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Get your Dream Career

By: Daisy Okoti

At a time when jobs are scarce and the only gospel that graduates hear is that they should take whatever jobs are available or starve; do young graduates who have nursed ambitions to pursue certain careers from as early as the age of 10, therefore, have any chance at all?

The Guardian (UK) in January 2016, highlighted a report which predicted that global unemployment rates will rise to 3.4 million in just two years, while a report by International Labour Organisation (ILO), in the same article, projected that 1.1 million people will be added to the list of unemployed in 2017. These statistics signify how difficult it is to find a job and perhaps justify why being choosy in job searches is an unwise undertaking.

While this scarcity of jobs does not give one much room to negotiate with the limited job options, myNetwork spoke to six young professionals who managed to get their dream jobs despite the documented scarcity. They show how they prepared and positioned themselves to be in the fields that they are passionate about.

Matrid Nyagah, 28
Occupation: CEO Dada Trust,
Independent Producer
School: Kenyatta University
Course: BA, Theatre Arts and Film Technology

matrid

Matrid was destined to be in the art world from the very beginning.

“I come from a family where the arts are very central. My dad was a DJ, and as a child, my mum signed me up to participate in skits and dance competitions,” she explains.

She also visited the Kenya National Theatre often, and her initial thought was that she would be a dance choreographer or a stage actor, and therefore took up opportunities to learn and develop skills in these areas.

While in her second year at Kenyatta University, she embarked on making her first short film because she wanted to understand her course from within.

“There was a lot of spare time in between classes and during the long holidays, so I mobilised a couple of friends and using our savings, as well as support from my parents—we made our first short film.”

Had she not put in the extra effort she did while in school, she feels, her eyes would not have opened to the challenges that are inherent in her field, such as converting theory learnt in class to the practical skills needed in the field as well as proposal writing and pitching to potential funders.

It was this initial practice that firmly set her in the thick of things in her career, and today, she practices everything that she is passionate about – from acting to directing to producing to sitting on juries of film festivals to actually running a film festival!

“My parents are very strict but also very supportive, so from the beginning, I knew I had to show them what I was doing – not just in school, but with my talent,” she says.

Matrid’s advice on getting the career you want:

“Get some practical experience of what you are studying while still in school, this will prepare you for the reality of the field you are interested in.”
A point worth noting down:

Look for opportunities to volunteer during your free time, as this will not only place you in the field you foresee yourself in, but you will also begin to get practical knowledge about the field and begin to grow.

Get a mentor.

Martin Musyoka, 23
Painter, Sculptor, Designer
Education: BA, Fine Arts and Design, Kenyatta University

martin

Martin’s love for art started after he completed high school.

“I learnt how to make and craft objects out of paper from a paper designer I met when I was 17,” he says.

Martin was so fascinated, he began to research further about art and the various crafts out there. It is during his research that he decided to pursue a course in art at the university.

He joined Kenyatta University to study Fine Art and Design, but it was not until his second year that he was sure he fully wanted to pursue a career in art.

“During the long holidays, I worked in an upcoming art company as a Jack of all trades – this gave me insider exposure of the A to Z of what art involves, and also made me aware of the opportunities in this career,” he explains.

A month into this job, Martin was commissioned to do portraits, hence a chance to earn his first salary as an independent artist. This opened his eyes to the potential, skills and talents that he had, and he resolved to actively build on that while still in school. He has, overtime, built on his networks, experiences and connections that he made when starting out, and today, he is a young artist keen on solidifying his place in a career that he is very passionate about.

“I am passionate about freedom of expression, which I fully explore through my art, even better, it pays,” Martin says.

His advice to young people trying to create a path in careers that they are passionate about is that there is more to what you want to do than the surface, so scratch this through research and talking to more experienced individuals in the field who will tell you about the options that you have.

“Also look at your career from a multidimensional perspective and in so doing, you will start to see opportunities to fit your skills within the career you are keen on.”

Marystella Simiyu, 26
School: Kenyatta University
Bachelors in Law
Occupation: Research Analyst, InformAction

marystella

Marystella’s love for the legal field started as a young child: watching shows such as The Practice and Boston Legal sparked her interest in law.
“I am an argumentative person and not shy to ask questions, so in a way, I knew I had to go into a career that replicated what I saw in those TV dramas”, she says.

Due to her interest in law, by the time she joined the university, she knew she would have to put in more hours in her studies thanks to the course she had chosen, a factor that did not perturb her.

Presently, Marystella works in the area of legal research, her efforts heavily directed towards human rights, a specialisation that she wants to pursue further.

“Initially, my plan was to go into legal practice, but a chance (unpaid) internship at International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) after completing my degree led me to another direction which I would not have known about had I not given herself the opportunity to learn more through the internship.”

She adds,

“It is good to have a plan, but you should also be flexible because you don’t have complete control of your destiny,” she advises. This unpaid internship at ICTJ would turn out to be the launching pad of her career because they called her back after she graduated from the Kenya School of Law. She continues to benefit from the connections that ICTJ has, including a recommendation to the job that she has today.

“What my experience taught me is that one should take up the opportunities that come their way and put their best foot forward. It is the only way people will want to work with you further and the way to build strong professional networks.”

