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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. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

When a casual talk could turn out to be the actual interview

It is clear. Job seekers have been attending many classes to help them be as sharp and presentable as possible at job interviews. With these sessions, we now do not need to be reminded to dress up in cool conservative colors for interviews nor must we be reminded to be at the interview venue way before the scheduled time. We find time before the interviews to rehearse and get feedback from friends on our performance on various interview components ranging from our eye contact to voice projection.

How would you however react the moment you realize you have just been interviewed without your knowledge? Akinyi has a story to tell. When she received a call from a company she had once sent her resume and application to a while ago, she was expecting a request for a conventional interview. The administrator however was out to check whether she would be available for a chat with the boss that same day in the afternoon at a restaurant in town. Due to the push within her for a job, she answered in the affirmative and with that call, the chat was scheduled for 4.30pm at a coffee shop in the heart of the city.

Good enough, Akinyi had travelled to the city that morning to meet a few people as they were planning for a friend’s wedding. By the time of the meeting in the afternoon, she had sweated herself out and was heavily laden with lots of paper bags from her city purchases.

The representative of the potential employer who turned out for the chat was actually the CEO, a sharp and neat lady in a designer trouser suit. As the two sat down and chatted the afternoon away over tea and coffee, the CEO asked several questions that required Akinyi to have refreshed her memory about. Some of the questions bordered on her past leadership experiences, her management of interpersonal conflicts and her perception of the industry within which the company operates.

From Akinyi’s responses, it was clear that she was out of sync. The following day, Akinyi received a mail from the company as a regret that she had not presented herself as a promise to the company for innovation and creativity. She had failed the interview.

But which interview? It was not scheduled as an interview. It was just a coffee chat between her and the company CEO. The truth is, for all intents and purposes, an interview is an interview, regardless of the form it takes. An interview is simply an opportunity for the potential employer to gather crucial information about the person who could be considered for employment. It could happen through observation, telephone conversation or through an invite to a cocktail.

As a job seeker, it is important to note that any of the opportunities could just be used to gauge you as a potential candidate for a job. It is important to be on the lookout and note that people could actually be watching you either directly or through proxies. An invitation for a chat could actually, just like in Akinyi’s case, be the opportunity to prove your worth as the potential candidate.

Whenever you are invited for a chat by a potential employer, take the opportunity as seriously as you would take a formal invitation to an interview. Seek to dress appropriately and be fresh for the chat. Don’t just appear as Akinyi did wearing her late afternoon sweaty attire and carrying with her heavy paper bags. Be presentable. Keep off extra luggage and switch off your phone. In case your phone is on, consider telling the callers you will get back to them later. This could be a sign of good phone etiquette. Do not put your host on hold as you talk to your friends on phone for minutes without end.

In case you receive the call for the chat for a day and time you realize you will not be at your best, be kind and request for another date to give you time to prepare. You would rather tell the potential employer you are not available on the suggested date and time than appear to the frustration of both parties. If given the chance to propose the meeting place, always go for the conservative venues. Never suggest that you go meet at a bar since the caller may not be a partaker of alcohol and may feel injured by your suggestion. Always pick on restaurants and suggest you could take tea or coffee together.

How do you respond to negative info about a potential employer?

This month, we have been focusing on concerns that mainly border on the job search process. Arising from the experiences of readers, today, we want to share thoughts on how to respond in situations where you receive negative reviews from friends about your potential employer. Job search is arguably one of the most draining processes that most of us go through.

We all look forward to the appointment letters that would symbolize the end of the struggles moving from office to office looking for employment. But after successfully going an interview, what you when after effectively negotiating for the terms of service and just when you have a few weeks to report, you learn of negative things about your potential employer? Would you assume the issues as hearsays or rumors and push on with your resolve to join the employer? Or would you reconsider your decision? What would the repercussions?

Catherine went through this experience firsthand a couple of months and shares her experiences. It was her dream job at a dream employer. Everything had worked out well for her and she was satisfied that God had eventually come through for her through the job search process. But 2 weeks before the reporting date, a close friend who got to learn of her impending move called her and pleaded with her to reconsider her decisions. According to the friend, the company Kate was about to join was known for violating the rights of the employees. It was alleged that the company had registered many cases of harassment of new female staff members by male supervisors and no action was ever taken against the perpetrators.

