It’s almost October, and change is in the air.
Yes, the weather is getting warmer with endless days of sunny blue skies on the horizon. And that makes me very happy. But can the same be said for our lives?
Xandri Redelinghuys, an ambitious young professional from the small town of Robertson, shares some of her joys and challenges of living as a freelance designer in Cape Town, and offers some valuable advice to kick start you into your career.
One of the greatest joys for her is “the completion of a project and of course a happy client”. More generally speaking, “I get ecstatic about anything beautiful. I mean food; when I cut a piece of beetroot I just want to sing inside because of the colour and the texture and the pattern. Something inside of me just bubbles up. And the same probably goes for when I draw; it’s being able to pour everything that’s inside of you, to see it working out because you don’t think about what you are going to do – you just do. I love creating. I love pouring myself into a project and just doing something, completing it because I know I’ve got what it takes.”
Xandri honestly notes how it can be frustrating at times, where she sometimes just feels like drawing and painting instead of going through the grind of doing what she knows she’s supposed to do with her job at the moment. Confessing: “When a project is really boring (I’m not allowed to say that), it’s not very creative or stimulating, [like when] it’s just the plain old logo. This is why I don’t like design because it can be the same thing over and over again.”
Despite these sentiments, her never-say-die attitude speaks louder. “If you want something you need to work for it – it’s so cliché I know! There’s no way for me to explain it because I’ve always just had that trait. I make a plan; I always find a way to get the job done.”
And this is what impresses me most about Xandri. Often when someone is getting going with his/her career, the only thing that will actually matter at the end of the day is having the grit and determination to push through whether you feel like it or not. You probably won’t have the luxury of being able to pick and choose the work that you’re obliged to do.
Already having been in the industry for a couple of years, Xandri can speak from personal experience in the advice that she can give to other young creatives as they enter the professional sector. “I [think] so many people coming out of varsity look for a job and they get offered [something] with a small income but they don’t take it because it’s not really what they want to do,” she starts. The sole reason, according to Xandri, why these fresh graduates turn down perhaps not-so-glamorous work opportunities is pride. In her words, they think “they’re too good for the job” as opposed to adopting a different mindset of wanting to “work your way up”.
“For me, it’s just taking every opportunity that you can. You have no right to say that I’ll look for another job. Sure, don’t settle for anything but you shouldn’t just turn down any job. You should really look into something because the job might not lead you in the direction you want to go, but the people that you meet and the job will take you places. Sometimes you’ll meet some person somewhere you’ll never have met otherwise and that will open doors for you.”
In closing, Xandri doesn’t mince her words: “Jy moet moer hard werk! It’s not what you know it’s who you know. Put a smile on your face because you never know who you’re going to meet.”
There’s something about August which tells me that because you’ve just snuck over the halfway mark of the year, you’ve come further enough to honestly ask yourself how you personally feel about your professional career.
I don’t know how your year has panned out so far, but mine has certainly come with a lot of change. Completely moving away from varsity life, I have since been figuring out my place in the world of work, slowly putting the pieces of a still very incomplete puzzle together. And what have I found? Right now I’ve been trying my hand at a couple of things, discovering how I handle different sorts of work and learning and growing more in my character as I go along.
Taking little leaps of faith towards where you hope to eventually be in the industry will involve sacrifice and great cost that will be scary at first. I can tell you from personal experience that being in this place of uncertainty is the best time to trust in God. It’s trusting in the fact that because He created you, He also knows you intimately and will lead you on a journey far greater than what you could ever map out on your own.
The job you do is indicative of who you are, but it should never define who you are. It takes wisdom to know the difference. Whether you’ve just embarked on life as a full-time professional or perhaps been at it for quite a few years already, there is always one question you must ask yourself that will reveal your true motives for why you’re doing it: Is my value as a person hinged on the approval or praise that I get or don’t get from others in my career? It’s a good question to ask and one that could diagnose the reason why you might be placing too much emphasis on work at the expense of your general wellbeing.
Here are just three areas of your life that you don’t want to see looking like this:
Relationships. You’re so caught up at the office that you’re working overtime most days in the week and battle to take your mind off work on the weekends which means that on the rare occasion that you are with friends and family, your attention is divided.
Health. You can’t seem to find the time to slot in any physical exercise, leaving you feeling sluggish and less productive at work. Your eating plan is erratic and when you do get to wolf something down (usually from a nearby fast food outlet), it’s lacking the essential minerals that your body needs. Your spiritual life is feeling a bit flat at the moment, where the mountain of work in front of you seems to have taken precedence over your commitment to God.
You. You’re so caught up in the chaos of your career that you’ve lost touch with other things that used to excite and stimulate you. You never feel free from work and find it hard to rest. It has consumed you to the point where you struggle to remember who you were when your life didn’t revolve around the pressure to perform in your profession.
