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Personal Finance

How graduates can fast-track success

graduate
It takes an average of five years for a Kenyan graduate to secure a job. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Last week, the Daily Nation carried the story of the perils that students undergo to get grades for their university education. From extortion and bribery, the story hit a raw nerve and exposed the rot behind the walls of university lecture rooms.

The article brings to light the many challenges that come with acquiring formal education.

It is, therefore, no surprise that reaching the pinnacle of university success for many is an immense achievement.

Last month, almost all universities held their final graduation ceremonies. It is estimated that private and public tertiary institutions in Kenya continue to churn out at least 50,000 graduates every year, according to data from the Ministry of Education.

Last year, more than 90,000 students joined various colleges and universities from secondary school.

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As soon as the graduation door slams behind them, a feeling of fear and excitement grips the graduates at the same time as another door to usher them into the job market opens.

It is estimated that it takes a university graduate an average of five years to secure a job in Kenya.

The challenges that come after graduation in job hunting are vast and making that transition from student to employee is not always easy.

The situation is made harder by the fact that job employment opportunities are at an all-time low.

The 8-4-4 education system, which has been in existence since its inception in 1985, has previously come under fire for its inability to produce competent graduates that can translate what they learnt in class on the job requirements.

This has led to the introduction of the new Competency-Based Curriculum, which seeks to equip learners with communication and collaboration, critical thinking and problem-solving, creativity and imagination, citizenship, digital literacy and self-efficacy skills.

The end goal is to introduce an entrepreneurial mindset early in a child’s education to make them think outside the predictable box of white-collar employment.

However, the implementation of the curriculum has faced bottlenecks from different stakeholders and its fruits can only be witnessed at a very later stage.

In the meantime, from a recruiter’s point of view, there are various approaches that parents and fresh graduates alike can adopt to improve on their chances of getting gainful employment and avoiding the pitfalls that have befallen many unemployed young Kenyans. First, the graduates should rethink focusing only in the field their degree. It will only limit their options.

Twenty years ago things were different, jobs were somewhat assured and careers followed a certain trajectory. For example, when one has a degree in finance, they would be able to find jobs along that line until they retire. This is very different today, as a degree does not necessarily dictate a career path.

There are many people with degrees that don’t reflect their current work profile and therefore, fresh graduates should not limit themselves if they are interested in pursuing a divergent career path.

In most cases, a bachelor’s degree is merely an entry-level position requirement but to climb up the corporate ladder requires experience, something your degree cannot offer.

Second, increasing your visibility as a job seeker can open doors and makes you be counted when it matters. Being outstanding by creating a positive personal brand in the age of new media technology is relatively easy. From how you speak on issues, how you display work done, how you argue and what you post on social networking sites can generally initiate your move to a job.

Being a fresh graduate is the opportune time to be curious and learn as much as you can from others in the craft you are interested in. For example, Nameless the musician is an architect by profession yet he is better known for his prowess in making hit songs.

Third and very crucial is to find a mentor. Many great people have narrated of the invaluable impact mentors played in their success. A mentor helps you accelerate your growth through their experience and guidance. They can warn you of the pitfalls that lie in wait and also spot opportunities that you had no idea existed.

As a young graduate, it is important to look for someone who you trust and look up to. If they are willing, they can be your anchor and guide during this trying time. If you are unable to find one, there are many mentors on social media, especially YouTube who share important content relevant to this stage.

Lastly, be ready to learn quickly. Most hiring managers avoid new graduates as the time taken to get them delivering is costly. As a fresh graduate, the best thing you can do for your career is to research on corporate life to ensure a smooth transition. For example, I post a lot of content covering this subject and more on YouTube and other social networking sites and it has been very valuable to many fresh graduates.

As a fresh young graduate, you should be hungry for opportunities, show up on time, communicate openly and effectively, dress the part, learn how to collaborate with others, stay late, ask questions and take on extra challenges.

The writer is managing partner and head of recruitment at Corporate Staffing Services Limited.

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