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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Getting a job through the visit to the salon

It is an undisputed fact that women spend a significant percentage of their life at the salon.  Even though there is a growing concern by women that men are equally spending lengthy amounts of time watching the English Premier League games (and lately the Kenya Premier League), women at the salon still hold the record. The woman could have taken herself to the salon either for her nails to be redone or the feet cuticles to be scrapped off. It could be the season for installation of dreadlocks or the now famous colored braids. All in all, a lot of time is consumed in the process of keeping themselves glowing.

I once overheard of Agnes who noticed that every time she visited her favorite salon, she would bump onto the CEO of one of the blue chip companies. As time went by, she considered befriending the lady and within a month, they had developed admiration for each other. They would chat the evening away as they waited for the hair to fully dry and would be engaged in all manner of topics. After realizing that she had goodwill from the CEO, Agnes eventually indicated to the new found friend that she was actually interested in changing her career and admired the CEO’s company.

Having exchanged notes on Agnes’ career objectives, the CEO one day called her informing her of a friend of hers who was seeking to employ a staff with qualifications that matched Agnes’. Within the following week, Agnes landed herself a job at a dream company, thanks to a friendship that started at the salon.

Life has a way of providing us with opportunities to meet all our needs. The challenge however is that many a times, we are not alive to the offering of opportunities that life presents. Considering the amounts of time for instance that ladies spend at the salon, it could be turned to an opportunity when in need of career growth. The salon, just like other business services, is an opportunity that brings together men and women of varied backgrounds. As they spend hours at the salon, there is the tendency to have their guards and protocols down and respond to other clients as people, not as job seekers.

As this opportunity presents itself, seek to appreciate the character of the person and their likes and dislikes. Listen between the lines about the performance of their companies and seek to learn as much as you can about any upcoming opportunities either for work or business. At the salon, you will hear of other clients lamenting about frustrations at their places of work. These frustrations should not be taken up as opportunities to co-lament with them. Speak out of possible sustainable solutions giving examples of what you would do given the chance. As you enhance the capacity of the boss to respond to her challenges, you could be opening a chance for yourself to be part of the actual solution.

Finally, you will want to realize that career support and counseling can be an expensive affair. Were you to set an appointment with a career counselor, you will truly have to pay handsomely, off course depending on the issues at hand. As a lady in search of career growth advice, you could capitalize on some of the great executives you meet at the salon to raise your career concerns you may have and get responses at no cost and with no strings attached. This is a highly effective way of building support to your career growth while not going out of your way to enhance your chances for career growth.

Building a personal brand

Kahihu (the author) is an Organizational Development practitioner

As we head towards the end of the year, it is important to start taking stock of how we have fared in building ourselves as brands. Companies spend lots of resources to establish themselves as super brands with the aim of edging out competitors by seeking the priority slot in the minds of the clients. Building brands is no mean feat and calls for a sustained effort to reap the results.

In the same way, it is important to note that people who excel in their respective careers spend time and energy to build their personal brands, not just careers. Effectively developed brands have a way of gaining visibility, acceptance and value in the marketplace. Such brands become the envy of clients and become sought after instead of the brand seeking after employers.

According to an article published by, a brand is a name that stands for something in the minds of the prospects. In the Kenyan context, Julie Gichuru is a brand that stands for journalism, Manu Chandaria stands for industrialization while James Mwangi stands for banking. What does your name stand for? If it is yet to stand for something, then there is work cut out for you.

How did Marrisa Mayer for instance score the position as the CEO of Yahoo? According to the Forbes article, Mayer was the 20th Google employee and the first female engineer. She was a brand name that made Google successful. With this success attributed to her, Yahoo went calling and wanted to be associated with the super brand. The brand has made her career thrive beyond her wildest dreams.

How would you develop your personal brand? According to Lisa Ries, a leading brand strategist, two things will help you out. First, define who you are and your unique abilities. Try to define yourself in a single word or concept. There is a lady who defined herself as the “process improvement expert” who “always completed projects on time and under budget.”
Personally, I have branded myself as an organizational development practitioner and career coach. With this brand image, I have obtained offers to speak and counsel with numerous people and institutions. As the brand gains ground, you will have to seek for consistency and always build on the brand for freshness and reliability.

Secondly, understand other people’s perceptions of you. “Think about other people. Think about the impressions you are making on friends, neighbors, business associates. Think about your brand.” Lisa suggests the need to take time to speak with many different people to understand how they perceive your strengths and then use this information as you create your personal brand.

