Navigating imposter syndrome as young professionals


The pressure to adjust and solidify my place as a young professional has been wearing me down lately. I was part of the FPEF graduate placement programme 2021. Last year 2022, I signed my full-time employment contract with Zest Fruit where I continue to work as a logistics coordinator. Logistics coordination now comes naturally; the challenges I encounter everyday continue to fuel and rejuvenate my passion for logistics. A quiet workday feels exhausting and fruitless. 

What then is the issue? It is not the workplace culture, colleagues or any work-related pressures. The issue is adjusting to the pressures we inflict on ourselves as young professionals. A quick search on social media about imposter syndrome or work performance anxiety, yields shocking results. As young professionals we all have one thing in common; we are struggling with adjusting to our selected professions.  In this short blog, although I do not have solutions to share, my aim is to remind us that as young professionals we belong and need to be in these places. Firstly, we secure an interview and then go through the gruelling interview processes. Thereafter, we are selected for internships or graduate programmes. Depending on one’s performance during the internship period and the company’s retention requirements, you are offered full time employment. This is not at all an easy process. Thus, it cannot be taken lightly and should give us the confidence to move forward in our careers.

Imposter syndrome can be debilitating however, as young professionals we need to remember that we have significant roles to play within our industries. The agriculture industry and supply chain need innovators. Our innovations are going to introduce supply chain software technologies which will deliver new connectivity and automation solutions.  Adoption of technology at different levels of the South African agriculture industry will make the industry more digital, secure and sustainable. Consequently, we will positively contribute towards the industry’s ability to navigate disruptions, uncertainties and grow a stable future.

The increasing pressure for global businesses, including the agriculture industry, to be more environmental, social and governance (ESG) compliant gives us young professionals new opportunities and roles to play within the secondary agricultural sector. There are many opportunities where we can showcase our skills with no fear. As young professionals we are solution oriented and have the necessary qualifications which enable us to transfer our knowledge. For example, the South African citrus industry is currently plagued by the European Union (EU) which has adopted stricter import regulations for citrus fruits to limit the entry of the False Codling Moth (FCM, Thaumatotibia leucotreta). The EU is demanding that citrus exports from South Africa must undergo extreme pre-export cold storage in a bid to avoid false codling moth infestation, but they seem to have different rules for other countries also exporting to the EU. According to Eyewitness News, a director at ALG Estates, Hendrik Warnich, one of the leading citrus farms in the Western Cape, said that the industry indeed has stringent phytosanitary control measures in place for its citrus exports. The South African government has in the meantime lodged a trade dispute with the World Trade Organisation against the EU’s move. Thus, this is an opportunity for young professionals with agricultural academic backgrounds to propose solutions on how the industry can navigate this new EU import requirement.

Agricultural production costs are snowballing, loadshedding continues to cripple farmers and some current export markets are getting saturated. For the agricultural industry to be productive and competitive, young professionals will need to continue to play an active role in improving the efficient transportation and distribution of fruit from the farm to export destinations.  Instead of being incapacitated by imposter syndrome, it is time to change the narrative and take the challenges as opportunities for us to solidify our positions.

To conclude, in IsiZulu, people say “Ingane engakhali ifela embelekweni”, which directly translates to “A child that does not cry dies in the sling.” As young professional, we have a direct responsibility to speak up about our challenges. If it is guidance that we need to be able to navigate the formative years of our careers, we need to find mentors, attend seminars and industry events which will remind us to embrace our roles within the industry.

Compiled by:  Makhosazana Ngwenya