Marystella advises that if you are still in school or are looking for a job, look for volunteer opportunities in fields that you are passionate about

“Volunteering will give you networks, networks that will work for you if you build a good reputation at the work place – let people see the potentials that you have and the benefit that you can add to the organisation during your volunteer engagement,” she says. If worried that you will not get the job of your dreams, focus on doing the best that you can and shut out the negative voices.

Important points to remember:

Have a plan and be passionate about what you want to pursue.

Look for people who can help you get where you want to go, and put in the effort that you need to succeed.

David Abaya, 30
Occupation: Doctor, Nairobi Hospital
Course: Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery
School: University of Nairobi

david

As a child, David wanted to be a doctor, and unlike his childhood friends whose interests shifted over time, his quest to join the medical profession remained steadfast.

“Throughout my childhood, I was focused on becoming a medical doctor, specifically a surgeon. Once, my mother fell very ill, and I remember promising her that I would become a doctor and make her better. My father, a teacher, encouraged my dream, giving me examples of his students who had excelled in their studies and achieved their dreams – this firmed my single-mindedness,” he says.

David points out that working hard in school and setting oneself up for the job market are two different things that both require heavy investment in terms of time and effort.

“In school, we learn medicine in theory with minimal practical activities. After internship, you have to sharpen your skills, know how to interact with patients and the society in general,” he says and adds, “In my field, I can say we are quite lucky on the job front because, after successful completion of studies, you are posted to internship, after which you are either posted elsewhere or employed in the same centre, immediately beginning your career.”

To fit in the market as a doctor, he explains, you have to keep yourself updated with new technology and new medicine through reading, attending seminars and Continuous Medical Education to keep abreast with emerging technologies. “I did courses such as trauma life support and cardiac life support, courses that have enabled me to work well in active emergency setups and therefore a better resource at my work place,” he says.

For David, sticking to his dream and not allowing any situation to alter his focus have been the key drivers to his becoming the doctor that he is today.

For young people getting into medical school, David has the following suggestions:

First, successfully complete your medical degree, take the emergency training courses (ATLS and ACLS) and above all, get into this field only if you have the “heart” for it because you will be interacting with people in dire need.

A point worth noting:

A career in medicine is as much a calling as it is a profession, as such, selflessness is a virtue that must be upheld. “Those who study medicine purely for monetary gain leave frustrated.”

Anthony Masika, 33
Occupation: Teacher
Course: B.ED, Biology and Chemistry
School: Egerton University

antony

Anthony grew up with a singular ambition: to do well in school, in spite of his circumstances, and excel in my academics.

“My parents were unemployed and could therefore not raise money to take me to expensive schools, so my main motive at the beginning was getting myself a good job,” he explains.

He initially wanted to become a doctor, but when he failed to get the required grade in his final secondary school exams, he had to have a different plan.

“I sought advice from different people, and since most of these were teachers, they swayed my decision to that career. I started to develop an interest in the profession, and as it is, I am glad I made this choice,” he says.

Like many other professions, there are many unemployed teachers out there, and with this in mind, Anthony decided to begin with the opportunities that he had and build a profile as well as get some income.

“My first job, which I got in 2010, was at a school in my village. As a Board of Management teacher, I earned just Sh1, 500 a month.”

Anthony got a consideration by Teachers Service Commission two years later – it was at the interviews that he realised how important work experience is, as well as the various efforts he had put in over the years.

“All the interviewees tied on most of the qualifications they were looking for, so the interviewing panel resorted to using other judging criteria, included the quality of KCSE certificate, participation in community work and also certificates in co-curricular activities. I stood out; this that is how I got a job with TSC.”

Bear in mind:

Good grades are important:

“If still in school, work hard so that you can graduate with good qualifications because most fields require the best human resource, which is often based on your professional qualifications. Follow this up by equipping yourself with practical skills through volunteering in the field that you are pursuing as you wait for employment.”

Silas Opereh, 27
School: Moi University
Course: Bachelor of Business Management, Accounting
Profession: Senior Accountant, Siltex Investment

silas

His business studies teacher in Form One triggered his interest in accounting.

“He would often comment in the course of his lessons, ‘Is there an organisation that operates without an accountant?’ That means that an accountant is the most important person in an organisation,” he says.

This endeared Silas to the subject, and for the duration of the four years that he was in high school, he was the best student in business studies.

After he graduated, he built on his skills through volunteering and garnering more experience that is vital for setting one up as first among equals.

“I volunteered in an audit firm for two years without pay because I enjoyed my work, eventually, I was employed in the firm. I also went through the necessary training relating to accounting packages, a factor that boosted my skills. Besides this, I joined our professional body, ICPAK, as an associate member immediately I completed my course work. I also identified a mentor, who guides me in my career,” he explains.

His greatest lesson so far, he says, is that passion should come above pay because when you work with passion, be it at internship or volunteer level, your work speaks for you and thus increases your chances of being hired.

Take home lessons for accountants starting out:

General business knowledge: the roles of accounting and finance professionals are expanding day by day.
Information technology expertise: accounting and technology job skills go hand in hand.
Communication skills: accountants must know how to present information in a compelling manner.
Customer service skills: No organisation can exist without proper customer service, and accountants are not an exception.

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