Advice on choosing a career – this is how I got into journalism

I never thought of journalism as a career before I enrolled to do the course at Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

In fact, before I decided to enrol for journalism I never watched much news. My brother and I used to love watching the 19:00 comedy show on Sabc1 on a weekly night. News did become my life the day I applied to do journalism.

Studying journalism was not something I considered. I wanted to do something in medicine, like radiography. I failed Natural Science in June 2005 when I was in matric. I needed good marks for that course – so when I failed I didn’t get a call back from the university’s radiology department.

During my matric year I decided with a couple of friends that I wanted to do a gap year. The plan was to take a gap year and au pair in the United States.

I went all out – I did a lot of babysitting and I worked for free at a local crèche (a day care centre for children) to make up the hours I needed. I think the programme asked that I must have about 100 to 200 hours of experience (babysitting children).

I got the necessary paperwork to do au pair – I even wrote a letter to my potential host-parents. Writing the letter was the most exciting thing I did. I must have realised then that I should consider a career that involved creative writing.

Anyway, during my gap year I worked as a waiter while trying to get my things in order to do au pair. I had to get my driver’s licence to complete the application to do au pair.

Long story short, things didn’t work out my way. I failed too many times at my driver’s tests. Eventually I made a decision to let go of the dream of becoming an au pair. How I came about that decision, is a story for another day.

After I made a decision not to do au pair, my parents advised me to go study something.

The thing about finishing matric and being an adult is that it is an exciting part of your life. You get to make decisions as an adult. Yet, I was not sure what I wanted to do with my life.

I always had a dream that I wanted to be a doctor; maybe a gynaecologist.

One day at a hospital – I was sick – I saw a man with his foot messed up. It was as if he just came in from an accident. His foot looked disgusting and bloody. I couldn’t see myself touching that man’s foot and then decided that I cannot be a doctor.

So radiology was the second dream. In my matric year I had taken everything on higher grade and I failed some of my subjects because it was too much to handle. Please note: during my school years I was always in the Top 10 or Top 20 learners at the school.

There was a lot going on in matric.

My mother suggested that I study journalism, because I apparently had always said I wanted to be an author. Journalism would be a way of telling stories and a steppingstone of me becoming an author.

I had a light bulb moment: what my mother said was true. I had even while working tried once a month to buy at least one magazine. I’d buy a different magazine each time, because after a while the one magazine’s content seemed “same old, same old”.

I had been enjoying reading and writing since I was a child. I even went to a free Writers Workshop in my teens and wrote my first soapie-story.

The day I enrolled for journalism I was told that the applications had already closed. This was in December 2006. The lady at the administration did however advise me to go see the head of department (HOD). I went to the journalism department and there the secretary of the HOD said the same thing: applications are closed.

God intervened; the secretary then told me she’ll take my application. She asked me however to call her every day [when the university opened again] to remind her about the application. The week my class mates went for orientation, I was sitting on my phone every day to call the secretary. I eventually was called to come in for an interview.

Out of hundreds who applied, I was one of 40 that were chosen for the course.

Why am I writing this post?

Well, the other day I spoke to someone about how many people especially entrepreneurs don’t know what their services should be. How do you decide what to study or what to sell or what service to give? Here’s my input:

  1. You should think about what your talents are. What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing?
  2. What are your qualities? How can you serve? Just because you are a good listener does not mean you should try being a social worker. Doctors are good listeners too – I think. Doctors have to listen to patients who moan about what is wrong with them. That information then helps the doctor make his diagnosis. I am a good listener – but I am a journalist who listens to other people’s stories. I also enjoyed working as a waiter and a call centre operator – it helps if you are a good listener in one of these jobs.
  3. Talk to people. Share your ideas out loud. You learn about yourself and from others if you share what’s on your mind.
  4. Sometimes you should just take the leap. For example, I am a shy person – someone who hardly ever talks, yet I am a journalist. AND I LOVE MY CAREER. I love learning new things. I love listening to people’s stories. Those are the things I get to experience in my career. I would not have known that I could love this job had I not taken a chance to enrol to study journalism.

I hope this was helpful. Thank you for reading!


  1. So true Prishantha! I learned the hard “round about way” what my passion is. Sometimes you have to go through those challenges I guess – life hands you the lemons, you have to get the knife to cut it through and decide what are you going to do with that lemons. Thank you for reading.

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