Kate considered herself an upright lady who would not bend for anything at the workplace. After consulting a few other persons who had close relations with staff at the company, Kate verified the fears and had to now decide her next move. In this dilemma, she sought for professional advice.

This can be a truly depressing position to find yourself in. It is important to note as people seek for employment, they are guided by not only the task they are to undertake, but also for the brand they are to work for. I have actually heard of people who are driven more by the desire to be associated with certain brand more than the specific work they are to do. In this case, you will want to be sure that the company is attractive and any mention of significant negatives about the desired employer should be a reason to be worried.
It is however important to dig deeper beyond the face allegations you hear from friends and former employees of the company just in case it is a rumor emanating from enemies of the employer. It just could be that the person raising your hairs about the employer could have had personal quarrels with the company that have nothing to do with the culture of the organization.

It is quite commendable that after listening to all the voices, Kate eventually decided to seek for professional advice. This is important. It is important since professional career advisers could support with getting quick and objectives reviews about the said employer. This information could help you in making a decision out of objective feedback and not necessarily based on personal experiences.

In case when you get the references that tend to confirm the fears, it may be late to make an about turn since you would have already engaged your mind for the job. Go on and report at your workplace armed with this information. The wisdom drawn from a West African proverb is helpful. Surprise can beat even the strongest. The information you have about the employer would help you set up your guards as you report and engage with the employer.

Monday, September 3, 2012

When job offer delay stalls your life

For how much longer must I wait for the promised confirmation of the job offer? This was the question Peter pondered over as he considered the best way to respond to a job search process that seemed to have been brought to its knees by a promise of a job offer that seemed to take forever to be confirmed. He had attended the job interview a month ago and had received an email confirmation from the potential employer that he had been considered as the best candidate. He however had been told to await the letter of offer as the official communication of the consideration.

As he celebrated the tentative offer, he hoped with every passing day that he would receive the job offer to enable him make the decision regarding writing the official resignation letter to his current employer. In his mind, he started off the resignation process and even drafted the resignation letter which he safely saved in his computer awaiting the opportune time to share it with his supervisor and the HR office.

A day passed, then a week and later another. He started panicking. What was going on. He perused through his emails again to confirm that he had actually being considered for the position as he imagined it could have been a beautiful dream he was responding to. It was true. He had the means to verify the communication.

As anxiety started to settle in, Peter started becoming unsettled. He had already whispered to a few of his workmates about his planned exit and every morning, the staff would check with him whether he had eventually resigned. This was not funny. It was pressure. At the beginning, he would tell them that the communication from the other end was about to land, but as time passed, he lost words. He started wondering why he had got the courage to disclose to others about his imminent departure as his disclosure was hurting him.

As time went by, he realized that he was losing grip of his daily engagements. His motivation levels were at their lowest point. He knew he was only present physically since his spirit and mind had already resigned. He wondered what the best response to the experience was.

Peter’s experience could be a reflection of what some of you are going through as you read this article. Waiting for official communication of a job offer can be a traumatizing experience. Traumatising it is because mentally, the job seeker disengages from the current employer and is left with no clear mental engagement with regard to a job offer. The job seeker suspends several critical decisions, both at personal and official levels as she realises that the new job offer would most likely have an impact on the implementation of the decision. At that point, you may need to decide on whether to renew a loan or not, pay rent for the month or not or even make a decision with regard to your children’s education. Should you change their school if the new job possibly takes you to a different county?

These decisions are crucial hence the need for quick responses from the potential employer. For the recruiters following this train of thought, I suggest to you to be keen to the recruitment process. It is important to note that the processes engage many persons emotionally to an extent that their lives easily stall as they await the feedback on the hiring process. It is hence important to consider prompt feedback to the potential employees to enable them move on with life as you engage in internal consultations.

