My One on One With The CEO of Corporate Staffing Services
It’s a rainy Thursday afternoon in Westlands but I still have to make it on time for an appointment with Perminus Wainaina CEO of Corporate Staffing Services. He is a busy man and I can tell that by the number of times his phone rings because he’s on a mission to eradicate unemployment in Kenya. As a young marketer lately the issue of joblessness has been a key concern to me partly because I have seen the panic amongst my class mates at the School of Business University of Nairobi who have been unlucky in securing that elusive job. I had to meet this man to understand just how very qualified job seekers end up with no job, not even being called for a single interview despite Kenya being among the top African countries In terms of human resource potential and talent! Secondly I have always believed that job hunting is an issue of pitching your skills to the right employer, clearly demonstrating why you are the best person for the job!
As I walk into his office I already understand the nature of what he does. Two days ago we were hiring a social media specialist at the agency I work for, I posted the vacancy on Facebook since we needed to hire a #SocialPro and in a few hours CV’s started filling my Gmail account. I was happy but my joy was short lived when I opened the emails to read the cover letters and resumes! The problem is that the few qualified people I invited to apply; guys I knew personally couldn’t sell their skills perfectly to match what we needed!! I couldn’t edit these CV’s before forwarding the best of 5 to my boss and so my friends sadly didn’t stand a chance whatsoever. Let me share this one known secret. You simply can’t change the address to the cover letter you sent to a bank and send it to us at the digital agency! Edit & change a few things! How now? A few lazier ones forwarded me CV’s they had sent elsewhere complete with emails of the previous recipients! Or maybe they thought that just because we are buddies I will overlook all that? NO!! It’s a competitive world and in as much as I want to hook up all my unemployed buddies with jobs I cannot do so because if I recommend Mark & he doesn’t deliver then my own reputation goes down the drain with his!! On the brighter side a few applicants impressed me and those that I felt didn’t fit well in that role but were great I forwarded their resume’s to a few friends I know in ‘Big Offices’.
Back to MR Wainaina, the man looked humble, confident, a keen listener & maintained an eye contact throughout the chat and at one point I felt like I was in an interview!! We discussed issues at length as I listened keenly to him share his story and his experience as a HR consultant. We discussed the issue of joblessness too and shared various solutions to the challenges Kenyans are facing in securing jobs.
Here are a few lessons I picked from the 2 hour chat!
Kindly note that some of the views expressed here do not represent those of Corporate Staffing Services and MR Perminus Wainaina.
1 1.Poorly done CV’s & cover letters- It’s really sad that after spending 4 years in a university a few Kenyans leave with all the knowledge but never learn how to write a good CV and a cover letter to help him/her sell skills to the employers. Having shortlisted candidates for various positions in the past I can attest to what Mr. Wainaina says. Fresh graduates especially have failed here; he adds with a chuckle. Sadly one of the services he offers is CV & Cover letter writing however he tells me most of his clients aren’t the fresh graduates but older people seeking to switch jobs. So what’s the problem comrades? Isn’t cheaper to pay 1000 bob than to send poorly done CV’s and tarmack for 6 months? Some of us print several copies of hard copy applications and then go around town, Mombasa rd, Westlands and Industrial area dropping them, do simple maths here, what gives you more value for money? Fanya Hesabu!! Can’t we just forfeit beer for a weekend and invest in good cover letter and CV? That depends on YOU . Don't leave as yet, this is hard talk so let’s move on!!
2 2. Applying for the wrong jobs- When you have been searching for a job for over the past three months with no success then by default you become desperate. At this point job seekers tend to apply (try) all the jobs they come across online and on newspapers. Why should someone who did IT think he/she can handle administration? Well if you think you can handle it then tailor make your CV to clearly demonstrate that. Even if you apply for 100 jobs daily that don’t fit your level of expertise and skills then you are likely going to get regrets or no response at all! If you are a marketer apply for positions that require & match your skills this way you stand a better chance to be invited for an interview. Let’s not get so desperate to forsake our goals, passion and what we love doing. What’s the point of being hired for a position or a job that you don’t like only to start looking for greener pastures 3 months down the line?
3 3. Brain washing by Multi National Companies- Allow me to mention a few names here, why would a finance graduate be so excited to join Barclays Bank of Kenya as a teller? Really guys? Is receiving and paying out cash all you learnt in the school of business? Equity bank has been getting brilliant students from high school, trains them for two weeks and they make really good tellers! Let’s all agree we want to work for these big brands for the prestige & respect we get from peers! Well not for me, I didn’t go the MNC way and I am still stuck with working for medium sized companies. In the last three years I have been working for the SME’s that gave me the exposure, great experience and a platform to try things out my way. It’s been a great learning experience for me, one after the other I have done internships and jobs that have made me a better leader, manager and person. I am not saying we should all go this way but if the big four audit firms, KQ, P & G or Unilever doesn’t hire you then all isn’t done. We have great brands that are really dying to recruit great talent to grow their brands regionally. Go try out Cellulant, Tuskys, Naivas etc etc. They also pay very-very well by the way! A good number of people are very dissatisfied in these big MNC’s and they are leaving because 5 years down the line they have realized that they aren’t happy in there so only their folks are happy with their son who works for a ABC ltd because he sends some cash home monthly! 150K isn’t too much money guys to live unhappily thereafter!!!
