When Mellisa Thomas started her journey as a Properties and Services staff member at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2011, she could not have imagined that her career direction would change drastically almost a decade later.
Thomas initially started as a temporary staff member of the campus cleaning team – sporadically filling in for colleagues who were on extended leave. She remembers counting her blessings when she was offered a permanent position.
She said that all feels like a lifetime ago …
On 1 September 2020, four short months before her 10th anniversary at UCT, Thomas assumed the role of library assistant at UCT Libraries. Albeit under different circumstances owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, she admitted that her “heart is smiling”.
“I am very excited for this new phase of my life. It’s not come easy – I’ve had to work hard every day. This, my new job, is testament that hard work pays. Absolutely nothing in life comes easy,” Thomas said.
When opportunities come knocking, identify them and open the door. This has always been Thomas’s philosophy, and this approach has counted in her favour throughout her time at UCT.
“Since my time as a temp, I always put my best foot forward and I work hard – that’s important. I’m not afraid of hard work,” she said.
With South Africa’s staggering unemployment rate, even back then, Thomas said that she grabbed the permanent position, based in the Faculty of Commerce, with both hands. After working her way up the ranks, she soon became a team leader and later the stand-in supervisor when hers was not available.
“Work is work. I was grateful to have a job. You need to be willing to start somewhere.”
“Work is work. I was grateful to have a job. You need to be willing to start somewhere. From there, things will start to take shape if you really want it to.”
To upskill herself, Thomas enrolled for the higher certificate in supervisory management at the University of South Africa. Once she completed the course, she was determined to broaden her horizons.
She regularly kept an eye on the UCT website for potential job opportunities that would match her skill set. When she came across the advert for a library assistant, she applied without delay.
“I applied immediately. By then I had long felt like it was time for a change. I needed to challenge myself in a different way. I also wanted to put what I learnt while studying to good use – otherwise, what’s the point?”
No better place to be
For this bookworm and single mother of two, a job in the library makes her feel like a kid in a candy store.
“I love books and I love reading … being surrounded by so many books every day – I can’t think of anything better right now,” she said.
Part of her new role is ensuring that the bookshelves are packed in the correct order, helping with the sign-out process and facilitating short-term loans and circulations.
“To change the cycle we always need to remember where we come from and what it took to get there.”
“It’s a completely different world, considering where I come from, and I look forward to embracing the good days and the not-so-good days.”
After all, she added, life is full of curveballs. Embracing the good and the bad, and persevering no matter what, is part of the journey.
She said that she encourages her teenage son and young daughter to always remember that.
“To change the cycle we always need to remember where we come from and what it took to get there. Life is not always going to be good and we need to be grateful. I remind my children about that every day.”
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