How to determine the Next Step In Your Career – Oluwatoyin Puddicombe- Founder, Toyin Talks Talent (T3)

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Let’s get to meet you. Please tell us about yourself and your background.

My name is Oluwatoyin Puddicombe. I am an internationally certified Senior HR professional with the Human Resources Certification Institute of the United States of America (SPHRi). I am also an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Personal Management of Nigeria, a Certified Career Analyst, a Certified Recruitment Consultant, and a Founder of Toyin Talks Talent (T3).

I describe myself as a medical student turned HR professional when I discovered the connection between natural abilities and career fit and the negative consequences of a mismatch. Now I recruit, teach, train, and coach budding and established professionals to DISCOVER the careers aligned with their natural talents, DEVELOP their competencies through fit-for-purpose capacity-building programs, and leverage that to DEMONSTRATE their capacity in the workplace.

I am a Speaker and Writer. I have a weekly LinkedIn Newsletter called “The Talent Guide” which reaches more than 20,000 subscribers and which has been featured by LinkedIn Editors several times on their “to Explore” list.

I am happily married to a medical doctor and am a mother to five beautiful children.

What inspired you to your line of career? Did you experience any challenge in decision making and how did you go about it?

I could say I got into HR almost by accident. I was working at a consulting firm when I was asked by my boss at the time to handle a recruitment project, something I had never done before. Again, like when I changed my course at the university, I found myself fitting into recruitment quite naturally. It was like I instinctively knew what to do though I have to say I had a very supportive team. Anyway, this sparked my interest in human resources and so I took steps to get certified. Since, like I said the career seemed to find me, it wasn’t a hard decision at all. That was more than 10 years ago, and I haven’t looked back since then! I am grateful to be in a career that allows me to do what I love.

 

A stat says only 14% of mentor relationships started by asking someone to be their mentor. 61% of relationships developed naturally. [Forbes]. Did you have mentors that helped shape your career and can you share some of them?

Mentorship as a practical concept didn’t happen until I decided to be more intentional about my career. I had been very fortunate to have worked with wonderful bosses and met wonderful people like Mr Lere Baale, CEO of Business School, Netherlands International, who trained me and taught me how to develop a great work ethic. Prior to that, if I was to describe anyone as my mentor it would be my husband, Dr Akinwande Tolulope Puddicombe. I would go so far as to say that he saw my interest in developing the talents of young professionals even before I did.

Credit: Drazen Zigic

In terms of the HR profession the person I would describe as my first mentor was Mr Bankole Babalola. He taught me the nitty-gritty of HR and to a great extent my work is quite heavily influenced by the things that he taught me. Though I knew a couple of people in the HR space it wasn’t until I deliberately built those relationships that I could begin to describe some of those people as my mentors like Mrs Taiwo Dayo-Abatan Regional Head HR, Sub Saharan Africa VFS Global, Mr Yemi Faseun, Chief Talent Officer YF Talent Partners and Mrs Lara Yeku, Head of HR Food Commercial Division, Flour Mills of Nigeria to name a few. Outside HR, I have Mrs. Kehinde Wole-Olomojobi, Treasurer of Greenwich Merchant Bank, and Dr. Michael Koku, John Maxwell’s Leadership Coach, Trainer, and Mentor.

 

In Nigeria, many HR challenges can emerge with digital disruptions, workplace cultural shifts, economic changes, political changes, etc. What is the best strategy for attracting top talent in the workplace?

Credit: Lyndon Stratford

In my opinion, to attract top talent into the workplace you must create a platform for their talents to be celebrated. It was Khalid Halim that said, “Our work is the expression of our natural gifts intersecting with the needs of the world’. I believe that if any organization can succeed in creating such a culture, such an environment, and such a mindset, it will attract the best talent.

Before COVID, Nigeria was what we called an Employer’s Market. There were few jobs and plenty of job seekers, many of whom lacked the right skills to do the jobs. Now, with the changing needs of the workplace which is now so unpredictable, fewer skilled talents due to mass migration, and the entrance of Gen Z into the workplace, the employees now have the upper hand. Consequently, employers need more than just attractive packages to pull talent, they need to make the talent feel valued and in control of their futures. They need to recognize that employees are multi-dimensional and have interests they would like to explore that are not strictly related to the job but are capable of making them better at the job.

I believe that if any organization can succeed in creating such a culture, such an environment, and such a mindset, it will attract the best talent.

 

Now I know that this is easier said than done, but I think it is evident that the closer an organization gets to this “ideal” the more likely it is to be lauded as a brand that a lot of people would like to work for. Why for instance are the tech companies so appealing? One reason of course is that technology is the future and so its relevance means that there will always be available work. However, the tech space is also one of the most autonomous, flexible, and least restrictive regarding innovation and ideation. It allows for a project-style work culture in the GIG Economy and is a space where when you have the skills, opportunities are huge and highly profitable.

With the application of emerging technologies like AI (Artificial Intelligence), RPA (Robotic Process Automation), and ML (Machine Learning) to key HR processes, how will you evaluate Human resource management in Nigeria in terms of global practice?

