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Monique Mukayagi: I took a risk changing careers but it paid off

By Eve Mosongo | January 6th 2021 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

Monique Mukayagi studied food science and technology at the University of Nairobi. She worked in the food technology industry for close to eight years with Brookside as the first organisation; she was in charge of marketing and did quality assurance.

She then moved to Best Goods company – which has since been bought by Unilever. Dissatisfaction with her work began after coming back from training in Switzerland. She moved to Dale Carnegie, a leadership training company where she became the quality assurance officer. To better herself, she enrolled in a programme that helped enhance her leadership, communication and interpersonal skills.  Still feeling dissatisfied, she resigned, leaving a salaried job to become a Dale Carnegie salesperson where she would be paid on commission. Starting with the flagship, the Dale Carnegie programme that teaches how to enhance confidence, manage stress and worry, enhance leadership, communication and interpersonal skills, she started selling training programmes. That’s when she developed an interest as a trainer; this propelled her into the human resources space. She joined the Mater Hospital as a manpower training officer, after which she joined Safaricom as the learning and development officer. Her next move found her at Housing Finance where she realised she had an interest in coaching. A certified ICF professional coach, Mukayagi’s passionate about her job, with a focus on coaching and training. Here’s her take on ways you can take charge of and grow your career in 2021.

Do self-assessment as an employee or look for someone to help bring out your strengths and areas of weakness. Many of us tend to work on our weaknesses; you are already struggling, so why would you want to work in an area you’re struggling? Look at what you’re good at and make it better. Perfect it. You tend to enjoy what you’re good at and what you tend to enjoy, you do well. What is it that you do well without being paid? Start working on that; become good at that then become an expert at it. At some point, all these skills will be required by somebody.

Seek out mentors. They provide insight, having been there before and having become experts at what they do. Select a mentor with expertise, reputation for developing others and positive experiences. Find people who have the time and mental energy to devote to the relationship; mentors who have up-to-date knowledge, individuals who have maintained current, up-to-date technological knowledge and/or skills. Get individuals who are still willing to learn. Also, a good mentor should have the ability to establish rapport; ability to have and maintain empathy during the journey; good at goal setting; good at questioning and listening skills; good at giving and receiving feedback; has excellent Interpersonal skills; ability to manage progress and accountability; have high Emotional Intelligence

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It is never too late to change your career. When I was changing my career I was 30 years old. The human resources manager then thought I was making a blunder.  But the CEO, a South African, told me that it is never too late; it is only late when you are six feet under – that is when you are late.

New to the job market? Don’t let anyone put you down. Ask yourself what it is that you want to become… where are you right now in regards to what you want to become. Ask yourself where the gap is and what you need to get to where you want to go. Ask yourself what steps and actions you need to take in order to get where you want to go. Once you decide, take the first step. Unfortunately, many of us fear taking that first step -  that is where most of us stop. After the first step, it is okay to make a mistake – learn from it; improve on that and you will see yourself growing. Look at what resonates with your passion, gifts and talents. Go for professional courses that would further enhance one’s skills. To learn, join professional bodies or groups. Have clear action plans and celebrate success and milestones made. Do not fear; learn from mistakes.   

Offer yourself for attachment – even if it is for one hour; we all need some help. And do not despise humble beginnings. Start learning from the bottom; you never climb a tree from the top.     

If you lose your job, don’t think of it as the end of your career. Your services are still needed. Maintain a positive perspective. You need to upskill. Using myself as an example, I’m very analogue. I was so fearful of going into the digital space because I was thinking that I would be exposing my inadequacy. Change your mindset to eliminate FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real. Ask yourself what skills you need to learn. Use Google and YouTube. I’ll be honest with you, I’m still learning. Even in a gig economy, looking at it from the leadership aspect, for one to maintain their customers, they need to maintain consistency, too.

In most careers, learning is an organic process, with the lower levels providing opportunities to learn the ropes. Just like a sigmoid curve, growth is gradual at the beginning and this takes time; after a certain level, the curve becomes stiff. Seek mentors to learn the ropes before fast-tracking your career. By having a good understanding of the basic principles and the “why’ behind doing what one does, fast-tracking is OK. Develop a solid foundation strong enough to support your growth. A weak foundation easily collapses even an otherwise good structure.

 Research by Harvard shows that Emotional Intelligence is one of the top 10 must-have skills; going forward in the next 20 or so years. A large part of success is about how we engage with others. The way you show up (EI) determines how people feel; the way they feel determines the extent to which the engage. This determines everything about the outcome of that relationship. Thus as an employer, you want engaged staff; because engaged staff are productive. As an engaged employee you are most likely to grow in your career and accomplish your dreams.


Best Goods company Food science and technology Monique Mukayagi Unilever Dale Carnegie
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