Sibongile Mabaleka, 35 HR administrator
‘My initial studies had nothing to do with where I am now: I studied at UCT as a musician, and then got my dance teaching diploma.
After I graduated in 2003, I travelled for three years as a dancer. I went everywhere, from Thailand and China to Switzerland and London.
‘I’d had my first child at 19, but I still managed to travel for my dancing. But at 23, I got married and had my second child – time to settle down! I started working in finance for Sanlam, but eventually my contract there came to an end. That’s when I started in HR, about two and a half years ago.
‘My day-to-day involves creating job descriptions, filling vacancies, drafting employment contracts and administering things like payroll and leave. I’m also involved in advising staff on their benefits – medical aid, savings, pensions. This is my favourite part of my job: helping employees make good financial choices with the benefits offered by our company.’
How key is salary?
‘It’s very important. Firstly, you need to be able to cover your key costs. But also, how much you earn is important to how valued and recognised you feel by your company. Many of us have worked hard to get into our positions; we’ve studied and gained experience. So it’s key to feel fairly compensated for all of that.’
Why do we need to talk money more?
‘So many people are actively told not to discuss salaries by their company because the company knows how much discrepancy in pay there is among its employees. And knowledge is power!
‘The more you talk, the more you know, the more you can control what you earn. You need to be able to talk about your salary because it’s a means of empowering yourself. Even if that just means feeling comfortable about approaching your manager about a raise, which most people find nerve-wracking – that’s powerful! Companies are very unlikely to reach out to you to discuss a raise or promotion, so you have to be willing to initiate and drive those conversations yourself.’
‘Saving towards a pension from your very first paycheque is key. It’s one of the most important things I advise employees about. People often don’t think about where their income will come from in 30 or 40 years’ time, but the sooner you start saving towards this, the easier it is.
‘You also need a five-year plan for your career and income. Set goals so you can benchmark yourself and achieve growth.’