Candice Pretorius did not take the traditional route into finance. She didn’t dream of getting into finance and she didn’t get the relevant degree. What she did do, however, was focus on what she enjoyed – an approach to career and family building that has always stood her in good stead. Here are Candice’s lessons in career building, finding what makes you happy, and abandoning the elusive promise of ‘balance’ for being truly present in whatever you are doing in that moment, whether that’s work, family or leisure.
1. Give yourself time to find yourself
I had no idea what I wanted to do in matric. My family all came from finance backgrounds and all I was reasonably sure of was that I didn’t want to follow in their footsteps. Instead, I started an events management diploma but knew after a year that it wasn’t really what I wanted. At the same time, a family friend needed someone who could help out with bookkeeping and general office admin. I thought why not, and I made the move.
The company was a small brokerage firm that sold equipment finance to the manufacturing, printing and engineering sectors and my boss very quickly decided that I should be on the road in sales.
I was terrified, but I did it, and two years later Sasfin approached our team of four and asked us to join them. The brokerage sent deals to Sasfin, so we would be brought in as an internal business unit and sales team. Five years later, I moved into the rental finance division, and then capital equipment finance – which was my old division – was brought under the same roof, and that’s what I head up today.
The biggest lesson for me has been that it’s impossible to know where you will end up. I had friends who spent four years studying, only to start again because they realized it wasn’t what they wanted to do. I’ve always been much quicker to adjust what I’m doing, you can’t possibly know who you are or what you want at 19 (well, many of us anyway) and so being adaptable and learning along the way is key. I love to plan – I’m a planner by nature – but I’m also agile enough to change when I need to.
2. Be clear about what you want (or don’t want)
Some of the hardest lessons I learnt happened in school. We end up under immense pressure, thinking that we need a university exemption or to be in the top ten, and then when it doesn’t go to plan that the world is over. Our deputy head girl took her own life because she was too scared to tell her dad she couldn't do maths at a higher grade level. As a parent myself, I can categorically say he wouldn’t have cared given the alternative, but we get so easily caught up in anxiety.
The key is to remember that right now is not forever. You can design your life however you want it to look. You just have to be clear about what you want.
I wouldn’t have felt so worried and anxious about things not going according to how society says they should go if I knew then what I know now: it all works out in the end.
I’m not the most successful person I know. I didn’t get a university exemption and I only studied much later in life, but I have a job I love and a wonderful family. We are comfortable. We enjoy overseas holidays and experiencing life together, but we aren’t extravagant. It all comes down to knowing what your values are.
We don’t always know exactly what we want. Let’s face it, that’s hard. I still don’t know because it changes all the time. But I do know what I don’t want. I’m clear on that, and the result is that my journey and path are enjoyable. If something does not align with your values and doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it.
I always tell my team: The day you have to force yourself to get out of bed, you have to question whether you are in the right job. Life is too short not to do what you enjoy.
3. Everything happens at the right time
If you follow a path of what you enjoy and what is right in the moment, you’ll generally find that things work out. By the time I studied, I had working experience in managing people, working with customers, sales and HR. I could relate to what I was learning, which made it much more valuable. What does a 19-year-old know about performance management? It makes a huge difference when you can leverage real-world experience with theory. It’s not always necessary to rush into things. Experience and knowledge work hand in hand.
4. Make sure you have ‘me time’
I wake up before my whole house wakes up so that I have time for myself. My husband and kids wake up at 5.30 and I’m up at 4 am to ensure I have 90 minutes to focus on my priorities for the day, how I feel, and what I want to achieve away from meetings and phone calls.
I read the book, The 5 am Club a few years ago and it changed my life. Before I started giving myself this time each day, I was always anxious. I struggled to sleep because I was always thinking about everything I had to do the next day. As soon as I started giving myself this time though, I started sleeping extremely well. It’s important to remember that being productive allows you to get more done, which actually relieves stress, so figure out what your silver bullet is.
5. There is no such thing as balance
When I say there's no such thing as balance, I do think that we can all live happy lives if we balance how much we work with what we want out of life, our family and doing things we love, for example. The most luxurious house is meaningless if you have to be a workaholic who never sees loved ones.
However, balance each day isn’t possible. When I read The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, I changed how I approach life. The reality is that the different spheres of our lives need us more at one time or another. Trying to find constant balance leads to a life of anxiety, because nothing is getting enough of you. On the other hand, if you give yourself completely to an urgent deadline, but then spend 80% of your time on your kids the next day, as an example, you will feel fulfilled and so will the people around you. Be focused, know where you are spending your energy and time. You will sometimes drop the ball. That’s okay, you can always pick it up tomorrow.
6. Be authentic
Authenticity is extremely important to me. Most people quickly see through you if you’re being false, so rather show up as yourself. We are all human and we like working with people whose values align with our own.