By Perminus Wainaina
Being the largest telecommunication company in Kenya, getting a job at Safaricom is considered to be the best for any job seeker. However, what goes through your mind when someone who has worked there for years and risen through the ranks, decides to quit?
Mary (not her real name), had worked at Safaricom for close to 5 years when she decided it was time for her to leave. In her own words, she did not want to overstay in the company. She quit without knowing what her next move would be, and found herself working at numerous companies in a short span, as she sought to find the ‘it’ factor in her career.
After interviewing her for her current role, I sought to learn more about her career journey right from the start. Here is Mary’s story, the lessons she has learned, and her advice to you.
What’s your story, your career journey?
I started my career at Safaricom in 2008, where I had joined as a retail centre agent, and in a span of 5 years, grew into a supervisory role. In 2013, I left and had a two-and-a-half-year break from work. I later joined an HR Consultancy firm as a Recruitment Manager and after 3 months, I got a different job at a renewable energy company that didn’t last long – management issues and the company went down. When it went down, I worked in an advertising company, until I got a job at a large media house in customer service for a year. For about three months I was actively looking for a job then I saw this position at the same HR Consultancy firm and I came back.
Throughout my career journey, I have been involved with clients.
Tell me about your career at Safaricom
I joined Safaricom as a retail centre agent on a contract basis. By the time I was joining, I actually had a degree in Marketing – this is the other thing I noted when I went to Safaricom. When I joined, I had a degree and I was on a contract job. I would get so many awards but the growth was very minimal. After almost 4 years, I got promoted to a supervisory role.
While there, I noted that if you want to grow, it will take longer. It’s not easy to grow in big companies. Another thing about working for a big company is that as an employee, you are not able to bring in your creativity and think it’s going to be implemented right away – there’s the chain of command that is too long. By the time it is implemented, you have most probably left the company. So you can’t be able to drive your ideas so hard.
On the upside, however, it was a good place to learn not only on your job but also in other areas. Safaricom provides you with an opportunity to be yourself. If you join the company in say the sales department and your strength is in customer service, you are allowed the opportunity to explore your strong areas.
I must also add that the company has an admirable culture that you can carry with you – even if you go elsewhere. For example, when I went to the large media house, their culture was totally different to Safaricom’s and I couldn’t understand where the difference was, bearing in mind that it is a big company as well.
Being the biggest telecommunication company in the country, you as an employee, are also moulded and given the courage on how to talk to customers from all walks of life – it gave me the power in customer relations.
What informed your decision to leave Safaricom (especially when everyone aspires to work there)? Did you know your next step in regard to your career?
I left Safaricom for personal reasons. So much was going on in my life – I had just lost my mum and I was not in a good place. Now when I left, I didn’t have a plan. But my mind was very clear that this was what I needed to do. I had been in the company for five years and I didn’t want to overstay and I felt that was a good time to probably leave. But when I left, I became a mum in the process – immediately I left. So I couldn’t get a job immediately – I needed to take care of my son.
If you were to go back in time, what would you change in your career journey?
I would still leave Safaricom, stay at the HR Consultancy firm, and not take any of the other jobs I took. I’d say I was a bit unsettled because I was not getting the ‘it’ factor.
In as much as I was at the HR Consultancy firm for only 3 months, I learned so much and even grew in the short time. I loved my job then and that is probably why I am back. I do poorly in environments that don’t allow me to grow. This HR Consultancy firm was one of the companies that stood out.
You are working in a comparatively small company now. Take me through that. Is it any different?
During my time at the HR Consultancy firm, I learned so much in the role and grew – something I did not experience while at Safaricom. One of the things I love working at a smaller company is the opportunity to directly deal with senior management, so you can push your ideas easily. Also, they are able to see your hard work directly and that can help you grow in your career. They help you love the job.
Another difference is that in an SME, business is constantly changing and growing. As such, whenever there is a new role you think you can handle, you can easily take it up.
What have been some of your biggest lessons in regard to your career?
The biggest lesson I have learned has to be on the power of consistency. I changed jobs so much after leaving Safaricom, and to be honest, moving around a lot can make you stagnate in your career. This is because you are not giving yourself time and space to grow.
It can also reflect badly on your CV, raising concerns among potential employers on how inconsistent you have been. So it’s good for you to be patient and stay at a place for two years – this way you will leave when you have learned something.
What is your advice to those seeking to change their careers?
Find a job that you love to do – something that will motivate you to wake up daily. When you are unsettled, you will not give it your all.
Also, before you change jobs or careers for that matter, keenly think about your decision. This is because, 10 years from now, your inconsistency will still show on your CV. Take some time and seek guidance from a career coach who will be better placed to help you.
Mary’s experience is something we can all learn from. Through it all, she has learned to be consistent because, in the end, it pays!
Perminus Wainaina is the C.E.O and Managing Partner at Corporate Staffing Services, a leading HR & Recruitment consultancy firm based in Westlands. Through personalized career coaching he assists mid-level and senior professionals get solutions to complex and challenging career issues that they are facing. Click here for more on career coaching.