Mondelez International HR director Cebile Xulu coaches unemployed grads in her spare time

She started a work-readiness programme with three strangers that she met on Twitter.

Mondelez International HR director for South & Central East Africa Cebile Xulu, who is among the 19 nominees for the inaugural CHRO Awards happening at Summer Place on 27 November, is extremely passionate about mentorship and coaching, not only as an HR leader within her organisation but also in her personal capacity. Some years ago, she started a work-readiness programme for unemployed graduates where, for one Saturday every month, she teaches groups of 30 to 50 unemployed young people about everything they need to learn when it comes to starting a professional career, from CV writing to prepping for and excelling in interviews.

“It was something that came from a discussion I had been having with people on Twitter whereby three of the people that I had been engaging with on the social media platform offered to help me facilitate the programme,” says Cebile. 

“We run it every second or third Saturday of the month, depending on the number of people registered to attend and, for a full day, we share all kinds of information, resources and lessons to enable graduates in putting put their best feet forward in order to land a full-time job or even an internship.”

Once someone lands an opportunity, Cebile continues to mentor them for six months and guides them on how to conduct themselves so that they don't make some of the common mistakes young professionals often make that prevent them from being appointed permanently. It is something she and her team of volunteers do without any profit or money-generating incentive. 

In the early stages, they asked various organisations for any form of sponsorship and it was Cebile's former mentor Tantaswa Fubu from Barloworld, who alongside her mentee is nominated for the CHRO Awards, that put her hand up to offer them a training facility at their offices in Sandton.

“She said, 'I love what you're doing, but I don't have funds to offer you. What I can do is offer you space.'"

In addition to the monthly workshop, Cebile uses twitter to reach even more graduates through a speed coaching service for young people that want to improve their interviewing skills and overall personal brand. She targets 20 young professionals who have either just started working or are about to start and has a 30-minute telephonic coaching session wherein they can ask her whatever they want about the challenges they are facing within their professional environments. Sometimes it involves giving young people guidance about troubles they may be encountering in the personal lives as well because they often tend to spill over into the work environment manifesting in poor performance or other career-limiting behaviours.  

Says Cebile: “The way it works is that I invite people on twitter to DM (direct message) me their cell phone numbers, and I take about a week to go through a list and select the 20 people for coaching sessions. It is something that has given me a great sense of pride because I have seen how much of a difference it has made to the trajectory of these young professionals’ careers.”