Navigating The Twenties – A Q&A with Qobo Ningiza

n this insightful interview, we sit down with Qobo Ningiza , a remarkable young professional whose journey through his early career stages has been both inspiring and challenging.

In this insightful interview, we sit down with Qobo Ningiza , a remarkable young professional whose journey through his early career stages has been both inspiring and challenging. Hailing from rural Eastern Cape, Qobo has broken barriers and set records as South Africa’s first Deaf sign language-dependent LLB graduate. With a BA in law, LLB from the University of Cape Town, and an LLM in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa from the University of Pretoria, his academic achievements are nothing short of exceptional.

Introducing Qobo Ningiza…

Tell us a little about yourself?

I am a “young” man from Ngqamakhwe in rural Eastern Cape who is still in the early stages of his career, still navigating my own path. I graduated with a BA law from the North-West University, becoming that university’s first Deaf sign language user, an LLB from the University of Cape Town and an LLM in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa from the University of Pretoria. According to the Deaf Federation of South Africa, I am South Africa’s first Deaf sign language dependent LLB graduate, a feat that taxed my mental health.

Immediately after graduating, I landed a role at the commercial law department of a leading bank, though I resigned after about a year because of a very tempting opportunity at the Constitutional Court. Both roles were instrumental in my personal and professional development, I will always be grateful that they came at this stage of my career.

How do you know when to persist versus quit something that you find challenging?

Since I started experiencing challenges with mental health in my final year of LLB studies, I have always been guided by my mental health. Of course, it is easy to confuse mental health triggers with regular work-related stress, though this is something that one must learn to distinguish and manage. Work-related stress is healthy and normal, often triggered by the desire for excellence, which is especially more common to young people at the start of their careers. The need to prove ourselves and leave a mark is always present, and I am no exception in this regard. So long as my body and mind allow, I persist. But, when the body starts to show symptoms typical of my mental health related challenges, such as getting swollen shoulders or a persistent headache and sore eyes, this is a reminder for me to step back. I have not yet encountered a situation where this persisted for several days to a point where I needed to resign from work, but I do imagine that if at any stage in my career I had such triggers on a regular basis, this would be an unequivocal sign to quit.

What was the hardest challenge you encountered in your twenties?

The social life, without a doubt. I have always been under the illusion that being known and greeted by many people means you have many friends. How wrong I was. Throughout my university years, I sought to meet and know as many people as possible in my search for a meaning and fulfilling social life. Little did I know that crowds do not necessarily fulfil one’s search for belonging and a sense of community. It feels good to be known on campus, in class or in the workplace, but a sense of belonging and meaningful social life is found in strong relationships and not many relationships. I spent my twenties yearning for a sense of belonging and in search of friends. And I cannot say I made as many friends as I would have liked. The struggle to find and create meaningful relationships in my twenties affected other aspects of my life, such as my productivity and outlook on life. I believe that many aspects of my life would have turned out better if I had managed to create strong and fulfilling relationships.

What’s the one thing you wish people had told you about being in your twenties?

I wish someone had told me that you do not have to figure it all out in your twenties. This is a period to prioritise learning over earning. I wish someone had told me to put myself out there, try out as many companies and organisations as possible. There are organisations I looked down on because they did not have prestige of the big-name companies, and I set all my focus to the big-name companies and neglected all others. This was an error. It is not supposed to be like that. You can learn in small organisations as much as you can learn in big organisations, or even more. Small organisations typically have fewer resources and their staff get hands-on experience in a lot of fields. This helps them get remarkable exposure and skills. I erred in thinking there was more to learn in big companies or organisations than small ones.

Do you believe in mentors and have you used mentors to navigate your twenties?

I absolutely believe in mentors. If you can get one, get one. A good mentor will walk the journey with you and be there for guidance whenever you need it. And we actually need guidance, even unbeknown to us. The need for guidance is always there, it never goes away, because every other person has something to teach us. I unfortunately did not have a mentor, something I find regretful. But I highly recommend a mentor.

Written by Qobo Ningiza

Edited by Emma Reinecke

Navigating the Twenties

#navigatingthetwenties #youngprofessionals

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