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What Leaving My Dream Job Has Taught Me

“YFM was a game changer, a ‘disruptor’ in modern day terms. It was raw, authentic and driven by young black kids from all over the country and some from the continent. South Africa had never seen or heard anything like it and we lapped it up!”

Since leaving this so called dream job, I’ve had nothing but time to reflect on my life and decisions I’ve made thus far. The one thing keeps ringing in my head is, ‘be careful what you wish for’ , this could also just be my wife’s voice, as she’s forever saying this to me.

My love for radio started way before the ‘dream radio station’ was even born. As with most kids in South Africa, growing up in the 80s and 90s – the only urban radio station we knew was Metro FM, known as Radio Metro back then. Metro FM is of course an English medium radio station and before Metro FM, there were PBS (public broadcaster stations) stations, being raised in a SeSotho family – Lesedi FM was the business in our household.

Fast forward a few years, Soweto Community Radio, now known as Jozi FM, came into our lives and introduced arguably its most famous son ‘Khabzela’. Khabzela, real name, Fana Khaba, was a legend in the hood and went on to work for YFM before he passed away.

YFM is a regional commercial radio station based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

YFM was a game changer, a ‘disruptor’ in modern day terms. It was raw, authentic and driven by young black kids from all over the country and some from the continent. South Africa had never seen or heard anything like it and we lapped it up!

While at boarding school, I literally slept with the radio on in 1997 during YFM’s first broadcast. Even when I was doing my gap year in the UK; every chance I got, I would nip to an internet café and stream South African radio, with YFM top of the list. That being said, even in England, I would sleep with a radio by my side (listening to British Radio); my solace after shitty days of doing all sorts of odd shitty jobs.

Radio was my life!

You cannot even begin to imagine the joy I felt when YFM took me on as intern on October 1st 2007, exactly 10 years after its birth. I don’t think most people get the opportunity to work at a company that they have idolized and followed for a decade. When I say dream job, I literally mean dream job!

The entire 6 months was a dream and made even more pleasurable by my classmates whom I’ve remained friends with years later.

Now if you thought being an intern at YFM was dope, imagine being promoted to a DJ at YFM. You are now literally one of the chosen few that will ever become radio DJs and more importantly, even less people will ever be YFM DJs. I was handed this honor at the completion of the internship and I suppose it is because I had shown some promise on air.

The on air part disappeared as quickly as it came and that was my first lesson, probably the harshest one thus far in my young media career – you are dispensable, particularly as talent. The machine is always looking for younger, better and cheaper and if you are complacent – you will be replaced.

After that horror show of a period, again, I didn’t think that there was a next level from being a YFM DJ, boy was I wrong!

In the winter of 2013, my former boss casually called me into his office and asked me to be the Programming Manager of YFM, I casually accepted – you have stay cool at all times right?

After that I lost my shit! I couldn’t believe that now I was truly living my dream as the dream morphed into me being part of the leadership at the brand and here I was at the prime positon.

Professionally, it is by far the most rewarding job I had ever done. I got to influence the narrative of the whole station and worked with the most amazing talent whilst I was heading up the very internship that gave a me a start. Being able to oversee everything that I dreamed about as a kid and managing content and talent meant the world to me. It is as though everything had come full circle.

What could possibly go wrong? Well, everything, and it did, in the most spectacular way. I won’t go into detail; I’ll save the sordid details for another day. However, key to all of this was that my heart was no longer in my work and it yearned for more, or at least, yearned for different. That voice crept up again: ‘be careful what you wish for’. The universe made the decision for me.

That was the second lesson, what you speak and think, manifests. Be careful, choose your thoughts wisely.

Two months ago I decided to leave YFM after 10 years!

It wasn’t an easy decision to say the least, but it is a decision that had to be made. In order to move forward and grow, you have to make a decision and follow through with it.

The biggest lesson about this decision is humility.

At your job of 10 years, you will probably be the big boss after you’ve worked your way up and know the company back to front; depending on how you conduct yourself, you could even earn some level of respect.

The world however cares very little about your achievements at your previous company. You will quickly realize that once you move to a bigger company, you suddenly get swallowed into their machine and culture. You then have to adjust and teach yourself in the ways of the new company. As a newbie who comes with a supposed pedigree, you are on your own. Therefore, I’ve had to humble myself and become the student and allow myself to be led and taught.

As Simon Sinek said in one of his Ted Talks; Everything I had at YFM, belonged to the position I held.

Titles, company cars, cellphones allowance, big offices, share options and parking spots are all things we hold onto the most as we climb up the ladder. Those things validate your position in the company. Once you leave, they stay with the company. You leave with you. Take comfort in knowing that it does not mean that you have been demoted or are seen as less, it means those things belonged to the position you held, and they will now be duly handed over to the one taking over from you. It is not about you, it’s about the position. You are more than a position.

The third lesson was knowing the sense of self and understanding my truth – nothing tests you like a new work environment where the jargon, the layout, the culture etc is foreign to you.

There is no one to hold your hand, and you have to quickly swim or sink. This is where character is tested. However, character is living up to your truth and being consistent, every day, all the time.

Leaving my dream job has been the best thing I could have ever done for myself. I’ve unlocked so many more opportunities because I’ve allowed myself to dream again. In the last two months I’ve met amazing people and had experiences that will last me a life time. I am happier for it, and that goes a long way. The new job is not easy, it is no longer about the job, but about me and that is what drives me. I love being driven by me.

Do I have regrets you ask? Not a chance – I had to leave my job because it served its purpose and I will forever be grateful for everything it has given me.

Now and then, we all need to take a leap of faith. I will not lie to you, you might fall or fail miserably and that’s ok, as long as it is a lesson, your truth and you own it.

You will be better for it, trust me.

Tshepo ‘Stapura’ Pule

*Tshepo Pule is a Programming Manager at Viacom International Media Networks (MTV Africa and MTV Base)

This post was originally published on his LinkedIn profile HERE.

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