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How Courageous Leaps Pay Off: Lerato’s First 3 Months at a Startup.

Embarking on a career journey can feel like standing at a crossroads, with different paths stretching out before you. It's a time of exploration, discovery, and crucial decision-making, especially for young professionals who are just starting out. If you have found yourself pondering these options and seeking ways to find one that resonates with you, then Lerato Khene's story is a great source of inspiration. Her journey at BluLever Education exemplifies the possibilities that await those willing to seize opportunities. As Lerato herself reflects, "Sometimes you do not have to wait, you just have to go in, take a chance, and get stuck in, and who knows? You might just get promoted in your first three months…" But before we get to Lerato's inspiring story, let's help you explore different career paths and what they offer.

Finding your fit in a varied landscape.

The career landscape is rich with options, each offering a unique journey. First up, we have the rapid growth and uncertainty of startups. Working at a startup involves wearing multiple hats, navigating uncertainties, and witnessing rapid growth as the company evolves. This path appeals to innovative risk-takers who thrive in dynamic, fast-paced settings and are comfortable with ambiguity. Building a business on the other hand requires identifying market demand, raising capital, and developing a sustainable model. Individuals pursuing this path need resilience, vision, and an entrepreneurial spirit, making it ideal for self-motivated individuals adept at problem-solving. In the conventional corporate world, career progression often follows a linear path, starting with entry-level roles and gradually climbing the corporate ladder through years of experience and demonstrated competence. Conventional corporate roles suit individuals who value stability, structure, and the opportunity for steady and often gradual advancement.

On the other hand, freelancers benefit from independence, creativity, and adaptability. This career path is perfect for those who enjoy flexibility and autonomy, working on a variety of projects and managing their own schedules. Professions such as medicine and law require rigorous education and training, followed by specialisation and ongoing professional development. These types of careers demand dedication, empathy, and a commitment to lifelong learning.

We would not be BluLever without making mention of the artisan career path, which requires aspirants to embark on apprenticeships, honing their craft through hands-on training and practical experience, with opportunities for specialisation and entrepreneurship as they gain expertise. Artisan careers attract those who prefer to work with their hands, taking pride in mastering intricate skills and producing tangible results.

Do any of these paths resonate with you? Understanding them all greatly assists in tailoring career decisions to align with your passions, strengths, and aspirations.

Conventional Corporate vs Startups.

For Lerato, her decision was between taking a risk working for a startup or choosing a more conventional corporate career. In a traditional corporate setting, this would have meant that Lerato would typically start in a role that would provide her with foundational experience, and she would gradually move up through the ranks as she began to demonstrate competence and leadership skills. The hallmarks of the conventional corporate environment include structured advancement, hierarchical structures, and performance-based evaluations that span many years.

Lerato had more of an appetite for risk, uncertainty and potential for more rapid growth at a startup. Startup life would offer Lerato an environment where she would have abundant opportunities for growth, but she would be required to exercise adaptability and innovation. This dynamic setting fosters a culture of creativity and agility, where Lerato would have the freedom to make meaningful contributions and drive impactful change and in essence take ownership of her career trajectory very quickly. Through Lerato’s story we really get to see that startup careers are for those who take on the opportunity to take risks, fail and learn with open arms.

"Working with students and guiding them through their educational journey was incredibly fulfilling. When I learned about the opportunity at BluLever, I knew it was the perfect next step for me to continue making a difference."

What led Lerato to BluLever.

Lerato is a driven professional with a double major in Psychology and Sociology from Wits University. Before joining BluLever in September 2023, Lerato worked providing comprehensive student support initiatives, overseeing a diverse group of around 250 learners. Her expertise spanned career guidance, health, and life skills programs. Lerato's decision to join BluLever stemmed from her desire to make a tangible impact in the education sector and contribute to the growth and development of young people. She recounts, "Working with students and guiding them through their educational journey was incredibly fulfilling. When I learned about the opportunity at BluLever, I knew it was the perfect next step for me to continue making a difference." Lerato knew she wanted to continue to make an impact in the education and youth development sector but even she did not realise the possibilities of how quickly her journey could move in just 3 months.

"Projects kept coming and I found myself taking them on and owning a lot of them."

Always expect the unexpected.

