What you need to know:
- Hopes and dreams are good things to have.
- Write them down, download pictures of the life you want from the internet and clip them on a vision board in your bedroom.
- All these, though, have to be driven by action.
I stood there in my yellow cotton blouse, black pants and strappy two inch heeled black shoes that felt very uncomfortable as I looked into the kindest eyes of a 55-year-old man who had responded to my job-seeking advertisement. It was a hot March Tuesday afternoon. I was nervous and sweaty. My blouse clung to my sides. I hadn’t done this before. I wanted to get it over with.
“How much do you expect to be paid?” this man who would be my first employer asked me.
“More than fifteen thousand shillings,” I said quickly.
I had done my math. This would be enough to pay for my bus fare, grocery shopping, the day care and I still would have a few thousands left over.
“What?” he asked, seeming surprised.
“More than fifteen thousand shillings,” I repeated, wondering if I had asked for too much money.
He shook his head in what looked like a mixture of disbelief and amusement, shifted in his seat before turning back to me with a serious expression on his face.
“Young lady, never say that again in an interview,” he said.
“Even fifteen thousand one hundred is above fifteen thousand isn’t it?” he asked.
I nodded, beginning to understand what he meant. After a half-hour lecture on salary negotiation and knowing my worth Mr. Njoroge sent me off to his motor vehicle garage manager for orientation. I worked here as a sales executive for two years.
My next job interview was a sharp contrast to this one. I had been a freelance writer for two years or so when a friend told me of a local website that was starting up and looking for new writers.
“You would make the perfect fit,” she told me.
There is this high that a writer gets when they get published for the first time. It can last a few weeks or months. I was still riding on mine when I sat for this interview.
This time, I knew exactly how much I wanted. A few hundred thousand shillings. I wanted to be paid per word I wrote too. I was now dreaming of a bigger house and maybe even that pink Toyota Vitz. The figures I quoted were a few times higher than the market rate for the job position I was seeking.
“Why?” the website founder wanted to know.
The only reason I could come up with was that I had spent four years in campus and that my parents had paid a lot of money for my degree. Of course I did not get the job. I, however, took home a few lessons.
I now know that whilst looking for a job, having an education and a skill set are expected. It’s what I can do for my employer above having that degree that will be rewarded. You go through your career thinking that you deserve that promotion because you spent so much money paying for your education or because you have been at this company for so long. You get upset when someone else gets that job even though you really haven’t done much to earn it.
Similarly, you shouldn’t expect your needs to dictate how much you are rewarded for work done. It doesn’t matter that you live so far from the workplace, you have three children in school, or are providing for your siblings. That is not a bargaining chip when it comes to salary negotiations. Your efficiency at your job, your job experience and your skill set are your bargaining chip.
Life owes you nothing
The truth is that there are no free rides in life. Luck and circumstance may get you in the door but most of the time, when it comes to things worth having, you have to put in the work. Even on the days that you get lucky, you can only seize the opportunity when you’ve worked at being prepared.
Hopes and dreams are good things to have. Write them down, download pictures of the life you want from the internet and clip them on a vision board in your bedroom. All these, though, have to be driven by action.
This should apply in other areas of your life as well. To your love life, your social life and your health and fitness. Don’t expect to have a vibrant social life, to have lots of friends just because you are a good person.
This is an excerpt from Letters To My Son by Joan Thatiah