First let me begin by congratulating all the students across a number of Kenya’s tertiary institutions including the University of Nairobi who graduated in the recent months or are planning to graduate in a few days to come. That academic journey has been tough and as such you deserve a pat on the back for running a good race and preparing yourself for the next phase of your life which is equally tough but for which I believe your resilience, determination, desire, patience and discipline will see you into the arena of success.
When you began college studies it seemed like you had all the time on earth to make up your mind about what you will do upon graduation. While some students might have known since fresher’s week where they were going after college, many don’t begin to consider it until their final year or after the final day.
You looked forward to the graduation day and it came. Then after the occasion your heart might have skipped a beat when it dawned on you that you were now a bona-fide employee of a non-paying entity called the Kenya Job Seekers Inc .Well this ought not to worry you since it’s a mountain that you can surmount with good planning of course.
Whether you’ve always known what you want to do after finishing your degree or are only recently thinking about it, it’s imperative to recognize there are a number of options you could pursue after graduating. The choice of what fits you will of course be determined by your personal ambition, available resources and sometimes, social pressure
Though not very active in certain tertiary institutions, career guidance centres, graduate offices and career fairs, either on campus or organised without, are hugely useful in helping one get information and plan the best route for preferred career path after college life.
Below are a number of options that you could find useful as the next course of action in line with your career aspirations immediately after your graduation
1. Getting hired into your first job
This is the most common and logical route that most graduates prefer or rather pursue. With serious talent war going on, organizations are seriously running to the labour market to get the best and the brightest students straight from campuses. The organizations are seeking for graduates across all disciplines. They want a mix of creative and quantitative people, who can bring different talents and perspectives to the workplace.
The job option gives you an opportunity to get recruited through the graduate recruitment programs which are becoming more and more popular with organizations such as PwC, KRA, Deloitte etc. You could also secure a job at an entry level in other organizations not necessarily through the graduate hire program
Going straight to the job certainly offers lots of benefits for fresh graduates. This option enables you to put to useful use your skills very quickly without them going to waste. You always get an opportunity to start building professional networks and contacts early enough. This is a big plus to your career aspirations
Going straight from your undergraduate course into employment also gives you the chance to figure out your strengths and weaknesses. You will get the chance to identify if there’s a particular part of the sector you might want to specialise in in the long run, or find out if it’s even the right type of work for you. That’s something you can only get with hands-on experience.
Another big plus that may accompany the option of securing a job immediately after graduation is that you may land in a company that sponsors its staff to pursue post-graduate or professional programs. This goes a long way in increasing your attractiveness to both your employer and potential ones.
2. Employ Self
The start-up entrepreneurship space in Kenya is growing at a high speed with new and very young players coming in with wonderfully amazing ideas which are transforming all sectors of the country. If you feel you have ambition and a unique idea/skill or have a unique way of delivering a normal service, then this could be your space. You can choose to be your own boss after graduating. You have less to lose, more commitment and energy, you’re used to working anti-social hours and, working for yourself beats working for someone else as long as you keep the discipline and don’t lose the passion.
Kenya now has a number of high level start-up business incubation hubs which provide advice to help you explore your entrepreneurial ideas. Some universities make available ‘incubation’ or ‘hatchery’ facilities for their students’ burgeoning businesses. The financial institutions and corporates have also come into this space with the purpose of offering financial sponsorships and buying equity into what they consider viable ideas.
If you choose this option, then the essential elements will be: thinking about the customers who will want your goods or services, and be able to afford them; obtaining the financial backing; promoting your products or services, supplying the goods or services on time; and all the other logistical and administration headaches involved in running your own business.
If you get it all together, maybe we’ll see you on “Lions Den” soon seeking for more funding and offloading some ownership of that “next big thing”
3. Further Studies
After your graduation, a postgraduate study can offer an interesting and fulfilling option while you decide what to do next. You could opt for this option in order to achieve either of the following:
- Continue with a subject of interest to gain more advanced/specialist knowledge.
- Convert to a new area of work, or add vocational skills to a non-vocation first degree, eg IT or law
- Gain a professional qualification needed to enter a profession, eg law or Accounting.
- Gain practical skills which could be useful if you decide to go it on your own and set up a business.
A postgrad program can be beneficial in enhancing your employability as well. Of essence will be for you to figure out which type of postgrad will help you to fulfil your career expectations.
A point of caution if you choose this option is to avoid falling into the common trap of assuming that a postgraduate degree is an alternative to a career. Be aware that collecting loads of qualifications and skills training without gaining supporting hands-on experience may not be as good for your CV as you might think. The important thing is to work out what career doors a course or training will close, as well as open, prior to pursuing it.
It is equally imperative to consider the financial resources necessary or required to accomplish this option smoothly.
You may have done an internship prior to your graduation basically because it was a college requirement. After graduating this could still be an option especially if your target is to secure a job that is yet to come.
Not only do internships offer valuable work experience, but, they also are a good way to make connections with potential employers, and who knows an opportunity may just pop up in the same organization you are interning.
Sometimes an Internship may be tough especially in organizations that have no stipend. Proper psychological preparation will be key in navigating this path that gives you an opportunity to learn and have first-hand workplace experience.
Remember, you have the options at your disposal and the choice is yours. Make sure that you do not disappear into the pit of oblivion after graduation. Make yourself useful, be in places that will help you get challenged and see life in a more scintillating perspective. Make a choice to be successful and start working toward that journey with discipline and determination.
Authored by Stephen Ogolla