Some of the brand perceptions may not be true. Some could be overvalued while others are undervalued. This understanding will help you know how to package yourself as a brand and build capacity for visibility and acceptance. Start with the baby steps. Talk to your workmates. What do they consider you best at? At some point in my career, my workmates hailed me for facilitating 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Who do I blame for my joblessness?

The author is an Organizational Development Specialist

A scan across the globe indicates a rising rate in unemployment. We initially imagined that unemployment is only a problem among the least developed countries in Africa and Asia, but by and by, we are reading reports from the developed world about the rise in unemployment. At the local level, we are seeing more and more of our relatives, our friends and our neighbors completing school and having to hang around with no employment opportunity coming by. So, who is responsible for this situation? As individuals, we find it easy to look for a carrier of the blame, and apparently, we place it on all other people and institutions except on ourselves.

Consider Anne for instance. She completed her training at a local polytechnic two years ago where she graduated with a diploma in front office management. As she joined the college, she was shoulders high as she considered the great opportunities that the diploma would open for her upon completion. But now that she is through with her studies and having spent two years at home ‘seeking for a job’, and please note I put ‘seeking for a job’ in quotes, she realizes that jobs are not easy to come by. And true, true, jobs don’t usually come by.

I have severally overheard discussions among young people blaming their current jobless condition on their parents. The have lamented how the parents never took them to pursue the courses of their dreams at the university or college. On other occasions, we place blame on the Joint Admissions Board for not allowing us to pursue our first choice courses. There was a study a while ago that truly indicated that over 65% of university students in Kenyan public universities are pursuing courses they do not like. This then means such graduates will not value the product, the degree they graduate with hence will have no push from within them to market it or expose it to potential employers. You only market that which you like.

As  a result, we are generating a barrage of graduates who are suffering from poor self esteem, not appreciating the certificates they posses. We also have persons who as in the proverbial case are bringing their certificates to their parents and telling them they had completed their parents choices and now wish to embark on their own interests. They then seek for financial support to now pursue what they want in life. These are true experiences.

However, regardless of the environment through which we have grown up, placing blame on others for our joblessness is self defeating. The world in fast paced and only those who seek to keep up with it get hold of the great opportunities it offers. For persons who sit and host pity parties, the time to arise is now. Start small. Seek for opportunities that are not necessarily conventional, but at the same time, remember not to forget your positive ethical considerations as you search for a job. As peer pressure sets in, we also see many young people desiring to be identified only with certain jobs. You could be very cautious of what you tell your friends you are doing when you meet them on the streets or when they seek to know on facebook. We are pressured to want to be associated with certain types of jobs and there lies the great mistake. Who said we must all pursue similar jobs? We are not wired for the same careers.

Jobs are sought. They are available but not splashed on the streets for people to collect them. Jobs are valuable engagements and since they are not as many as the seekers, it is important for the seekers to arise and go out to seek them. The interesting bit about most jobs is that they come dressed in aprons that are dusty and only the daring, those who are not choosy find them. Some of the jobs come looking ‘mean’ in terms of allowances or are available in places that are far off, away from the young person’s comfort zones. And finally, remember, jobs are here among people. Talk to people and present yourself as someone who can be trusted with a job to do. Remember, you have only yourself to blame for your current situation.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I want a job so much but I am not willing to spend

This sounds like a contradiction of sorts. I have severally met job seekers who have kept on indicating how frustrating job search has become. On close interrogation however, I realize that the same job seekers have heavily starved their job search processes of the much required resources. Take the case of June for instance. She has been searching for a job over the last one year and no attractive opening seems to have come her way.

From her own admission, she has acknowledged one potential reason for not clinching lucrative opportunities on offer. She has been mean in her spending on job search. Looking at the CV and cover letter copies she has been sending out in response to job adverts, it is clear she has been sending out poor quality documents. She has been known by a certain photocopy shop downtown as a regular client who pops in and requests for tens of photocopies of her CV that she then broadcasts ‘to whom it may concern’.

In most of the cases, the quality of the copies has been poor with clear marks on the paper indicating they are of low quality. You must be familiar with those annoying lines that run across the low quality photocopied page. A quick look at her cover letter also indicates that she has been addressing her letters ‘to whom it may concern’ no wonder she has not received invitations for interviews since no one seems to have been concerned about her ‘impersonal’ letters.

This is just one of the key indicators that you are not a serious job seeker. As you hit the ground in search for a job, it is important for you to appreciate the fact that employers are serious people who want to be taken seriously. If you decide not to take your time and spend money in managing your job search tools, be kind by not expecting others to be serious with your applications.

