What you need to know:
- This week, we share the stories of individuals who kick-started their careers while still in college, and have made remarkable strides.
- Besides being smart, their boldness catapulted them to where they are today.
Today, majority of students in university only start searching for a job after graduation. With over 30 accredited public universities, 18 chartered private universities and about 55 colleges, over 50,000 graduates are churned into the job market every year, all competing for the limited opportunities around. Why wait until graduation to get a job then?
This week, we share the stories of individuals who kick-started their careers while still in college, and have made remarkable strides. Besides being smart, their boldness catapulted them to where they are today.
Name: David Wafula
Profession: Radio Journalist
Institution: Multimedia University
Course: Bachelor’s degree in Journalism
I graduated from university with a degree in Journalism last month. Mine has been a taxing eight years of struggling to get an education. After high school, I joined college to study mass communication but was forced to drop out a year later since my parents could not afford to pay my school fees. My uncle and I opened a cyber café in our backyard, my aim to raise school fees.
Four years later when I had saved enough, I joined Multi Media University. Alongside my studies, I worked at the institution’s radio station, which airs in the Ongata Rongai area. It is while here that I got an opportunity to intern at the BBC East Africa bureau in Nairobi.
I believe that the fact that I had experience reporting and hosting shows at the university’s radio station is one of the reasons I was picked.
It was a life-time chance to prove myself - every time we held an editorial meeting at the radio station, I would pitch at least two stories and then file them as fast as possible.
My hard work and determination paid off because after my two-months internship, my supervisors offered me a freelancing job at the beginning of 2015. It was a tough decision to make because I was still in school.
My experience has however taught me that school will always be there, but opportunity comes only once. I therefore decided to defer school for a year to work. I am now a full time employee here.
If you are in university, find out what you want to do with your life and start honing your skills now, even if it is on a voluntary basis. Planning forward pays.
Name: Akisa Wandera
I am a news anchor at KTN . Allow me to take you through my journey. The year was 2014, I was working as a news reporter at Ebru Africa TV. One day, I was asked to read the 1pm bulletin since the anchor was not in. I ended up sitting in for this anchor for two years. I grew up admiring veteran news anchor, Catherine Kasavuli, even though I wanted to become a journalist, rather than read news. I thought journalism would be a suitable career since I am very social and inquisitive. After high school, I joined the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication (KIMC), to study for a diploma in Broadcast Journalism. While here, I produced and reported news for the school’s radio. My friends kept wondering why I was giving so much of my time to the radio station yet I was not getting paid. I would report to school by 5.30am and compile news, which I would then present at the 8am and 9am news bulletins. Today, I credit most of my skills in journalism to the three years I volunteered at my school’s radio station.
I was not spared the ‘tarmacking’ that comes with job-hunting in Kenya though; I don’t think there is any media house in this country that doesn’t have my CV. From experience, job-hunting should begin way before graduation. Starting early will give you an upper hand, and by all means, get some work experience first. My first internship was at GBS TV back in 2013. I was 21. Within two weeks of starting the internship, I was voicing my stories, something that took other interns close to two months to achieve. This paved way to Ebru Africa TV, my first paid job. I worked here for two years and then I moved to KTN. I anchor the 1pm news bulletin (News Desk), from Monday to Friday, which airs in KTN and KTN News channels. I also host KTN News Bottomline East Africa, a news program that focuses on the East African region. It airs on Friday from 8pm to 9pm. I am currently studying for a bachelor’s degree in Journalism at USIU-A.
Name: Moses Kamau
Course: BA, Art and Design
Institution: Kenyatta University
Job: Fashion designer
On my spare time, I am a fashion designer, even though I am studying graphics design at university. I am also a dancer, though I have taken time off dancing to concentrate on school and my fashion business. My friends and I performed during charity and product promotion events, as well as curtain raising for artists. Each person in the six-member group took home at least Sh5,000 for a one-hour performance, good money for university students. My savings from my dancing gigs are what I used as capital to kickstart my fashion business. In today’s world, you need to have a plan and a backup plan as well. My fashion brand is called Dressed by Jinc. I have dressed competing groups in past episodes of Citizen TV’s Sakata and KTN’s Dancing Families. When you know the direction you want your life to take early enough, you avoid plunging into identity crisis, which takes a lot of time to shake off.
Pursuing your dream career, or a side hassle while still in college or university is a financial necessity for some students and a platform towards financial independence for others. Regardless of what your reason is, being able to balance school and other activities, paid or voluntary, will work in your favour once you complete school.
Name: Julie Ambani, 22, and Christine Lisero, 21
These two friends are students at Kenyatta University, studying Education and Fine Arts respectively. They run a catering business on the side; Krysse & Julez, which keeps their weekends busy.
With a little help from their families and a loan from a shylock, they have managed to run a business that would otherwise require culinary expertise and years of studying.
