By Selipha Kihagi
The process of getting a job in Kenya is getting tougher day after day, and only the strong willed and those willing to take calculated risks are lucky to land jobs sooner. It becomes even harder when almost all employers are hiring on the basis of experience; if you do not have it, too bad. This is why when I encountered a job seeker that got her first job exactly 2 months after leaving campus and without any applications, we thought it necessary to share the story with you.
Edith has been working as an Admin Assistant for 5 months now, a position she got by following up on a conversation she had with a stranger in a matatu. When she sparked up the random conversation, she was only in her last semester in campus. About 2 months after completion of her studies, that matatu conversation turned out to be her Career’s holy grail.
If you are a job seeker out there wondering why other people are getting jobs and you are not, Edith’s story may be the jump-start you have been waiting for. And if you are one of those stuck on the notion that jobs in Kenya are for those who know people, Edith has an outlook to life that might help you deal with that notion.
Here Is Edith’s Story in 6 Questions
1. What course did you study in school?
I studied Bsc Applied Statistics with IT (2nd Class Upper) and also CPA, section 6 ongoing.
2. So, where are you working now and for how long?
I have been an Admin Assistant in a small company called Light Up East Africa Foundation for about 5 months now.
The job is in Administration. Most of the work I do involves cost analysis of the things intending to be bought and all expenses in the office, making bookings in hotels where the boss wants to visit, analysis of consumer feedback from our customers, estimated pricing for goods to be imported and so on. But as I stated earlier, it is a small company. So whenever the receptionist is not around, I double up on receptionist duties.
3. So, how did you land the job? Did you have to make applications?
I am naturally very friendly, I guess. I sat together with a lady on Easy Coach while I was going back for my last semester in school. Unlike many young people who will stick to their phones surfing on Facebook, listening to music and the like, I always prefer kicking up a conversation with whoever I sit next to, especially if it’s a long journey. If they are pleasant, we often end up as friends.
And that was how I met a HR lady that offered me the job I have today. We shared about times in campus, and how the real world is often different from what we are taught in school and so on. It was interesting listening to someone who has seen it all. I was excited even. When we finally arrived in school (Maseno University), we exchanged contacts.
She had mentioned that back at work, she was always busy. So, midway through the semester when I tried to call her, I was not surprised when she did not pick up, I then left her a text message requesting that she let me know if any opening came up. After a few days, she replied that if anything came up, she would have me know. About 1 month and 2 weeks later when I cleared school and came back to Nairobi, I called to let her know I was in town, but she again did not pick up. So I left her another text message stating that I had cleared school and was available.
I stayed for almost 2 months without any communication from her, but she finally did call me about an interview with her director for the position of Admin Assistant. I showed up for the interview, passed, and was hired on the table.
4. Any tips for job seekers who might choose to network like you did?
We are living in an era where you can travel with a person and not even know what they looked like because you were on your phone the whole time. I would like other job seekers to know that people can network even in the most awkward places, like on a matatu from Nairobi to Kawangware or wherever. Once in a while, take your time to observe the person sitting next to you briefly. Say hi. Comment about the traffic, or how tired you feel, or the education system in Kenya, or his opinion on this or that … anything.
As a job seeker you need to create an environment to market yourself if need arises. You never know. He or she could be your stepping stone to that job you have always wanted. It’s worth a try.
5. Some job seekers are afraid to start up a conversation, what would you recommend?
Being a little afraid is understandable. We are not all born talkative. In this case, a simple hi and a smile would do. This kind of pleasant attitude goes a long way. You could find that person sitting in an interview panel where you are on the other side, then you would go; “Hi, I remember you. We travelled together sometime back…this is surely a small world, isn’t it?” And just like that you will have won your first battle.
However, this does not mean that you only have to network with people who look like they can be bosses or call you for interviews. You could meet someone who can direct you, inform you of vacancies, enlighten you, advise you on where you’ve been going wrong or connect you to someone they know who can help; the list is endless, really. And so are the means to connect too.
6. In your job now, are you currently looking for other opportunities?
Yes I am. I studied a course that is involved in a lot of quantitative and qualitative analysis and for a person like me who is intrigued by such things, its only natural I feel that my current job does not quite pause the challenge I need to grow in my profession. So naturally, I am looking for opportunities where I might be involved in research, probably more intense analysis and the like.
So I keep applying for jobs whenever I see them advertised, keep networking, keep working hard with the hope that if I am faithful with the little I have today, I will be in a position to be faithful with even more. I am grateful for where I am and hopeful for an even brighter tomorrow.
Networking is listed as the most effective of job search techniques, and Edith’s story just confirms this.
Do you have a story you would like to share with job seekers? Let us know in the comments.