You would rather send them a text with some updates implying that you are awaiting some form of authorization from a senior manager who may have flown out or a certain board member who needs to sign off the offer. As brief as this communication could appear to you as a recruiter, it could mean life or otherwise to an anxious job seeker.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Running away yet inside a box

When we were growing up, we were always embroiled in sibling rivalry as you would expect of a small homestead accommodating a total of 5 energetic boys and one girl. On several occasions, we would fight and in an attempt to run away and hide, we would realize the only space available was within the house. 

And the house was a little small room that was self contained, hosting all possible functions of a family home ranging from the kitchen, living room, bedrooms for each person who considered the place a home. Running around this space in a bid to avoid being caught by the angry elder brother for a beating was a tough calling. We would run yes, but only within the box.

This scenario comes to mind when I observe the goings on in many places of work. The most obvious is the experience of staff running away from their bosses. In cases when bosses and staff conflict, there is always the tendency for the staff to want to be as far as possible from the respective boss. They do all within their means to ensure their eyes do not meet and that their paths don’t cross.

The workplace is an interesting environment. Staff and management are constantly in conflict in the process of undertaking their daily tasks. The conflicts range from professional and task related disagreements to highly personalized conflicts. You will once in a while hear staff talking about their boss who never appreciates anything good they do and only capitalizes on their weaknesses. 

On the other hand, you will hear of bosses lamenting of a certain staff who does not seem to toe the line. They would be found discussing about a staff who does not seem to appreciate their leadership and is ever demanding for more space than what they are provided.

At some moments, these conflicts are open and clear for all to see. The verbal and non verbal messages are legible and other staff realize that certain persons around them are not in talking terms. During this tense season, the conflicting parties tend to pool others around them with the aim of consolidating support and making the other person appear as the bad one. As this happens, the workplace is split into camps, with perceptions and attitudes built one against the other. Schisms appear and people start running away from each other.

When the attitudes are ripe and well cooked, staff start making moves against each other. It seems like everyone starts to suspect the other as no one knows who initiated the hate campaign and none seems to trust the other anymore. Everyone gets thrown into a race, a race against each other yet within the same office space. 

You don’t want to be seen laughing with so and so since it may be interpreted to indicate you are buddies and may become an enemy of the rest. The use of words changes and caution becomes the utmost concern. You never know who is in which camp hence must be clear on who you talk to and on what issues.

Eventually, you find the workplace embroiled in the game of mystery friend and assassin. In this game, within the space provided, each person considers another as a friend and another as a foe. You never disclose who plays which role. When requested to move towards your friend and as far away from your foe, you notice weird movements. Whoever you may have picked as your friend could have picked on you as a foe hence the closer you tend to move towards them, the further they want to move away from you. A crisis.

The only way out of this circus is open communication. Talk to each other and eliminate suspicion. Build trust and address conflicts as they arise. Do not propagate discord against each other otherwise; you will initiate a silent run, a run away from each other, among the staff. And remember, you have only one space to run around. You better run in peace. Run towards each other, not in conflict and the run will be enjoyable within the box.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Holding each other up at the workplace

When she walked into the room, she could breathe the heavy air. Though she could not exactly tell what the issue was, Peninah was sure that it was not business as usual. The staff looked somber and in deep thought. The guard at the main gate had reluctantly opened the gate for her but she had considered it as part of the Monday morning blues. 

She had taken no offence. But by the time she sat on her office couch, she knew she needed to do something, something she could not finger. And what needed to be done had to be done fast. It seemed everyone in the office had been waiting for her to walk in so as to provide leadership in the case.

Over the past weekend, one of the longest serving staff in the company, Nicholas, had been involved in a tragic road accident while visiting his relatives up country. As a result, he had lost his wife and daughter and was now fighting for his life at the District Hospital. Word had not reached any of the workmates until that Monday morning when a friend had called the office after locating a business card in his wallet. This was tough. It was tragic and no one could behave as though nothing had happened. A dark cloud hang over the office and leadership was needed. Leadership from the boss.

As Peninah listened to the horror incident from the head of HR, her head sunk. Her spirit rose and went for the heart of the injured staff. She quickly logged off her computer and requested for a quick staff meeting. In a short while, the entire staff team sat in the board room waiting to hear what the CEO had to say. Unity of purpose seemed to hold all staff together. It was clear. 

