What are you doing now after internship?

Firstly, I’d like to formally introduce myself, my name is Sive Mjindi and i am a former intern under the Youth Health Africa program. I am presently employed as a data capturer and administrator in the MSM HIV prevention & treatment program at OutWellBeing Pretoria. My role herein is simple but also challenging. I am responsible for ensuring that records of the community outreach prevention are verified, captured electronically and reported to program stakeholders and funders. This is all to ensure that the activities of the program are monitered, which is to provide healthcare and medical services to the MSM community, one of the key populations in South Africa identified as being highly vulnerable to the spread of HIV & AIDS as well as related infectious diseases. As a data administrator i am also responsible for keeping field data archives in chronological order, as well as to handle patient files; information for entry into the national health database systems so that patients may have their medical history in relation to our services accessible and up to date. This is all to assist healthcare practitioners and patients alike to better manage their treatment.

How has program impacted your life?

The program impacted me in a multitude of ways, most significantly that it provided a real-working experience for me in the HIV prevention and treatment industry. Through placement at a health facility near to me, the program allowed me the opportunity to learn and develop myself in a practical capacity, to experience working in the industry in a very real, pragmatic daily manner. I got see and do firsthand most of the duties associated with the position i now occupy, everything from capturing and monitoring programmatic field data to evaluating and reporting program outputs as they were happening in real-time. All in all I think the experience gained has been my most valuable take-away from the YHA programme, as it allowed me to prove to myself and others that I can be a valuable member of the workforce and prosper with the foundation/ opportunity granted to me. Some valuable lessons I also attributeto the program are the training and mentorship opportunities that I attended monthly, wherein functional workplace training such as soft skills that make a good employee, intercultural communication and even personal financial management were taught to all the attending interns. Personally, the internship made me realize that entering the workforce is about far more than just possessing the right degree or hardskills; to be a good employee who makes progress professionally means that one must be dynamic and have the ability to provide both the required work output as well as be a leader by example in the office. I learnt that, especially in the wellbeing industry, one must possess a balance of good personal and interpersonal skills, as well as good technical ability in order to advance themselves by showing practical ability as well as care in the work they do. My placement via the program also entered me into the Monitoring & Evaluation field, which I am presently developing my knowledge and skills in so that I may rise to handle much more complex data in the healthcare industry and help more people access efficient and effective healthcare within our nation.

Some advice to youth who are despondent about employment opportunities?

I think I can speak for a lot of youth when I say that the hardest gap to cross after studies is securing that first employment opportunity. Its perhaps paradoxical, but most entry level jobs on the market already require some postgraduate study or some years of work experience in order for one to even get a foot-in-the-door of the work environment. This is the pitfall that most of us find ourselves in, making it very easy to fall into despondency. Afterall how can one have years of work-experience before beginning their first job, especially when all the entry level positions call for this as a requirement? It will often very easily feel as though the obstacles prevented are insurmountable, as if “the system” is designed to provide only challenges without providing any alternative pathways to success. To the youth who see this and may feel despondent as a result, my only advice is to persevere and open-up your avenues of thought as to how to make personal progress to land that first job. I was an unpaid volunteer for a number of months before I entered the internship, and as tough as this period was, where I slept in friend’s spare room or borrowed money constantly just to get by, I feel it was those months that helped the most because it was in that period that I heard about the YHA internship from the supervisor I volunteered under at the time. Basically, if one door doesn’t seem ready to open, I encourage you dear friend to investigate other ways of getting the same result, no matter how many doors you may need to knock on in order to get that opportunity that will advance you. Volunteer if you must so you may get work experience that assists your CV “look better” for whatever you wish to apply for in future. Be humble enough to ask for assistance from other employees, let them tell you how they got into the industry and see what may be applicable to your own journey from there. Be willing to do the work that no one is enthusiastic about, and be willing to show up every day and work as if that is the day your big break will finally come and one day, that will indeed be the day.