4 Things They Don’t Teach You At University, But Should.

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Forget the guerilla wars and the Iron bar hit men! In kenya, there is an ongoing war. But those who have fought it will never tell you. This war is a new kind of war. To emerge winner, you must be the best. But the rules of engagement in this war are different from those of the usual wars we know. This war is called The Career War. It is fought on the streets and those who win it end up in the boardrooms. It is triggered by Life after campus. Street life can be so hard that it can make you ask existential questions! And once there, there is no turning back!

You may have ‘googled’ and found many job seekers’ blogs where people discuss their interview experiences and give advice to colleagues. In Uganda, that’s part of our problem. We are so selfish, mind just about ourselves and are happy to employ our classmates as car washers! We pretend so much and want to always tell people about our achievements without helping them be like us!  Not even your lecturer will share with you the experience of getting on with The War after Campus. That is how the system has brought them up. That is the challenge that awaits you!

Since leaving Campus, I have done a startup, undergone three thorough recruitment processes and passed two of them. Sometimes I could see the interviewer leaning back and saying welcome aboard. Sometimes I could leave saying “That was the hardest encounter in my life!” And I am talking about a process of Eight Interview Steps against Kenyan’s best brains! To go all the way, be ready to be pitted against those who scored 8 in 8 and 4 straight As. But it is a war. And you need to emerge top. So you must be at your best! Now more than ever, I am most afraid of the future of Kenyan Youths and the job market.  In this article, I will share with you the chances to your dream career and what you need to do or should have done to beat the odds and shine. So if you hate to hear about my success and more like I am bragging than helping you, you can stop here. But if you need to learn the maneuvers in the jungles of this new kind of war, then read on!

I am not good at using Kenyan statistics because I find them very delusional. I have found the GDP growth curve, security, education and healthcare statistics very deceptive when juxtaposed with the true living conditions of the average Kenyan. I am sure deep within you, something says; so what business have I got with GDP and the average Kenyan? Wait, which is where the problem starts! If you think your uncle or your boyfriend’s dad is the recruitment manager in a top institution in Kenya, so you belong to the ‘Employment Royals’ and you don’t need to hustle, come on! Drop the child in you, stop living in denial, wake up and face life! I have heard that from many before. The earlier you know life is not that simple, the better.

Unemployment in Kenya stands at a staggering 76%! So are you among the top 17%? Hard as it may seem, there is still hope. Besides the common notion that there is no way to getting a job if no one knows you, I can say with certainty that there are companies that hire on MERIT! Why not find your best chance in Graduate recruitment? Here you will find companies that are in need of talented and outstanding fresh graduates. Every year, Exquisite Career fair brings together many of these companies. Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, ,  Telecom Kenya, Total Kenya,  are some of them.

I went through the Standard Chartered Consumer Banking Fast Track Programme  My current job was an experiential hire. I will be telling you the four key areas that I think helped me. And knowing someone on the panel wasn’t one of them!

    1.      I made sure I could communication effectively

I knew if I screwed it with my CV or cover letter, it was over! The first thing I did was to write a classy cover letter and CV! I took one week to make a CV! Yes. I revised it six times and emailed it to an experienced cousin twice for comments. Whether you have a first class and can write code in a discotheque, you won’t be shortlisted with a CV full of errors! Simple errors such as formatting and command of English Language are key areas. Please don’t assume that you know it. Write it and let someone read it for you. Better still, be relevant to the job! Choose your words carefully and look real!

Now that I was sure I had a great CV and cover letter, I asked myself, assuming I got the interview, how would I talk? So what about you? How do you bring out your points? Do you keep people waiting to listen to the next point? In a panel of about 10 people how do you balance your posture? How is your gesturing? When presenting on a technical subject, do use relevant technical words or you are that buzzy first class graduate who leaves people dozing? I have been a debtor before. Technical people make presentations that win multibillion projects! Debates, Club meetings and everyday conversations can help you attain these skills. You can also watch public speaking videos. But the key thing is to practice it every day. And hey, be informed! You cannot talk smartly without facts!

2.      I exhibited Leadership skills

Leadership is almost everything. Every company is looking for the next great C.E.O! Great leaders are great decision makers, team builders, adaptive, transformative and innovative! Your potential employer will test you against all these attributes. How did I exhibit leadership skills? Firstly, I had been a leader all my school life! But most importantly, in answering questions related to leadership, know what the interviewer is looking for! Sometimes they are not looking for the correct answer. Rather the correct response! Use scenarios where you inspired a team, solved a disagreement, put up with criticism and achieved a no mean feat. I had oodles of experience  to share with my interview panelists. Mentioning First Guild President alone put me miles ahead! And hey, I have a memento inscribed with the words “Invaluable Contributions”! What about you? What will you tell them? Remember the day they nominated you for that post and you stood up aggressively to turn it down? But not all hope is lost. Not all leadership is formal! Not everyone can be a Guild President. You can still exemplify leadership qualities in class projects (team work), life stories (courage), first impression (smartness) etc. Make sure these attributes come up clearly in your descriptions!

  3.      Do your technical abilities match your Degree Title?

You are a computer Engineer, so then what? Innovation! I am sure this is what landed me the job at Standard Chartered Bank. I developed an Electronic Voting System at University. It was among the Top Three best Undergraduate Project of the Year category during the 2012 Annual Communications and Innovations Awards by Uganda Communications Commission. It has showcased on Urban TV’s Innovate! As a result I had been invited on local TV for commentary about many ICT subjects such as Telecommunications and Mobile marketing. Which employer wouldn’t want to give you the best contract before his competitor whisks you away? My advice is that you should leave campus when you have mastered a technical skill. If they ask you, what can you do? Why should I hire you? What will you say? For me, I explained how my innovation was much needed, relevant, of economic value and sustainable! I also told them how this attribute will help them if they hired me.

    4.      How much is your General Knowledge?

I know ladies hate this! But being an Engineer or a scientist doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know about Marriage and Divorce bill or North Korea’s threat to bomb America! In fact, Employers look out for all round professionals! Know your Math and sharpen your reasoning skills. Try some online tests at www.shl.com! This will help you through aptitudes! Read about current affairs and buckle up! Get ready for war!

If you improve on all these things I have shown you, you will move a step closer to securing your next appointment. But it doesn’t come in one stint. It is a set of attributes you develop over time! You too can shine. Yes, the next lot at a top Company can be you. But you need to start preparing today! Should you have any inquiries, please go not hesitate to email me.

Good Luck!

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