5 career-building tips from Standard Bank's Sharon Taylor

Here's some advice for graduates from one of the top winners at last year's inaugural CHRO Awards.

Last year saw Sharon Taylor, Head of Human Capital at Standard Bank, walked away with the Strategy & Leadership Award and the Transformation & Empowerment Award at the inaugural CHRO Awards. These accolades acknowledged her 29-year record of introducing many of the people philosophies that define the bank today, as well as making great strides with transformation. For her, everything she has been able to accomplish has been made possible by an unwavering commitment to leadership.

“As a services business, our success is built on the quality of our people. We have a lovely mandate to do the work that we do. I’ve never had to justify HR’s seat the table, fight for budget or prove why our work is important,” she says. 

Sharon is especially passionate about developing young talent. She started the Standard Bank Graduate Programme 22 years ago and since then has seen 2 000 young people’s career kick-off at the bank. Here are five pieces of advice that Sharon often gives to new graduates, all of which actually apply to all career stages.

1. Always be yourself 

It is easy to imagine that recruiters look for a certain type of person. People often pretend to be something that they’re not. It is exhausting to sustain this illusion for any long period! Reveal your authentic self in the workplace, you may be surprised how well people respond. 

2. Find an environment where you fit in 

We spend about 75 percent of our lives at work. It’s critical that you feel like you belong at work. Your environment should energize you and not drain you. The right environment will provide you with opportunities to grow and develop. There are many internal opportunities within an organisation so it’s not always necessary to move in order to grow. 

3. Success is personal 

Define what success means to you.  Consider your whole life and not just your career goals. Sharon met an accomplished global executive who spoke about his greatest regret.  He had chased his business goals relentlessly, but his personal life was a wreck. He was in his third marriage. While he now had the time to spend with his children, they wanted nothing to do with him. True success is creating a life that sustains much more than your material and status needs. 

4. Understand that you never ‘arrive’ 

Success is not a destination and in reality, you are always arriving. Things change so fast. What you learnt while studying may not apply. You can never be complacent and should commit to lifelong learning. The only way to stay motivated to keep learning is to do something that you love. 

5. Collect memories and not things 

We live in a consumerist society. When people earn more they tend to spend more. This can be such an easy trap to fall into! In the longer run, creating meaningful experiences will enhance your life in a way that ‘things’ can never accomplish.