Fellowships and awards: they do wonders for your profile

When an application form is staring at you and you read through it, the first thought is
usually, “Wow this is soooo long”. And a lot of prospective applicants fall away here. And
that shouldn’t be the case.

The questions are usually really introspective and for a lot of people this is not a pleasant
exercise. The last thing anyone wants to do is think about that one time that they displayed
leadership… Really! Under whose definition or view of leadership should one begin to
answer this question. My personal favourite is, “Recall a time when you had to deal with
conflict…” And these days there’s that part where you need to share all your social media
handles and website if you have one. And the first time I experienced this my LinkedIn was
in absolute disarray and I didn’t update it before submitting. And 2 week later LinkedIn
decided to tell me how a person from the organisation I had applied to looked at my profile.
I updated that thing FAST!!! Yes, they check these things, they google you. So if you don’t
know what comes up when people search for your name…

The first national award I received resulted in me being head hunted for a job. And this
particular award, if I must be honest, I applied for not for the recognition but because I was
a broke student and wanted to try my luck. I got so much more and that is when I realised
the value of being at the right place at the right time with the right people, doing the right
thing. Awards, whether you win or not put you right there. If it matters to you and it’s
something your career could benefit from, it might be worthwhile to find yourself there.

Fellowships are a network building platform (refer to previous blog on networks). Over and
above that they equip you with some skills and developmental tools which expand your
portfolio. I watched some YouTube videos and TED Talks on doing an MBA a while ago. One
of them was by a guy who explained the relevance of accumulating brands in your CV and
how that relates not only to getting employment but puts you in a different tax bracket. If
that fellowship saw you fit, and you received this award and that recognition, it stands to
reason that you are worth it – stands to reason that you worth hiring. Through fellowships I
have met people who started off with undergraduate degrees seemingly so foreign to some
of the executive roles they occupy today.

I’m sure we’ve all noticed how majority of what we learn during school doesn’t really form
major parts of where we end up in the job market. The job market generally judges you on
your performance based on the skills you likely learnt during your time in that job. Certain
skills however such as how you carry yourself as a junior or middle manager to reach the
next step are not taught. Fellowships are the place where you learn how to stand out from

the rest. It’s the place where you learn the skills that you didn’t learn at school or varsity
and will definitely not learn on the job. Fellowships usually bring the people who hold the
influential positions in industries, governments and societies to impart their knowledge onto
the fellows. They teach you how to get onto that next step.

So apply for the fellowships. Nominate and get nominated for awards. If you’re not
successful in your application it sucks, I can’t lie. But it has never made me stop, neither
should it make you. Sure I’m at a point where I weigh out the fellowships slightly differently
but I’m always on the lookout for the one that will give me what I need to get what and
where I want. Accumulating the right number of fellowships is not nearly as important as
accumulating the ones that are a perfect fit for you. Not getting a fellowship or award could
just mean that the other people you applied with had slightly more than you and that’s a
reality we need to face. There’s always someone better than us but there comes a time
when the stars align right, and you’ve done what you needed to, and you are that better
person. Another misconception especially for those who get it right the first time is that
they’ll also get the next one. Not quite! Some fellowships just look for something different
to the sides of yourself that you revealed to them. Tell them the story their asking you for.
Also, you want the more competitive ones, they yield more value. Maybe not getting it the
first time around is not all that bad.

What I’ve gotten from all my failed attempts (there have been plenty) has had far less
effects on me than the times that I have been successful. There’s no way anyone should put
themselves in a failure based mental state. It yields nothing tangible…

If life has taught me anything it’s that you just never know!

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