Should you have to send a job application on hard copy, refrain from using your photocopied CV and application letter. Take your time and spend some money on a clean and neat printing paper. Seek for a laser printer that would provide you with a clear print out on a high quality paper. And just as a note, who would you expect to read your application letter when you address it to ‘whom it may concern’? Seek to know the full names of the persons you hope to entice to read your application. Always remember that a cover letter is a document that helps direct your CV to a specific officer in the organization and should hence be appropriately addressed.

Should you be concerned about the packaging of the CV? Absolutely. In packaging your CV and the cover letter, invest in good quality envelopes. I still come across job applications breathlessly squeezed into A5 size envelopes. Why not pay a little bit more for an A4 size envelope to deliver your application neatly straight and presentable?

This rule should also be applied when sending our applications on email. There are certain job seekers who seem to suggest that they are busier than the potential employers. When you open their email, the only thing that flashes is ‘…find attached my application for a job in your organization. Signed. Janet….

Such a job seeker expects you to bother to open the attachment to find out what their need for a job is instead of making it easy for the potential employer to know what their interest is. Highlight your key competencies and interests as part of the body of the email to draw the attention and interest of the potential employer to open your attachment for more details. When you send out a job application on email, invest in time. Do not send as blind copies (bcc) your application to anyone who will have time to read your email. Note that employers want to feel known and appreciated as individual entities.

Finally, when job hunting, invest in good quality dressing, take cabs to interviews instead of arriving there sweaty and dusty and carry with you a neat document-folder instead of squashing documents in between newspaper pages. In other words, job search is an expensive affair and those who are willing to spend land presentable opportunities. You must be willing to give to receive. That’s a biblical principle that applies in job search too.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Going back to your former employer

What would you do should you realise that you have moved on to a new employer but after a short while, you note that the promise of greener pastures turns out not to be true? It could be that you joined the employer on the promise of greater responsibility or better salaries but after some time, the new employer fails to deliver on the promise. Would you go back to your former employer if you realize that the ‘greener pastures’ you were running after withered long before you started feasting on them?

This is the dilemma many job seekers often go through. The challenge though is that many would never want to admit to the realization that they felt disillusioned upon jumping ship. Could it have been a case of jumping from the flying pan into the fire? Is it OK to acknowledge that you are not satisfied with the new deal even after throwing bath water on your previous employer?

Job search is one big risk that we are always involved in. We can never tell whether the deal will turn out exactly the way we wanted it. Just like when we are buying clothes, there are instances when we admire a certain piece of dress on display but upon purchase, in the privacy of our bedrooms, we attempt to fit them on and to our disappointment, we realise that we bought an attire that is either too tight or too baggy for our taste. Do we admit that we made a mistake and either take it back for a change (where applicable) or do we squeeze ourselves into the dress since we don’t want to own up to our failure?

It takes a lot of personal courage to admit that we goofed in our job search. The truth is that there are times when we find ourselves making mistakes that make us regret having left certain workplaces or having done away with certain business lines for others that appeared lucrative only to experience internal dissatisfaction along the way.

Most of the times, we never imagine ever considering going back to a previous employer after a failed job transition. We have egos to protect and reputations to guard. For these, we would rather suffocate ourselves with attires that squeeze every bit of life out of us than go back and admit to have made a mistake. But is it bad to admit having goofed? Who doesn’t?

Another reason why many of us would never imagine hitting the track back to our employers to check out whether they could be other opportunities is the way we part with former employers. At the point of parting, most employees speak all manner of ills about the employer and certain employees. They feel like the Israelites liberated from Egypt after years of slavery and swear never ever to get back to slavery. With this attitude, they part ways having deep seated hatred for their former work environment.

As you work through your job search efforts, always remember that even after getting your dream job away from your current employer, it breaks no bone to amicably part ways. Always remember that it just could be that what appeared green could turn out to be dark teal and this could lead to frustration. You may probably have heard of the kids who implored on their father to burn their house when they were leaving for a longterm visit elsewhere. 

As it is likely you may want to consider returning to your former employer, leave at peace and let the former colleagues feel like they would not mind receiving you back should life turn tables on you. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

You might be desperate for a job, but take caution

It is hard to believe but it is true that some people in this world are hell-bent to exploit the misfortune of others. Just like the hawk that seeks out the most vulnerable, so are certain individuals out to cash in on the growing desperation among job seekers. Just last week, my friend was involved in a circus with a ‘potential employer’ who had posted an advert through one of the most popular advertisement online groups.

The NGO presented itself as one looking out for program support team members and was in an ongoing recruitment process that would take on board the first candidate identified as appropriate. They actually indicated that the CVs would be reviewed as they trooped in hence the pressure for candidates to quickly apply.