44. Lack of Skills/ No talents- There’s a big demand for great human resource talent and at one point companies can’t seem that right person no matter how much they try. When that happens, firms turn to head hunting people. Why would firms scramble over a few people and poach employees amongst themselves for middle level positions yet MBA’s are unemployed? It’s because we don’t have the right mix of skills to fill certain positions. To be frank the typical campus guy, lets call him Mark did exams with Mwakenya & Google search came in handy because he couldn’t wake up early to attend a Monday 8 am Finance class. He also missed the Thursday & Friday classes because he was planning an out of town weekend trip with his buddies and because there were no classes on Tuesday and Wednesday we only came to meet Mark at the exam room because he missed classes the whole semester!!! This is what happens in Campus!! Right? At the end of 4 years Mark leaves with a second upper, because he crammed two weeks to the exam. Throughout the four years Mark hasn’t done an internship or volunteered anywhere so what will he do with his good papers when hired?? He’ll start learning afresh as others climb the corporate ladder because he’s struggling with basic skills & competencies that he could have gained in campus by being actively involved in professional clubs and attending the free talks within campus and outside!
5 5.Lack of a Career plan or path- Just how many of you have a career plan? Do you just work for anyone who employs you? Does the money matter to you so much now at the expense of training and exposure another firm gives you? Who do you want to be in 5 years from now & where will you be? I don’t want to sound like a motivational speaker or a personal development coach but you need a plan, with timelines and goals written down! With a plan you can choose places or companies & people to work with at what stage in your career. Why would a Mark a HR graduate fill in a bank teller’s position yet he wants to be the Go to HR consultant 10 years down the line? What will working in a bank add to helping him realize that goal? Truth be told mark will only earn a salary to pay rent and upkeep! He’d rather join a HR consultancy as an intern, leave and join the HR department of a bigger firm then 5 years down the line you are in a management position in the HR function of a MNC. At this point if you work for 4 years you can leave the corporate world and set up a successful HR consultancy business with the biggest clients in the industry because you leave with a network, recognition from peers and with most important GREAT EXPERIENCE!
6. Good papers will earn you a job but not a career- This is self explanatory so I hope, after you get that entry level position and you are happily hired then what? You finally have a chance to prove your worth to the company. If you lack the soft business skills then you are stuck, by that I mean you need to posses the presentation skills, proposal writing skills, business etiquette , public speaking skills and your ability to work in a team and lead others among others. Sadly these skills were not taught to you by Prof So & So in school and you have to learn them over time by attending 2 day seminars, taking up projects to learn and spending your weekends in class learning them from coaches. These skills are the differentiators and will determine how fast you rise in the corporate ladder. No one wants to promote ‘Mark’ to a managerial level yet he can’t handle a mere press briefing or represent the brand at a function! You’ll never get to rise if you don’t get these skills even if you have all the MBA’s and certifications!!!
7. Don’t follow the crowd/Resist the tide-Here’s the final one, how many people are not CPA K’s in Kenya today? Well not everyone certainly but a good number of you attempted them because some uncle who lived in Nairobi told you that for you to succeed in the banking industry you need to do CPA. Well I wasn’t spared either and I also went to Strathmore and did ACCA for two years before I realized Finance and accounting wasn’t my thing. I was a marketer and wanted to be a brand strategist & a social Media specialist. Please note I am not saying these two courses are useless but rather using them as an example to demonstrate just how people love to do what others are doing. Well all watch what the successful people have done and copy them blindly. Can’t we be original and chart our own paths to destiny? As a marketer I don’t see the point why I should do a MBA after campus because jobs that ask for MBA’s also need 5 -10 years of experience in a management position. I would rather do a foreign language and an internationally recognized certification like CIM then travel the world working as a consultant or a marketer! A simple thing such as proficiency in a foreign language can set you apart from the competition. Say for example am working for Airtel , If I can write and speak French and a vacancy arises in West Africa,they need someone to take there on a bigger capacity then I stand a better chance to fill in the position & earn the promotion if I my track record has been impressive in the position I currently occupy! Later on I can do an MBA from an IVY league school and head Airtel’s business in Africa because I have experience and papers to back up my application!!! So guys have a plan, know what you want!!
Final Words! My Call to Action
The Government, Kenya Private Sector Alliance, foreign investors, Francis Atwoli of COTU and the business owners will never help you get that job but once you package yourself nicely & be 'employable' then jobs will come your way. Its not just about how many jobs you are applying for but if you don't qualify or match the needed skills then this is a pure waste of time. Our business schools today teach us how to be employed and succeed in the corporate world thus very few graduates would actually want to venture out and do business,Why? If Njenga Karume built an empire with little education then is it right for us to say that education ruined us? Do follow me @Kenyanmarketer & lets discuss this issue thoroughly and secure every Kenyan youth a job!