Everyone needed to be involved in whichever way to support the injured colleague. Quick resources were raised and a team dispatched to visit the injured staff in hospital and later on visit his home. Two of the staff’s sons had just closed school to the news of the demise of their mother and sister and hospitalization of the father. They all needed help. Quick help.

After a month in hospital, Nicholas was discharged and spent a further one week at home before reporting back to work. As he walked out of his house that Tuesday morning, he could feel the warmth attracting him to the office. He just wanted to get to work and shake the hands of every staff. They had pulled him out of death. Almost literally. He knew he owed them thanks. They had held him up.

This story could just be a representation of the many challenges staff go through either at work or in their private lives. The support mechanisms available for them mean a lot in terms of enhancing team feeling among staff. The support goes far beyond the team building events the organization may have organized in terms of building real team bonds. It separates the wheat from the chaff in creating a sense of being at the workplace. The actions get so loud that you can barely hear the words emphasizing team work.

When staff hold each other up, the support goes a long way into creating lasting bonds among staff and management. At those points of need, there is no compartmentalization of the office space. All persons get down to earth to help the situation and no one carries the glory at the end of it. ‘We all did it’ becomes the new slogan as the feeling of comradeship sets in. At this point, the company is ready for a rebirth, the recreation of the fibre that holds it together. A linking up of the human side of the company.

Monday, August 13, 2012

What bosses wished employees knew

It is true. The higher you go the cooler it becomes. The same is true at the work place. As people go up the career ladder, they tend to lose more of their former close friends in the same company. The moment they become heads of departments and supervisors, they soon realise the relationship between them and the rest of the staff changes.  They are no longer referred to as employees. They earn a new title. They are now boss. Supervisor. Manager. The employer.

After some time, they start noticing a certain trend among the staff that worry them. In the rare opportunities when staff get the energy and the strength to approach them, there is one running theme. Boss, we need a raise. Boss we want you to consider this and that. It seems like the employees rehearse this request phrase as each of them seems to use the same script when in discussion with the boss.

As the discussion progresses, it dawns on the boss that the employees imagine the bosses are the main stumbling blocks between them and their good times at the office. It is now clear that the employees feel like the bosses are out of touch with their feelings. This is a disturbing position for the bosses to be in. They wish the employees know just a few things about them and their experiences. Pauline, a senior executive in a blue chip NGO shares her wishes.

I wish employees knew how frail I sometimes get, she reflects. In the mind of the employees, the bosses are the strongest among all the staff in the company. It is a perception among the employees that the bosses never suffer from faint hearts. They are strong and have huge hearts to easily carry all the burdens of the staff. As much as this could be true and is a key characteristic of an effective leader, the fact is that there are times when the bosses are at their lowest ebbs. There are times when Pauline has had to hide in the bathrooms to cry as she reflects on the experiences with some of the staff.

The second perception is that when the company is at risk of closure, the boss is never concerned. Some staff imagine that the boss’s job is always secure and all the boss does is to look at the organizational chart and decide who among the staff to relieve of their duties. Nothing is further from the truth. When Pauline reflects on a recent experience when her organization suffered great shocks after key donors terminated their support to one of the projects, she grows downcast. She had received a letter from the board chairman requesting her to show cause why she should not be replaced with a more outgoing manager.

Despite all her efforts to retain the donors, a decision had already been made and hence had to manage the crisis. As she approached the staff meeting room one Friday afternoon, she knew the staff considered her as the failure and cursed her in their hearts. She walked slowly hoping to get the right words. Her heart was heavy as she weighed the implications of the donor exit. Staff had to lose jobs within a month and she knew this was a big blow to her future career prospects. She was hurting yet none of the staff seemed to realize how she had spent sleepless nights looking for extra resources to retain the team.

Finally, bosses wished the employees knew the push for their interest in improved performance among the staff. Have you ever heard staff talking about performance targets and the thread of thought to the effect that bosses only wish to load it on the staff yet life would be better off without the targets? 

What employees miss is the realization that targets set for staff are usually a reflection of the agreed upon organizational targets set by the board of directors. Their boss receives clear targets that must be attained through the various departments. 

