What's better, a good attitude or a terrific CV?
By Jacqueline Mahugu
| Dec 23rd 2020 | 6 min read
Glovo is in over 400 cities worldwide. In Kenya, Priscilla Muhiu (pictured) calls the shots. She is the general manager for Glovo Kenya. She was previously the head of business development and marketing at OLX and head of marketing at Sendy for a year. But in an alternate universe, having studied food science and technology at the university, she would be in a company laboratory checking for the quality of foods as a food technologist. She shares the highs and lows of building her career, making a career switch and what she looks for in employees.
Rude awakening one. When you realise that what you studied for isn’t what you want to do…I graduated with a degree in food science and technology from Nairobi University in 2006, but during my internship, I realised that it was not something I wanted to do because it was just about going to the factory, determining the quality of food before it went to the market, lab work and all. I did not enjoy it, so at that point I decided to change my career. I have never actually worked for any food company. I knew I wanted to go into marketing. I started looking for opportunities in the marketing space and someone advised me that marketing agencies was the best place to learn marketing. To get into the space and get an opportunity, I equipped myself by doing a practitioners’ diploma in marketing from Marketing Society of Kenya.
Don’t let bad circumstances stop you…At a personal level, I have been through a lot. I even have a blog; Confessions-of-a-career-woman.com where I talk about how to deal with adversity. One day, when I was going through a hellish time, I came across an article by Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook. She was talking about the three P’s. She had just lost her husband and was talking about how sometimes while going through life and its normal struggles, you tend to go through three things.
First, you go through permanence, where you feel like the problem will last forever. You need to know that no problem will last forever. This one will end and another one will come, and as you go along, you become better and better at dealing with things.
Then there is personalisation - sometimes things happen in our lives, but whether we are to blame or not, we should not personalise it, but instead be kind to ourselves.
The third P is pervasiveness, where when you are going through something in one domain in your life, you feel like nothing is working in all your other domains of life. When I was going through hell, I got a promotion in the same year but I did not see it. I didn’t realise it. It didn’t make a difference to me because to me, everything in my life was bad. After I read that article, I wiped my tears. That was the last day I cried.
Be a reader. I am not a natural reader, but I have had to learn to be one. You can learn all you need from a good book. Plus, it opens up your mind. I started by listening to audio books. As I did my MBA at Strathmore, I would spend my commutes listening to a book. I would read a book in five to six hours. Then I slowly started reading books in large text, because I felt that small print moved too slowly. Find a way, and get to reading. My current read is Starting With Why by Simon Sinek.
Learn some hacks for your weaknesses. I am not a naturally focused person. I have yellow and green energy (according to the Insights Discovery Colour Energies). You find that on a bad day, yellow energy people tend to be all over the place; spontaneous and not focused. So to make sure I focus, first I identify my priorities - the things I need to make sure I have done this week. Then, every day I block some time, about two hours a day, where I have no meetings, phone calls or anything, to make sure I complete my tasks for the day. Even my team members know that they cannot book anything during those two hours. It is my focus time. Have that for yourself, and get your most important tasks done.
What do you look for in candidates when hiring?
I believe in hiring for attitude. I would rather hire someone who has the best attitude in the world even if they are not as skilled. It is difficult to train for attitude but you can train for skill. For example, if we are doing the interview process and one person is very good at the technical stuff but I have doubts about their culture fit or attitude, I will choose the less-experienced one with a seemingly great attitude. That is simply because when someone has the right attitude, they can go far.
What is the biggest career mistake you see people making?
What I have seen when we interview people, especially the young ones who are starting out is the need for instant gratification. For instance, I started on a salary of Sh10,000, then moved on to Sh30,000 after three months, which was a big deal for me. But nowadays, people expect to start earning Sh100,000 from day one. They don’t appreciate the need to gain some level of experience. And sadly, this gets them losing out on great opportunities.
What is it about one’s presentation that puts off employers?
You need to be careful what you showcase on your social media pages. It is very important. I would recommend that you avoid being very radical. You have free speech on social media, but for instance, if you show a lot of hate speech, too opinionated and fighting everyone on social media, that would be a red flag for me because it means that from an attitude perspective, you are going to present challenges. I would be very careful about the kind of personal brand that I display on social media. So, if you want to build a career and build a personal brand, the last thing you want is some lewd pictures coming up and have people judging you based on that.
I don’t look at CVs a lot. As long as you have the right skill set, I just quickly browse through it, but the minute we have a conversation that is when I start forming my opinion about you.
What do you think makes people promotable?
Your performance. Making sure you are a top performer and having the right attitude is a winner. I take my job very seriously, so I try and make sure I come up with plans to make sure I meet my objectives and targets. Where I feel like I need help, I am proactive enough to say it way ahead and ask what to do, as opposed to being reactive. Be proactive and say, “I am not going to meet this target. This is what I am doing but I think I need help.” Seek help when you need to.
What is the best career advice you have ever received?
I think I read this somewhere and it was just about being passionate about what you do. Let’s face it, there are challenges at work, crises can come up, but when you are passionate about it, even when it gets tough, you will be able to stay on course.
A book you would recommend everyone reads?
Unf*ck Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life by Gary John Bishop. It will be worth your time, I can guarantee it.
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