Lerato very quickly found herself constantly stepping out of her comfort zone at BluLever. "Everyone has their go-to approach to things. So, for example, how I used to engage with challenges is, I would want to be on my own and just figure it out. But here at BluLever, I very quickly found myself building collaborative muscles, really learning how to work in teams, at a much higher speed." She went on to share, "Projects kept coming and I found myself taking them on and owning a lot of them."

Lerato continued to find herself shouldering significant responsibilities, gradually assuming ownership of numerous initiatives. At this point her adaptability and drive could not go unnoticed and ultimately, led to her rapid promotion within the organisation.

" Embrace the present and the changes that come with it! Learn to show up as the best person for the present situation and not just the expected situation."

How Lerato took on challenges.

Joining as a Senior Student Affairs Associate, Lerato's initial focus was developing effective systems to support apprentices on-site. Lerato also started off supporting our 10th Leadership Base Camp (LBC), a two-month work-readiness and self-leadership programme that aims to test and prepare candidates for our three-year apprenticeship.

Lerato quickly found herself taking the reins and running the entire LBC for 80 candidates across two trades—plumbing and electrical. This marked a significant milestone for BluLever, as we had only ever run LBC with such a large cohort of candidates once before. Lerato's proactive approach extended beyond LBC as she also conducted numerous site visits with Appies. She led the full rollout of the Appie Wellness Check-In Tool that is essential for collecting data to ensure the effectiveness of the support we offer our apprentices.

Lerato's ability to take on these new responsibilities with poise and effectiveness highlighted her commitment to our values. These successes, amongst others, led to her promotion to Student Affairs Manager. When asked about her first three months, Lerato likened her experience to that of a child starting a new grade. "I had to apply a growth mindset in my role transition. I can make reference to a child starting a new grade in school. One cannot rely on the same approach to adapt to the new content, it takes some effort to unlearn and discard old mindsets to transform and be successful. Embrace the present and the changes that come with it! Learn to show up as the best person for the present situation and not just the expected situation."

Reaping rewards - Hard work pays off.

Lerato highlighted that the rapid promotion not only validated her hard work but also instilled a sense of pride and confidence in her abilities. "It was definitely a validation for me because it was a good three months of a lot of work and just a learning curve, a learning jump, and it validated my story and indicated to me that the work I put in is actually being recognised." The promotion energised Lerato, affirming her capabilities and propelling her towards greater personal and professional growth. "I felt proud and more energised to do the work. Hearing it being announced to the team added to the celebration experience. It affirmed my capabilities and potential, not just professionally but also personally. It's a shift in identity and mindset, both in the workplace and beyond."

The startup difference.

Lerato's rapid promotion, from Senior Student Affairs Associate to Student Affairs Manager within her first three months, illustrates the stark contrast between the startup ethos and the constraints of the conventional corporate world. Hierarchical structures and rigid advancement protocols often stifle such swift progress. Roles are typically predefined, promotions are subject to prolonged evaluation periods, and opportunities for individuals like Lerato to seize ownership of their career trajectories and take on the multitude of unexpected challenges and opportunities that she took on at BluLever are rare. The opportunities that Lerato embraced with enthusiasm and skill might not have presented themselves in a conventional corporate environment, where tasks are often compartmentalised and boundaries are more strictly enforced.

Take the leap—your future self will thank you for it.

Looking ahead, Lerato is excited to leverage her newfound role to drive positive change within BluLever Education and beyond. Her journey serves as inspiration for young professionals embarking on their careers—sometimes, taking courageous leaps can lead to unexpected rewards. Lerato anticipates that her hard work, commitment, and ability to execute will not only propel her own growth but also contribute to the continued success and evolution of BluLever. Embracing a "stretch-target" mindset, Lerato is intentional about pushing her boundaries and exploring new horizons within her role. She views each challenge as an opportunity for growth and learning, recognising that these experiences will shape her future endeavours.

Through Lerato's story, we're reminded that career success isn't solely determined by the path we choose but by the courage to seize opportunities and embrace growth. As you navigate your own career journey, dare to take the leap—your future self will thank you for it.


If you think a startup career path is a good fit for you then learn more about opportunities at BluLever and join a community dedicated to empowering artisans, visit the BluLever Career Page.

Thanks for reading.

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