“When a client orders something we cannot cook well, we simply hire a chef to do it,” says Christine, who adds that she is a good cook.
The two friends have invested in recipe books, and also regularly watch cookery demo videos on YouTube. They also have a mentor, Dorothy Heshiwani, a former caterer who has been instrument in their catering journey.
They swearby their mean cupcakes and pizzas, as well as mshikakis, which they insist are to die for. So are their smoothies and milkshakes.
“This job has made us independent young women. There is nothing as good as earning your own money and being able to invest it or spend it however you want,” says Christine.
Since they started their business in 2014, they have never asked their parents for pocket money. Their earnings cater for their upkeep in school and the rest is invested back into the business. Christine and Julie, who dream of one day owning a chain of hotels, say since most events usually take place during weekends, balancing school and work is not a challenge.
“Venturing into entrepreneurship early enough gives you room to make mistakes and correct them, learn from them and grow business-wise,” says Christine.
Name: Maina Wycliffe Mburu
Course: Bachelor’s degree in Information Science
Institution: Technical University of Kenya
Profession: Software developer
I am studying information Science, but I am a self-taught software developer. Think about it, someone who has studied, say, banking, and has knowledge in IT, is more likely to develop a better banking system than an IT graduate.
I used a computer for the first time in Form Two. I started with simple things such as word processing, right now, I am working on an innovative system that will have a great impact on how we do things.
My company, Lifetanstic Innovations, offers web design, computer programming and mobile software application development. If it were possible, I would have gone into business even earlier, this way, I would have achieved what I have now about four years ago. At the moment I have no major responsibilities such as a family, and can therefore afford to move around and do what I want to. Had I waited until I complete school to start following my dream, I would have accomplished this on my 30th birthday, which is six years away. This would have badly hurt my dream of retiring early - I plan to retire at 40.
I will graduate in
December this year. If you are reading this and are interested in software development, take online courses, most free. Some helpful sites include www.tizen.com and www.w3schools.com.
Name: Arnold Kariuki
Institution: Zetech University
Course: Business Administration
Unlike other professions, in football, you retire while still young, so to benefit, you have to start as early as possible. I knew I was a good footballer right from high school, (I went to Thika High School), and keen to actualise my dream of becoming a footballer, I tried to join various football clubs, but none signed me up. After I completed high school, I eventually got a chance to play at the Kenyan National Super League, the second tier of the Kenyan football league system, with Bidco United, where I played for a month before being called to play for Tusker Youth in 2015. My dad did not believe football was a good career choice. It only dawned on him that this can be a serious career when I was called to play for my current club - he even drove me to their headquarters that day.
I believe that education is important, but it may not be everything in life. If you don’t get good grades in school, don’t despair because there must be something you are good at. Use the talent you have. I am aware that the career I have chosen has a short lifespan – It is rare to play football professionally for more than 12 years. You could also get an injury that keeps you off the pitch, so you need to have a backup plan. That is why I am studying for a degree in business administration, which will come in handy in managing a business and investing the money I am earning. Juggling school and work is hard, but with discipline and good time management, you can do it.
TIPS TO HELP YOU KICK-START YOUR CAREER BEFORE GRADUATION
Dorcas Karuana, a Career Advisor and Recruitment Consultant based in Nairobi, explains that starting a career is a process of intentional efforts.
“You take time to examine what you enjoy doing – and what you hate doing. You then figure out what jobs befit you in line with your interests, skills, experience and education. Your school’s career center should be a big help,” she says.
1. Be actively involved in extra-curricular activities at school
Joining clubs, participating in games, sports or volunteering in community-based activities lends you leadership skills and instills interpersonal communication skills. Such people are usually outspoken, team players, flexible and are able to successfully handle multiple obligations.
2. Get internships and volunteer
Seek internship at organisations you hope to work in after graduation and build relationships with those you find there. Also, those who volunteer have a head start because they already understand the employer’s expectations.
Put together a list of potential employers and find ways to establish contact with those who work there. Such ways include through the school career centre, alumni groups, LinkedIn, Facebook, or engaging in community activities they support. Joining a professional development or industry-specific group will also go a long way in launching your career. Your aim is not to seek for a job, rather, advice and insights of what it is like working in the company - their culture, hiring process, and what people do in the typical first job in that organisation.
4. Seek extra knowledge and skills
Make an effort to learn new industry-specific skills while still in college. For instance, learn a foreign language if pursuing International Relations and intend to work in foreign affairs or international companies, or current programming languages if pursuing a course in IT – acquire other skills that would be an added advantage to your career.
5. Learn how to write a winning CV and how to sell yourself
It is important to learn how to write a CV that stands out, so is learning how to be an outstanding interviewee. During an interview, tell a compelling narrative about yourself, who you are, what you have learned and how you can add value to the organisation.