In terms of global practice, I actually don’t believe that Nigeria is that far behind, at least in terms of competence and capacity because we have global talent here. In terms of technology, however, though it is accessible, adoption is still quite low. This is why you will find the different stages of HR evolution still very present in Nigeria.

We would typically talk about HR leaving the stage of personnel management which basically was “hire and fire” to HR being a strategic partner. Now HR is a business leader who doesn’t just support the business but leads the conversation when it comes to how to effectively utilize your human capital.

Now I won’t deny that COVID played a very important role here. Prior to COVID, I think a lot of us wondered whether technology was going to take over our jobs. However, in the words of John M. Bremen, MD of Human Capital and Benefits at Willis Towers Watson, “The week that trillions of dollars of market value came out of the global economy because people could not work and consume and live normally—that really ended any debate over the value of HR to the enterprise. HR’s seat at the table was solidified permanently.” Consequently, HR is not likely to lose relevance anytime soon. This however does not mean that HR professionals should rest on their oars. Technology is still going to advance and we’re still going to have to keep pace with it especially as it relates to making work more efficient and making workers more capable to meet the demands of an ever-evolving workplace.

At one point or another, most professionals face a crossroads in their careers. Whether they simply want to change jobs, pursue a different career path, or still don’t know what their true calling in life is. Can you share important questions to ask yourself to determine the next step in your career?

When asking yourself what the next step is for your career you need to understand what triggered that question. What made you start questioning yourself and your career choices at that point? The steps you will take will depend on your answers because it varies from individual to individual. To use me as an example, my first job was in aviation as a cabin crew. It was a job that felt tailored to me, and I could happily have built a career along that line. However, my desires changed, and when they did, my dream changed. I saw myself equipping and enabling people and because of that, the job that appeared to be perfect started to lose its shine.

Then I moved to consulting and was given that recruitment project. I enjoyed it so much and it came so naturally came to me that the path I should follow was clear. After a while, even that wasn’t enough and that was when I started Toyin Talks Talent (T3).

Distinguish whether the dissatisfaction you feel is with your career or some other aspects of your life, so you don’t make a wrong career decision when in fact, your career wasn’t the issue in the first place. Conduct a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, obstacles, threats), a term that encapsulates the process of deep self-reflection, and identify:

  • Your interests
  • The things that motivate you
  • The things that appeal to you
  • Your strengths and the things you are good at.
  • The things that ignite your passion. By this, I mean what gets you angry or gets you excited.
  • The things that tend to distinguish you in your career. If for instance, you’re a problem solver, you can ask yourself what sort of problems you like solving and that might give you some indication of what career move you should make.

 

 

It is believed that 89% of mentees go on to mentor someone themselves and contribute to a culture of learning. Are you part of a community or initiative that helps in developing and mentoring young professionals?

Yes actually. I’m privileged to run the T3 Network, a virtual coaching and mentoring platform where I help young professionals find their career fit through coaching capacity building and connecting.

With access to 1000+ professionals across several platforms, we have helped several people find new jobs, be better at their current jobs, or changed careers altogether. We do this majorly through the T3 Career Bootcamp, which is now in its 7th edition. Here, over 8 weeks, we take professionals into a deep dive into their career strengths and motivations and equip them with knowledge and tools for career growth and advancement. This year, we aimed to reach 100 professionals, and I’m happy to say that we have succeeded in doing that.

While some of the boot campers still need more help, it’s extremely rewarding to see the ones who take the lessons taught and fly with it! Between April to July, we have more than 10 members of the Network getting new jobs, a challenging feat in this economy. Others have changed jobs and even careers. I think that is simply amazing!

T3 also has a non-profit outreach to secondary school-aged children and University undergraduates to equip them with knowledge and tools to equip them for the future and prepare them for life outside the formal institutions. Though still in its infancy, we’ve partnered with other bodies with a similar vision and look forward to doing more.

I am also very active in The HR Foundry led by Mrs. Taiwo Dayo- Abatan where we work each day to raise exceptional HR Professionals in the Pyramid Educational Advancement Project supporting literacy in Nigerian Youths with Dapo Conde and also the Yemi Faseun Academy (TYFA) that equips young professionals to thrive in the now of work.

 

What should Nigerians and the rest of the world be expecting from you?

At T3, we equip and enable talents to excel. Nigerians and the rest of the world can expect that we will continue to do that, so we have a few projects in the works.

We aim to get deeper into secondary schools and guide students to make good career choices. We want to also work with universities to entrench workplace readiness into their curriculum. This should minimize the “culture shock” new graduates tend to feel and the mistakes they make when they enter the labor market.

Can I  shake a table? One thing COVID has shown us is a different way of viewing work and career. We have a project that aims to address the fact that education with the aim of working in an office is not the only option for graduates. There are other pathways to gainful employment and success. We are doing some work in that area as well and are working to set something up in the near future. However, I won’t let the cat out of the bag just yet!

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