am better than all other applicants because of xyz”. Rather, expand on experiences from your resume which show the reader that you are capable and inclined to succeed in this role. Try to avoid explaining small details of your past experiences and instead elaborate on the skills you learned and the results you achieved.

While answering these questions, the key aspects of a killer resume still apply. Namely, storytelling, brevity with a focus on impact and attention to detail. Cover letters should generally be one page and no typos or grammatical errors should be present.

The letter should flow and it should not seem like you were simply answering a list of questions. To take it one step further, I usually format my cover letters to align with the company’s branding (do this with caution as you do not want to come across as unprofessional).

Below, I have attached one of the cover letters which I used to apply to and secure one of my internships. I hope reading it helps you see how to apply to concepts detailed above.

Cover Letter Example

As usual, let me know if you have any further questions and use #moredetails if you’d like me to elaborate on something.

Thanks for reading! 🙂