Let’s face it, for most Kenyans, unemployment is an issue we get up close and personal with.
I was on my way to a business meeting two weeks ago when I got to a red light.
A well-dressed man then started manoeuvring between vehicles with a sign that read: “I am a graduate, please employ me”.
He’d listed all his qualifications on the board, and to make it legit, he had all his papers with him. To make the situation even sadder, it was raining.
The green light came on and I drove off, but I was left with two questions at the back of my mind: how can that young man’s situation be possible, and how can it be resolved?
It wasn’t the first time I was coming across an unemployed graduate, but this time I decided to put a magnifying glass on the issue. I went through university and studied accounting, and it was one of the most amazing times of my life.
But upon graduation, I had to adapt quickly to the ‘ways of our land’.
1. Get involved
It shouldn’t be the case, but most opportunities are handed to the ones who’re closest to the eruption.
In my early years, just before I completed university, I had already applied for internships, and – not formally – positioned myself.
I went to DJ Loop, a person I admired, and asked to be his ‘helper’ at no pay. Sometimes it’s not about the money, but the first-hand learning and application process.
We have to get involved early, and my calculations were that by the time I was done with uni, I’d have practical experience from my mentor.
You need to get involved in situations that will later on create opportunities for you, and a lot of the time, this takes plenty of courage and patience.
2. Mock interviews
Sometimes we become confident only after we’ve gone through certain situations a couple of times – you know the saying, once bitten twice shy.
Anyway, get friends who believe in what you want to do and plan mock interviews with them. The beauty of our times is that there’s the Internet. Google ‘how to conduct a mock interview’, and you’ll also get insights into the type of questions that recruiters ask.
I learnt this from a friend with whom we carried out mock interviews. When we started, he was a bit rusty, but by the time he went in for an actual interview, the panel applauded his confidence. It ended up being one of the main reasons he got the job.
3. Your CV/brand
Your CV is basically your representative before a company finds a reason to get in touch with you.
Since it’s your representative, it needs to be detailed. But remember, it doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s.
Most times, people get employed because they’re different. So be unique, it sells. I would advice you to get the standard format of a CV and then make adjustments to it to something that fits you and the industry you’re interested in.
Remember, no one knows you like you know yourself. If you were a product or brand, then your CV would be your advertisement.
So create the most exciting ad to sell yourself. Have you ever come across an ad that made you purchase a product just because you were impressed? Aim to give the same impression.
4. Research and passion
Whenever you want to approach a company that you’re interested in, always do your research. I have two friends who had interviews and they impressed me from a learning perspective. One of them represents every other graduate who’s busy distributing CVs, hoping to get some feedback.
The other one represents the 2 per cent who always get the job. Let’s focus on him.
It’s been his passion to work for Company X, so while in high school, he started working towards this goal. Nothing beats passion.
Anyway, Company X had some problems expanding, so my friend came up with a solution. When he got the chance to sit before an interview panel at the firm, he carried along with him a non-disclosure agreement, and then took a chance and presented his solution.
He ended up getting a position higher up than what he’d applied for.
While the list of to-dos that lead to employment can be much longer, the strongest pointers always work.
Times are changing, which means that your approach has to be unique.
Another way to go around joblessness is to learn to develop start-ups. Get a group of young people with similar problems and build a company that provides a solution and favours what you studied in school.
The writer is an entrepreneur and award-winning artiste.