Dear Seasoned Workforce,
My name is Sandra. I have recently graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Kenyatta University. I have tried to search for a job in my field and I am still looking out for opportunities. However as we speak, I am currently employed in a sales position with a firm in Nairobi. The problem I face is that what I am currently doing is not at all related to what I studied or what I wish to pursue. I therefore feel as though this whole experience is useless- a waste of time and energy. I also find myself bored and unmotivated. Please advise me on what I should do.
Thank you for your message. I understand your situation quite clearly. We are often met with disappointment upon graduation armed with large dreams and aspirations. Finding something that suits your academic and personal interests has become next to impossible. However, this is not a bad thing at all. It is actually a great advantage!Let me explain in the following post…
No Experience is Bad Experience
1. You have to start somewhere
Do not despise humble beginnings no matter how bleak the future may look. I imagine that Chris Kirubi would not have been able to imagine his future being where it is now when he begun as a humble salesman, selling and repairing gas. Neither would have Vimal Shah pictured his successful future as CEO of BIDCO when he started off his career selling life insurance. It is however interesting to note that many of the skills they gained from these “undesirable” entry-level jobs stuck on and continue to benefit them to this day.
The same confidence, discipline, time management, customer service and communication skills that you will require as a waitress will be similar to that required as a CEO or middle manager. The skills remain constant. My advice to you: FOCUS ON THE SKILLS not the position. Start where you are and learn everything you can from that industry because in the end, nothing is isolated on its own- which takes us to our second point.
2. Everything is connected
The Samsung Regional head of Marketing, Dr.Patricia M. King’ori studied a Bachelor’s Degree in Veterinary Medicine at The University of Nairobi. When I read her story in a magazine, I was stunned! I could not have foreseen such an unrelated connection. I bet when she was undergoing her higher education, she had sick animals in mind- not a multinational conglomerate that deals with mobile and consumer electronics. In-fact, many of the innovative products she markets- including the cell phone- were not invented or were not in the market by the time she begun her career.
This teaches us something…To embrace ambiguity and uncertainty and leave room for new ideas and ventures. Your career can take a different direction at any moment. While the foundation education is very important, sometimes it serves the purpose of instilling discipline and a background alone. I urge you to keep your mind open as you acquire skills in sales or any other not-economics field you might find yourself in. Start where you are and build upon your skills and experience while you look out for what you are passionate about.
Velcro was created by an electrical engineer George de Mestral who knew nothing about textiles. In his book, John Adair tells an interesting story of how the burrowing movement of earthworms- as observed by a biologist- was used to develop a new method of mining, which is now widely used. What would a biologist know about mining?…right?!. These totally unrelated disciplines somehow ended up being linked in some way that could not have been foreseen.
I try to imagine how many more of such opportunities there are in our daily lives. How many of them do we miss out on because we are too keen on focusing and staying within the confines of “what we know”. Some very interesting career directions can also be arrived at by accident. I therefore urge you to keep a very open mind, curious to learn indiscriminately.
Take each opportunity as a chance to learn and GAIN NEW SKILLS. That should always be your main focus. Develop an inventory of the skills gained and update your LinkedIn as often as possible.
3.The Workplace has Evolved….a lot!
In her book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg describes how the workplace today has evolved as compared to the past. As opposed to being portrayed as a ladder of consecutive defined steps, career progression is now defined as a jungle gym, consisting of ladders, slides, hoops and swings…In other words, career trajectory is multi-directional rather than straight and vertical.
Another key evidence of this is the duration that employees now spend within a company. While in the past (our parents’ generation) people would work for a single company for decades- sometimes throughout their entire career, today we see a maximum duration of about 5 years in a single organization. This means that we are on the move now more than ever, with our world rapidly advancing.
But what does that mean for you as an individual? It also means that your window of learning has been made much smaller. You must learn as much as you can as fast as you can. I promise you that if you embrace this philosophy, you will barely have time for boredom and lack of motivation!
All the best!