As the friend considered her suitability for one of the positions, she noticed that she was expected to sit for a personality test at a local firm and as she went out to check out on the costing and the process of the test, she started growing cold feet towards the whole process. As she sought advice from different people regarding personality testing, a close friend of hers became quite suspicious as she had received a similar reply to another job she had applied for. It was suspect to receive similar response for different jobs.

We helped the desperate lady facilitate various due diligence processes including checking out the indicated physical address. In this case, the address was a building abroad with no local addresses yet they indicated they have operations in many other countries. A close look into the organizations operating from that building did not reveal the existence of the said NGO. With this, hairs were raised and the possibility that this was a hoax was real. The rest is history.

We have heard that desperate times call for desperate measures. We are most vulnerable and unstable when we are stressed, frustrated and losing hope. It is at these moments that we need to be extra vigilant not to make critical decisions as they may draw us into more depression. As we agree that the level of unemployment has been on the increase, we need to still keep our cool so that we do not over expose ourselves to the schemes of people out to fleece the desperate.

At times when we are losing hope, any deal looks a good deal and we can easily sign along the dotted line to sell our own lives on the promise of a better lifestyle. How many times have we seen thousands of people being shipped to destinations that have been declared unfit for employment due to the mistreatment of foreigners? I have even overheard some people say they would rather be mistreated in foreign lands than suffer locally.

Before you throw in your application for any given job opportunity, facilitate your own due diligence. Talk to people from the onset and don’t wait until things have gone awry for you to start confiding in others. Reflecting on the case of my friend referenced above, she would have found herself stuck in a career quagmire had she not confided in a few persons she considered important in her job search effort.

Be even more careful in instances where requests for cash are included as part of the recruitment process. Never send money via phone money transfer systems or through your credit card as you could just be sending money to a ghost institution whose main occupation is to milk you off the remaining cash as you struggle to make your ends meet.

My parting shot is: As much as you may be desperate in your job search, be cautious. Take time and talk to people. Don’t be overly secretive in your job search lest you find yourself slipping into a hole, alone.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

When your employer tells the whole world you have been sacked

The small advert tucked in between other commercial adverts read ‘The person whose picture appears hereunder is no longer an employee of this company and she is no longer authorized to transact any business on behalf of this company. Any person engaging with her does so at their own risk as this company bears no responsibility over such interactions.

This is one of the dreaded steps that any employee who parts ways with her employer would ever want to see. As much as the parting could have been acrimonious, no employee would ever imagine having their separation broadcasted to the whole world.

“What happened? What did you do? I hope you were not involved in fraud? These were the questions that Jane started receiving very early on a Tuesday morning as she work up to start off with her daily chores. She had made some appointments with a potential employer the same day when a friend called her checking on what had happened to her. She asked’ what do mean by asking what happened? What are you refereeing to?’ The friend went on ‘you haven’t seen it? Your name is splashed all over the newspaper today. Your former employer has put a paid up advert warning the readers from dealing with you’. That was a bomb shell.

Employers put up notices about the parting of ways between them and certain employees for varied reasons. The notices are a way of managing the effects of the separation especially in cases of fraud or where the employer feels like the former employer could utilize her former position within the company to defraud the clients and partners of the company. In this case, it is a process to protect the image of the company and also to ensure the company is not dragged into law suits by clients who may along the way get swindled by the former employer.

On the other hand, no employee would ever imagine seeing their images splashed in the newspapers indicating they are no longer authorized to transact business on behalf of the employer. This is usually a vote of no confidence in them and can potentially harm their current and future career prospects. It is even more hurting in cases when the separation was cordial and the employee had informed all the company clients about the separation and then have the former employer post a notice in the media.

The main reason surrounding the posting of pictures in the media is trust. The posting of the pictures happens in the event when the former employer does not trust that former employee will not use their previous position and linkages to defraud the company. It also happens when the separation between the two parties is acrimonious and the employer wants to cover the company.

To avoid the shame after separation, it is important for the former employee to appreciate the value of goodwill even after parting with an employer. In the case of Jane above, she had to cancel her appointment that day with her potential new employer due to the advert. Seek to develop trust with your employer so that even with the separation, you will comfortably rely on their reference to other employers. Always remember that it is people who employ people.

Finally, for the employers, it is important not to rush to the media to tell the whole world that you have divorced a certain staff. Unless the staff seems like she will for sure discredit you unless you shout about the separation, appreciate the danger that the advert could have on the future of the staff and consider some level of restraint.