Fond memories I have -of when I first started working. Somehow, we are wired to think that we have to go to school, then work, in that order. I went through the 8-4-4 system, obviously, so, as I expected, after school, I needed to start working. There’s a mentality that university students have that is hilarious, now that I think about it. Most students think that once they are through with their university education, they deserve nothing less than a very well paying job. You imagine yourself at a desk, own office (perhaps a corner office), white-collar job, mingling with important people, hahaha! Honestly it’s funny. It’s funny because you realize that you are in a country where that will almost never happen, also once you leave college, you realize there are hundreds of thousands of other equally or even more qualified people, who are either unemployed or underemployed and living hand to mouth…then it dawns on you again that you are in a sh*thole country (If you are not Kenyan, you are not allowed to call this country names by the way).
Anyway, why do we learn so much at school? I mean you can spend like 8 years learning about administrative divisions when really, you don’t want to be an administrator when you grow up, or 4 years learning about the endocrine system of a cockroach when all you want to do is to kill any roach in your sight because they are pests, no? It’s all so confusing sometimes…but you end up with so much general knowledge, it’s mind-blowing. I digress.
I started working while I was still at the university, in my second year. My uncle was kind enough to offer me a short-term job at his really cool law firm. I learnt a lot while I was there, it gave me a good head start at administrative work, because that’s what I did, mostly. Somehow when you start working while in school, you appreciate it later in life because the jobs advertised these days require years and years of experience, it’s just ridiculous. When I was in school, even during semester breaks, I tried as much to look for internships or volunteer jobs because that’s the only way I knew I would get the experience needed for a job…and yet, somehow, I didn’t have a dream job then, I just wanted a job, any job. Weird? I know. Over the years, I’ve made a discovery that I can do practically everything! In just a few months, I’ve learnt the art of baking, I’ve excellently mastered culinary forms, I can be a patissier or a tournant..you know, that kind of thing, I can plan events successfully, I know I can be president of this republic one day, if I want to, hahaha! Jokes aside, it’s very possible. I can be a disc jokey, if I want to, I can also be a model or a video vixen (I’ve always wanted to use this in a sentence). I used to get really amused when any job seeker known to me got choosy about jobs. After my discovery, I now understand why anyone would be so jobless but still choose whether to take up an opportunity or forgo it. It all comes down to personal values, interests and goals. No wonder it’s commonly said that when you want a job, choose passion over anything else.
Am not a big fan of aptitude tests and I’ve only done one in my lifetime. Some companies choose these kind of job selection exams when hiring, in addition to oral interviews. Whichever method is used, we all know how nervous one can be when it comes to interviews, all your knowledge disappears, all the English disappears, even Swahili disappears…you suddenly find that you can speak Sheng (Kenyan slang) fluently. My brother once told me that the best way to get prepared for an interview is to attend as many interviews as possible, I agree. It builds your confidence. It doesn’t matter how many times you rehearse your thoughts in front of a mirror, the mirror will not tell you that you look and sound ridiculous. You can also benefit from coaching, either from a friend or a professional in the field. Next time you are invited to a job interview, if you don’t get the job, be happy that you had that experience, it’s valuable.
Stepping into the workforce is exciting, it’s the beginning of new independence, it’s something I believe should be done with utmost caution and seriousness. There are so many different characters at the workplace, knowing how to relate with everybody is key. There’s Becky with the good hair, who keeps feeding your boss with false information about you, probably intimidated by your potential, there’s tall John, who is still angry with you and jealous because you got the position he was eyeing, there’s Trump (pun intended), who is married, but still looks at you and every other female, like some piece of meat, there’s Shiru who distracts everybody with the latest gossip, there’s Mathenge, who will never get anything done on time because he’s on the internet throughout, doing unconstructive things…woe unto you if you need to work with him directly, then sometimes, there’s Liza, your boss, who spends office hours outside the office, running personal errands, then takes credit for all the work you do and finally, there’s you, still wondering where you belong. It can be lousy like that but at the end of the day, you draw your personal but clear boundaries on these relationships.
Stepping back into the workforce, after being out of work for a while, I imagine, can be difficult. You can second guess yourself on almost everything…whether you are still good enough, whether your ideas are helpful, whether your colleagues have faith that you can do the job well, whether you can catch up on all the new trends. Am guessing, all it takes is confidence and a deliberate effort to work through everything, the same way it takes a good employer, who believes in you enough to hire you.
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