So, when you see your boss insist on targets, appreciate their efforts as they are as accountable just as you are to their bosses. Bosses have bosses and are equally are under pressure to perform.

Kahihu is an Organizational Development Practitioner

Bosses are human, after all

As Liliana sat one evening sipping her glass of fresh juice, she contemplated a possible resignation due to the sustained challenges at the top and wondered whether she had made the right decision to join senior management at the company. She wondered whether it is ever possible to be an effective senior manager and at the same time be friends with the staff you manage.

Listening to people talk about their bosses at work, you would be tempted to imagine the persons they are talking about are machines or systems that have no human blood flowing through their veins. We are fond of saying all manner of things about our bosses in a way that portrays them as inhumane and persons with no feelings. And as you read this article, what words would you use to describe your boss?

When we think about our bosses, there are times when we imagine them as persons out to no good. We think about them as people determined to make our lives more challenging than it already is and hence consider them as part of our problems in life. The thought of the boss elicits feelings of despair and disillusionment as we at times feel like our lives would have been better off were it not for the bosses. There are actually times when we imagine life would have been better without the bosses. However, on situations when we have been our own bosses, we have realized that bossing over people, including ourselves, is never a walk in the park.

Liliana has been a senior manager at a local bank over the last 15 years. Over this period, she indicates that she has had to endure the frustration of boss-branding from staff to an extent that she started almost feeling inhumane. There are instances when the staff through the local associations had sent an incriminating letter to the directors suggesting that she had lost touch with the staff at the branch and had demanded for her removal or risk systematic poor results.

It later came to be realized that the issue had revolved around her refusal to allow some staff to internally agree on making informal switches on their working hours. Liliana had considered sticking to the bank policies and this did not augur well with the staff. A hate campaign had hence started that targeted her, both as a person and as the boss. Along the way, the staff started speaking in low tones whenever she got to the banking hall and this was truly intimidating. She felt isolated from the rest of the staff. This was suicidal.

How would she manage the staff who did not want to talk to her? She had her strong feelings on what needed to be done to remedy the situation yet no one seemed to open their space for her to explain herself. The rest of the staff were convinced she was out to box them and deter their freedom while she considered the best interests of both the staff and the company.

The disconnect seems to arise from the perception among staff that bosses are never concerned about the welfare of the junior staff. There is a general rumor that all that employers are concerned about are the bottom lines and that they do all they can to maximize on the profit and reduce on the cost even if that means stepping on the toes of the workers.

It is important to note that employers are also human. They are people with families, with social lives and are equally maneuvering through life with the rising cost of living. Bosses get affected when interest rates are raised arbitrarily and are hence aware of the impact on the staff motivation and in most cases do all they can to help mitigate the effects on the staff. All they yearn for in most cases is a listening ear and a team of staff who would be interested in being part of the solution to the problems they raise to the senior management.

Kahihu is an Organizational Development Practitioner

Monday, July 30, 2012

No Job! You are overqualified.

We are all pushing for a time when we will have amassed great achievements and work experience as a way of catapulting us to the highest levels in line with our career aspirations. But as we push our way up the ladder, there seems to be a new trend where the higher we climb, the harder it gets to get certain jobs. For the majority of persons who have held senior positions in their careers, making changes to lower positions seems a daunting task.

Take the case of Peterson. He has worked as a HR practitioner over the last 16 years. Due to changes in his social commitments, he has reconsidered taking up high-end positions and has now been in the job search process for less involving jobs. He has been seeking for jobs with less managerial responsibilities and one that accords him more time with himself and family. This seems like a trend in the market. Many people like Peterson, are realizing the need for healthy work life balance and hence the current readjustments.

However, it has not been rosy for him. Over the last 6 months, he has been attempting in vain to convince potential employers that he would be the right person for the jobs available. As if being read from the same script, all interviewers have let him know that they are afraid he is over qualified for the job and this makes him wonder whether it is a crime to be over qualified.

As you prepare for the job search, realize that employers will have reservations against employing persons they consider over qualified. They are unsure of your staying within the company since the feeling is that you will move on should you get a job at your level. The burden is hence on you to convince them otherwise. The other concern the potential employer would have relates to how well you would work as a member of the team with your high qualifications. All these are valid concerns that you should be ready to respond to, either directly or otherwise.