Work as worship
There is a God who has wired you so uniquely for the purpose of showing the world the beautiful way He chose to make you. Do you believe this? The work you do will be worship to Him when your purpose is to be like a mirror pointing away from yourself so that you can reflect His beauty. But the flipside is also true. When work becomes the object of your worship, it’s like the same mirror is now facing you where it’s only you and your achievements that you see. Nothing else matters. Pretty sad, right?
Who will you worship through your work? Will it be yourself, what you do trying to validate who you are, or will it be the God who made you to be more than what you could ever hope to be? The decision is yours.
“When work is your identity, if you are successful it goes to your head, if you are a failure it goes to your heart.” (Timothy Keller)
Xandri Redelinghuys, born and raised in the Western Cape Winelands, is a story that many other young professionals can relate to.
Maybe not so much in where she grew up and the school she went to, but definitely when it comes to the never-say-die attitude she so clearly possesses for the industry she’s involved with today.
“I am from Robertson; it’s a small town in the Winelands close to Worcester. I grew up there, went to school there, went to high school in Paarl and studied graphic design in Stellenbosch,” she begins.
Xandri was undecided on what she wanted to study up until a week before admissions closed and she had to get a portfolio of her work together. She attended the Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography for two years before she was forced to drop out after sustaining a serious injury from underwater hockey.
“And it got boring because I wanted to study fine art,” she confesses. “But my parents said graphic design is a better option because there are more opportunities. I mean, you don’t even have to apply for a job that is graphic design; I applied for a journalism job and got it because I had graphic design…I also think all the activities I did in school, the clubs that I belonged to, all the extramural activities opened doors for me because they saw on my CV what I did. It tells you a lot about your personality and character.”
The ‘journalism job’ happened to be a one year internship with Food24. Xandri admits that she struggled to make ends meet having to work two other jobs to pay her rent, “but it was rewarding in the end because I built such great relationships in Media24.”
And that’s key. “When you are just breaking into the industry you have to be able to buckle down and just do the work even though it’s not the best, even though it’s not where you want to be – you have to do the groundwork to get to where you want to be and that’s sometimes something that people don’t realise.”
Ever since she was in grade ten she wanted to work in the magazine industry, and after leaving Food24 having been there for two years, she got her heart’s desire to work at Elle Decoration. But it didn’t just fall into her lap. She explains how she applied to literally hundreds of different companies, and Elle was one of the few places that got back to her. “They were very interested and I almost fell off my chair. I was like ‘how can this be?’ It was the job of my dreams. It was very rewarding in its own sense. I wasn’t there for long but it felt like five years in the experience I got there because it was such a small team.”
Xandri was at Elle Decoration for a year till she decided she needed to take a mini sabbatical and has since been freelancing in graphic design and doing odd jobs in illustration which, she says, “isn’t [her] first love but it pays the bills.” Fine art is her passion which she has had more time to devote to and has even entered a few competitions that have motivated her to hone her skill.
Interested to find out what an average day in the life of Xandri Redelinghuys look like, she answers pointedly: “It depends on the job that I have. At the moment I’m working on a cookbook for Cobb. They’re an international brand so somehow I managed to land this gig (I don’t know how!). I got the job as the designer but I ended up cooking the entire book, so that was fun! In the mornings I get up, drink my ‘koffietjie’, sometimes I need to go into the editor’s studio and sit there with her because she stresses a bit so she needs me there. I like change. I thrive on that. Everyday something new which is why freelancing is so nice. It was scary in the beginning but now it’s fine.”
A cool titbit I learnt about Xandri is that she is a huge fan of coffee shops and shamelessly confesses her copious amounts of drinking the black potion while soaking in the vibe of people’s comings and goings around her. She even mentioned an incident where she actually got a job just from being at a coffee shop where a future client happened to also be. Nice one!
Catch up with me again next month as we find out some of the challenges Xandri has faced as well as the joys she’s experienced doing freelance design. She also offers some valuable advice to all young people who are about to embark on their journey into the world of work, whether in the creative industry or not, so make sure you don’t miss out.
Oh, it’s July! “Um,” you stammer incredulously, “What just happened to the last six months of my life?”
If we’re honest with ourselves, any work we pursue will inevitably come with its challenges.
With a chunk of the year already in our wake, this is the perfect time for us to examine why we do what we do and if there’s maybe a bigger purpose behind becoming a professional.
Morning News & Sport Anchor on Smile 90.4fm, family man, visionary. These are just some of the ways you could describe Morne Esben. His story is one marked by pursuing the road of a professional, going after what you know you were created to do, and overcoming whatever obstacles that may stand in your way.
The first few months of the year are always such a weird time for most. It’s true. More than two months of 2015 are already well and truly behind us – crazy, right?