Njuki Moments

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Taking advantage of new East African job opportunities

With the East African Common market taking shape, more job opportunities shall emerge. There are fewer restrictions to goods and services, meaning the growing regional block presents more jobs to choose from for people seeking employment.
The East African Common Market Protocol came into effect on July 1, creating a market for 130 million people and a combined gross domestic product of $75b. The market, allows free movement of services, capital, labour and goods.
The opportunities could present some getting prepared for, given that Ugandans are not exactly known for their hard work as a far as jobs go. A recent job study indicated that six Ugandans are required to do a job one Kenyan would do. But surely we must have superior advantages too.
As we prepare, if we haven’t already, you may need to put a polish to that Swahili, given that it is a language widely used in all other East African countries, except Uganda. It is never too late to try; go to language school.
There is even more good news; Sudan has applied to join the East African Community, and the newly independent South Sudan is expected to make its application soon. Some of these countries present rare opportunities as they require people with skills, which we have possessed here for a while.
So we stand some advantages. Take South Sudan, for example, whose economy is just taking shape, meaning that a more experienced Ugandan employee will most likely score better at the job interview than the indigenous Sudanese.
Already, teachers have been on high demand in Tanzania, due to our supposedly better command of the English language, the medium of instruction, just like Rwanda and Burundi who are switching from the colonial French, which has been their national language.
These opportunities, however, are not unique to Ugandans. They are open to the whole region and as recent trends indicate, there are more Kenyan employees here than Ugandans in Nairobi.
They tend to take work more seriously, something we are slowly getting used to, but they have also had a better economy, which presents growth opportunities in the job market as well as skills growth.
With the opening up of the union, this means that any one must prepare to compete, even at home, because your employer is likely to have a variety of prospects knocking at her door, even from across the border.
Therefore you had better be good, actually better than the whole lot, if you are to keep your job or enjoy the advantages of a bigger pool of employers.
A further polish on attitude could be another tool you need. When competition comes in, it is not just who is better and more qualified but who views work better and is likely to work easier with others. Employers are looking out for those who can give the best contribution to their companies, and attitude is key here.
That said, we are all differently gifted. So do a thorough self assessment of your skills and competences, get a passport ready, get knowledge about the region, and start preparing your resume on how to compete in a wider market place. Go back to school, if you need to.
What is sure for now is that these opportunities, as usual will only favor the prepared.
Do what you have to do to get ready to compete.

This article first appeared in The Daily Monitor newspaper Friday, October 21 2011 at http://www.monitor.co.ug/Magazines/Jobs+++Career/-/689848/1258850/-/11es6g7/-/index.html

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Excelling at work without the 'right' qualifications

When employers advertise for job vacancies, they will normally have a long list of qualifications to go with the ad. A lot of these will list what you need to have studied, and several years of experience. It is the norm around the employment terrain.It may also include which characteristics and attitude they want their new employee to have.
For the employers and their recruiting agents, this makes perfect sense. After all you get to root out the undesirables even before the process starts. However, even after such a weeding mechanism some times employers end up with the chaff they wanted to avoid, in the form of unsuitable workers both in skill, motivation, attitude and education.
How so?
Stories have been told of degree certificates 'Made at Nasser Road’, so an employer is surprised to have someone with impeccable results but still not right for the job. Other things like attitude towards work, creativity (which is yet to be got a good measure for in the interview room) may also affect the selection criteria.

But how can one still manage to land their dream job, and excel without the known 'right' qualifications?

Create your own interview environment
Many people have excelled at jobs which one would hardly say they are rightly qualified for. If you believe you are a great broadcaster, for example, but the usual list of qualifications denies you entry, create your own demo. This may involve spending a little more of your own money and time to put together something which will excite your prospective employer without really going through the usual recruitment route.
By doing this, you would have demonstrated that you know what your employer needs and you can deliver it. Every one likes the guy who delivers results. This is likely to get you hired.

Study informally on your own
There is a good number of excelling employees who did not necessarily study what they are doing...that is in school. The internet, for example presents numerous opportunities for self-learning .Use it.

Talk to people who are doing what you want to get into. Unlike what most people think; people who are successful are always glad to share what they know and to mentor someone do better that which they are doing themselves. So, talk to them. Go out of your way to associate with them and learn as much as possible.

Don't respond to job adverts directly
This may seem diversionary, right? But it makes sense. If a person who does not match up to the usual requirements shows up when others with the ’ listed ‘ requirements are being interviewed, chances are they will be showed the door. Because the employer’s mindset is locked on her 'fool-proof' way of attracting talent and therefore those who don't make the mark will be unwelcome.
However, when you show up for a job posting even without it being advertised or after the formal recruitment process, someone is likely to pay attention to you, if you have what they need. There are a lot of administrators who have never been to management school, just like star journalists who have never attended journalism school.
Timing here is key. A lot of research maybe needed to identify the existing need or gap which you can fill.
Intern and volunteer

A mechanical engineer friend of mine tells me just how well our education system prepares us for the real work world! According to him, the often well performing employee with hardly a year in formal engineering or mechanical school, but who has interned for some time or volunteered in industries they want to get employed in are far better at their jobs than fresh graduates with all the book knowledge.
Success at this may also get you a lowly starting position, but it presents an opportunity for you to work your way up the ladder as you gain more exposure, skills and experience.