Potential employers will always be concerned about the salary question. It could appear to the panel that the company may not be able to match your current or past salary due to budget constraints. The subsequent feeling is that you may not be as motivated by the salary on offer.
Just how should an individual respond to this challenge in job search? It starts with the realization and admission that you are over qualified. In most cases, potential employers weed out overqualified applicants at the short listing stage since they realize they are not the appropriate candidates for the interview. Should you however be invited for the interview, it could be an indicator of some level of interest and that interest could just be the panel wanting to know why you would be interested in a lower level job despite your high qualifications. The ball is hence in your court to determine how to score.

You should not wait until potential employers inform you that you are over qualified. By the time you are responding to a given job advert, you should have evaluated your suitability for the position and if you regard yourself as overqualified, you should develop an appropriate response to the concern even before the interviewers raise. You should be seen to have considered the issues and developed a way of working with the team with your high-end qualifications.

On the salary question, you should have developed a way of responding in line with the motivating factors beyond the salary. It could be that you are up the scale on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and are now seeking for higher level needs beyond the salary.

How to get ready to avoid shocks of job loss

As I put down my thoughts on paper for this weekend, I am sure it is not one of the best of articles you want to spend your time reading. It does not seem to motivate reading about how to prepare yourself for a possible job loss neither does it pretend to be inspirational. It is however, as uninviting as it may seem to be, necessary that you indulge me to quickly think through the prospects and challenges of seeing your job come to a close. With the harsh economic moments the world is going through, reports about job losses have become a common feature in our bulletins both locally and globally.

Let us reflect on these experiences through the motions that Jean had to go through over the last couple of months. Having worked in the NGO sector for the last 5 years, she had been on a relatively stable job serving as a manager in charge of the Sanitation Project for over 3 years. However, as years passed by, the projects seemed to be getting closer to the end faster than expected and true to her fears, the donors indicated clearly that they had no intentions of renewing the grant. With 3 months to the end of the project, Jean was sure her job was ending with the third cheque. This had been a distress thought through the previous 6 months as she was sure she needed to quickly get space onboard another project or else she would risk being unemployed for a duration unknown to anyone.

Job losses occur as a result of several factors. It could be due to poor performance of the company  in the market or change of tastes by the clients. It could also be a result of more aggressive competitors or the company is ejected by the sitting government for being considered antigovernment in its agenda. Regardless of the cause of the job loss, it is important to consider ways in which we can prepare for the loss.

It is always safe to imagine that the job you hold is not permanent, even though you hold a contract indicated permanent and pensionable. No job is permanent any longer in this world. With this thought in mind, always seek to develop critical networks with people in your field of work. Keep the networks active through regular communication of email, phone and social media. Let your peers in the sector of work have you in their minds always so that should you have a need to contact them for support in job search they do not struggle to remember how you look like when you make that distress call.

In the event you are sure a job loss is imminent, either by way of project closure or relocation of your employer, remember to position yourself early enough for job search. This is a hard time for both the employer and the employee. The employer risks the challenge of having key staff departing long before the project ends hence affecting the quality of project closure and this can negatively impact on all the great work achieved till the close of the project. However, for staff, it is never settling to wait until the last moment for you to start seeking for a job. On average, it takes about 3 to 6 months to settle on a new job, though this depends on the place you are and the field of work. The earlier you start the process, the better for you as you will seek for an alternative job under minimal pressure.

Finally, as you consider a possible job loss, evaluate your competitive advantages in the job market and enhance efforts of making yourself more marketable and visible. Seek the services of a professional for support in personal branding and start to market yourself in a more targeted way. Start early to pursue courses that give you a competitive edge over the competition and not just registering for a masters programme like everybody else. A unique professional course may just be what you need to stand out.

By now, I hope talking about job losses no longer sounds a taboo topic like preparing for ones demise. Unless we talk about preparing for possible losses, we will keep on talking about managing distressed ex-workers. This can be mitigated by proper prior preparation and planning.